My brother, Ron, and his wife, Adrienne, giving Dee a tour of Adrienne’s garden in Wilmington this morning.
We had a wonderful day off yesterday, thanks to Adrienne. She took us to a gentle yoga class that stretched out the kinks in our wrists, necks, shoulder blades and all. I have been craving yoga and the class was just right. Then she took us to her favorite bike shop in Wilmington, Two Wheeler Dealer. It’s now my favorite, too. They took our bikes and set right to work lubing our chains after the Myrtle Beach monsoons, tweaking the derailleurs, putting pretty new handlebar wrap on Dee’s bike (she always copies me, I have the coolest handlebar tape so she had to change hers). Dillon, our can-do mechanic, took the time — and took apart my two rear derailleur cogs — to find and fix a persistent chirping. We were in the store for about an hour and talked with several employees about our trip while a whopping five mechanics worked steadily on everything from kids bikes and cruisers to high-end road bikes. A few new tubes, two high-powered rear lights for visibility and our bikes were good to go.
Our ride today, 62 miles northwest to Elizabethtown, was fairly non-descript. We had about 16 miles of a four-lane highway out of Wilmington, then back roads through a state forest, corn and cotton fields, and the White Lake vacation cottage area.
Dee checking out cotton plants for the first time.
Christine, innkeeper of tonight’s accommodations, the very handsome Elizabethtown Inn. She is from South Africa — so she and Dee hit it off right away. But she said I was too thin to stand next to for a photo, so I really like her, too.
Three times today we had people ask us why we are taking this trip. First it was a fellow running a general store about halfway through our ride. “Why would women like you, or even men, want to do a trip like that?” he asked us. We were sitting on a bench outside his store, drinking chocolate milk we bought inside. He had wandered outside, clearly curious, maybe a little puzzled. An older waitress at a cafe in Elizabethtown asked us, too, and then Christine, our innkeeper. I told Christine we were doing it because it’s fun.
“Yah, when I want to have fun, I grab a book and sit and read,” she cracked. Good point.
The truth is, I don’t have an easy answer. Before we left I might have told you it’s about connecting the dots, because I’ve lived in so many places along the East Coast. And that I wanted to know what it feels like to tour for longer than a week. And because I work for the East Coast Greenway, I wanted to see it all. But now I see that it’s those things for starters and much more. It’s about approaching 60 years old and still feeling strong, physically. It’s about pushing myself to live more in the present, to live simply for two months without much stuff but with rich experiences every day. It’s that kind of stuff.
None of which may make sense to the general store guy wondering why these two women would want to ride their bikes so far. But it definitely got him thinking. And while we were sitting there, another guy came riding up on his rider mower, towing a little cart behind him with yard tools, to fill up with gas. He looked like an overgrown little boy riding a go-cart and pulling a wagon. He talked with us a bit, went in the store to pay, and came back out. We joked that he should join our ride and we’d throw our panniers in his cart. He looked at our bikes a couple times, sizing them up.
“I think I’ll take a trip,” he said, finally. “I think I’ll drive to Alaska!”
Maybe that’s all this trip is about: saying yes to a crazy dream and hitting the road. I know I’m incredibly lucky to be able to take off — and to have a friend who is game to join me.
I leave you with two last shots of us in our happy places. For Dee, it’s a Subway salad for dinner — healthy, affordable, consistent from town to town. I told her there’s a max of every other night for Subway as our dining option. And me with two of Adrienne and Ron’s dogs, as close as I will get to my Amos and Juno for another five weeks. Not that I’m counting.