Sunday, November 11, 2007

hitting the trails

It seems that one ought not slow down in life unless there’s a good reason for it.

Ed and I have taken on traveling adventures, etc., for over two years now. Sometimes, I think we’re slowing down. I tell him this, but it hardly matters. The man moves with whatever rhythms guide him at the moment. You cannot argue long term trends.

Still, earlier in the week I suggested that I'm happy to consider another Wisconsin adventure. (Yes, I said it. Wisconsin. I love my surroundings.)

You’d be cold. I believe he thinks I'm getting soft.
I’ll buy warm gloves.

And I do. I spend huge sums for windproof gloves from North Face.
Ed’s response: you’ll be cold.

Nonetheless, on Saturday morning we set out on a biking week-end. The plan is to find the Badger State Trail just south of Fitchburg (they're working on getting the funding to link it all the way to Madison) and follow it south to the Sugar River Trail, which, in turn, will take us all the way to the town of Brodhead. Ed knows I like the old rail beds-turned bike trails. The surface is rough, but the inclines are gentle.

It is, well, cold. Biting wind. Don’t like to slow down. Must keep warm. But the trail is so pretty!

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It makes its way past the backsides of grainaries and villages. Large graneries and really tiny villages.

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On the nineteenth mile, we stop. We’re in Belleville.

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Significant fact about Belville: it has an open coffee shop. More of a diner, really. We order pancakes.

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Rib-sticking food, Ed says.
I picture the pancake warming my bones inside, like a layer of insulation. I drink endless cups of tea.

I add a sweatshirt to my layers. And felt handmade earmuffs. Much better. Ed, on the other hand, is in shorts. His legs look a beet red to me. Verging on a deep shade of grape purple…

The path is empty of bikers. One. We pass one, the entire day. But we do encounter the occasional hiker. In orange.
Are they wearing orange so that hunters will see them?
Should we be wearing orange?

Ed looks me over: you do look like a deer. Brown, prancing along…
Should we be scared?

As if on command, we hear gunfire. Repeatedly. Continuously. From Belleville all the way to Albany.

Still, it is so fresh and lovely here! Who would believe that November could be strikingly beautiful?

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Beauty is fleeting.
We are approaching a tunnel.
No, we are not going to enter this cave of nothingness without a light! Je refuse!

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Ed, did you know about this tunnel? I don’t handle dark, closed-in spaces well.
I read somewhere a flashlight is needed…
My headlight isn’t working!
(Famous shrug.) It’s just a tunnel.

Ed bikes forward. My options? I have no options. I follow. Very tentatively. With many many repetitions of 'I cannot' and 'I will not,' interspersed with moans. For emphasis.

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Within a few feet we are in total blackness. We get off our bikes and step forward. Slowly. Intense silence. A cry of a bat, nothing more. I close my eyes, open them – there is no difference.

Of course, there is always light. Eventually, you turn a corner and you see it – you are not buried yet, you are raised from the pitch blackness of the earth. Another chance!

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I had a flashlight... Didn’t think I should dig for it.
Oh Ed.

We pass the Sugar River and pick up the Sugar River trail.

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Old bridges, new bridges, elevated byways, once meant for trains, now pedaled over by determined bikers.

Why aren’t there any cyclists though?
Too flat for serious cyclists, too cold for the recreational bicyclist.

Where does that put me?

A hunter of the bow and arrow kind comes towards us. I am grateful that no animal is draped around his shoulders. No little bambi nor her mother.

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A minute later a van comes after us. With lights. Of the official type.

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We are busted! Ed says.
I paid. I have a permit. I’m not spending a night in jail.
The DNR official looks mine over, writes in various details I had left blank (color of hair, weight).
Can hunters shoot on the trail?
Yes, they can. It’s a recreational trail.
Can they shoot at me?
You should definitely give us a call if you see arrows whizzing by.
Do I look like a deer, do you think?

He doesn’t crack a smile.

Nor does he charge Ed a penalty for forgetting to pick up a permit. This is so typical: money runs away from me and it clings to people like Ed. So that he can laugh in its face and walk away. Sigh…

The DNR official retreats. Remember, call 911 if you have problems. They’ll get in touch with us.

Such comfort.

But we do not encounter problems. Just hunters.

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And utter loveliness.

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Remarkably, we pull into Brodhead before dark. After a mere 47.5 miles of roads and trails. Child's play. Except my limbs no longer feel like a chuild's limbs.

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Our b&b (Earth Rider) is supremely nice. Tasteful, uncluttered, right on the town square, over a bike shop.

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Rooms with a Tour de France motif.

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An early dinner – hearty manicotti – and by 6, Ed is out solid. I struggle for four hours to stay awake to do a post. Four hours of fighting sleep, only to give up in the end.

Sunday morning. The skies are gray. We're facing the trails again. And a tunnel. Big difference: the flashlight stays in my hand.

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And at the end, a bowl of soup. Burning hot.

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