Monday, July 14, 2008

Extreme hospitality

After the unexpected and welcome hospitality at Nathan's, it felt almost surreal the be sitting in another kitchen eating pineapple while an omlette was being cooked for me. I don't want to to overuse "surreal" - but what is this? It wasn't until the omlette was being prepared that Ravi told he had been expecting me. I'll get to this in a second.

I woke up early today. When I heard Nathan get up, I followed suit. I can break camp near instantly. I was almost ready to walk out the door when Nathan said that just because he had to leave didn't mean that I should feel like I had to go right away. Truly, he was ok with me hanging around. He has a roommate, Bones, a girl with a skateboard who I'd met briefly the night before. I don't like to stay any longer than is absolutely acceptable. I err toward a very quick exit. After Nathan left I paused for a few moments to collect my thoughts and impressions, then I left. The sky had the same uncertain look from the day before, and there was evidence of rain drops on the pavement. I stuffed absolutely everything that I didn't want to get wet in my Ortlieb waterproof panniers. It was very perfect. It was ideal. No straggler items hanging out on top of the bags, as I've been doing. This was some good packing. Rain? Fuggit.

It looks like some of my book's directions to leave Portland have become outdated. I had to wing it a bit, but somehow this proved to be simple and include a safe and marked bicycle route. In the midst of this confusion, I asked directions from two cyclists on the path where it runs beside 295. They didn't know their way around, but they were also trying to head out of Portland going north. They were from Philadelphia. Honest. Dude #2 had City Sports water bottles, so I know it's the truth. They were headed to Bar Harbor. This was day #8 for them. #18 for me. I said they were hauling ass. They confirmed that they'd done a couple centuries. They were pretty spandexy, and had expensive road bicycles. They seemed just a few years older than me. To them, I quite likely looked like some dolt on a shit-bike who doesn't know how to dress for a ride. They might have looked at my handlebars and my clothing and come to the conclusion that I was making all kinds of mistakes. I love life. You know what I mean?

I followed the Ninja Turtles the same way we all thought we should go. No way was I going to lead the circus. We were all back on track in a jiffy, and I was immediately dropped. Left behind. I let them, and I was happy when they were off in the distance and I was back at my own pace. They had a fast uncertain aura that made me nervous. I'm familiar with the fast two-cyclist uncertain touring pace. Too far too fast. Fuggit.

Just when some rain truly started to come down, I zipped past a coffee shop in Brunswick and swung an immediate u-ey. I put in plenty of time reading and such. I wasn't going out of my way to talk to anyone. There were a few people in there, and they were friends. They were talking, and they all seemed like cool decent 20-something dudes. Eventually we ended up talking. My loaded bicycle leaning outside on one of the tables makes an easy icebreaker for anyone who wants to take the first poke. They really were cool. We talked about bicycles and trips, and they had stories and conversation about both. I got addresses, a phone number, and a great book suggestion. It's all in my wallet. Good people everywhere. Cycling on.

I got off route, and knew it, and for some reason didn't care. I just kept hauling because I felt physically good and the road was nice. I went far north and inland, away from my directions. Lakes and streams prevented any easy reconnection. I still didn't care. Just didn't care. When I realized how far astray I'd gone, I still didn't comprehend how difficult it would be to get back. I could have just backtracked for about 15 or 20 miles, but I decided to use my AAA map to connect to the route further north. Yup. This halfway worked, but I still did a lot of shooting from the hip. Still didn't care. I ended up on the most intense hilly sections of roads I've ever seen, still winging it. I ended up backtracking a lot - a compromise trading northward progress for a return to my comfortable and reliable directions by the end of the day. It looked like I was going to do my own century ride by the time this got sorted out. Century is bikespeak for a 100 mile day. I was at 75 and still wanting to get back on the set path. I eventually got to it. At route 1 and 32 in Waldoford.

In his book, Travels With Charley, John Steinbeck tells about how people from Maine don't say much. That has not been my experience. I talked (listened mostly) to a lady outside of the grocery store for at least a half hour. She met Walter Kronkite in his pajamas in a wealthy friend's kitchen. I know all about her family. I know more than you would probably guess. As a policy, I don't cut a conversation short unless I desperately need to be somewhere. I don't think this has ever happened.

At 7:21pm I was in a Hannaford grocery store holding a six of MGD. I'd gone 86 miles and I was planning to camp; I also got a small package of ham, one of cheese, 4 bagels, deli mustard. I got all this packed away and then I rolled on

I asked directions a couple times to make sure I didn't do something stupid. If you ask once, you should confirm with another source down the road. This proved useful, and I want to say necessary. I pedaled and sweated to the top of yet another crazy steep. At the exact prescribed mileage of the next turn, the street sign said something different from my directions. There was a driveway with a guy in it so I sought his expertise. Ravi got an atlas and tried to find the street I was looking for. I asked about local camping, and he directed me to his wife, Lynn. They have a daughter of 14 months who seemed to like me through the screen window. I only spoke to them for a few minutes before I was offered the spare room. I would have assumed that a young couple with a baby daughter wouldn't think of making such an invitation. But Ravi extended the invitation. I politely hesitated, giving him several chances to show any second thoughts whatsoever. He didn't. I accepted. I'd gone 88 miles, and I had an opportunity to shower and sleep in a bed. Another chance to meet more good people. I don't remember saving up this amount of karma.

First they had to get their daughter to bed. Then, while Lynn was getting her to sleep, Ravi began to make me an omlette. Did I like the Spanish style, or the French? Ravi is from London, and speaks with a British accent. His heritage is Indian. He is smart, and didn't hesitate to dip right into the ideas of authors and philosophers, and we had a good conversation that was just shy of being over my head at times. I was tired and had some difficulty articulating my ideas and beliefs. He told me that he didn't want to sound hippyish or weird but he'd been kind of expecting me. He looked at me to gauge a response. I told him I actually was kind of weird and hippyish, and asked him to explain. He'd done a kind thing for a neighbor, and they said he would get a reward. Today he got a windfall pineapple. Earlier, also today, he wondered what he would do for, or offer, to a guest should one arrive. He wasn't surprised when I showed up. I'd already cut the pineapple into slices and was eating it.

Ravi related a story of surprising trust and kindness bestowed on him in Germany. Something that restored his faith in humanity. It was by no means critical - but a gesture far beyond the expected. He wanted to test his trust and faith in people. So do I. We spoke about this. My day was changed, my situation vastly improved. The pineapple was exceptionally juicy.


burs said...

ninja turtles! hell yea.

ghettorigged said...

this is awesome. i fucking love this.