I stepped from Plank to Plank
A slow and cautious way
The Stars about my Head I felt
About my feet the Sea.

I knew not but the next
Would be my final inch -
This gave me that precarious Gait
Some call Experience.

Emily Dickinson, c. 1864

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Palm Sunday

Sunrise from my front porch
I spent way too long looking for a picture to put up on my post this morning. I got lost in memories as I looked for something that would be a fitting picture for my state this morning. Yes, I've been lost in the past in recent days. I read a very good book by Annie Proulx that covered three centuries of life in the early days of logging (Barkskins is the book). I was glad, though, when I finally reached the end of the book so I could pick up my own life again. The book is more than 700 pages long!

For the past week I've been thinking about how much of my own early life I've forgotten. I suppose this is normal, but years ago I kept journals, and yesterday after finishing that book, I began to wonder when it was exactly that I traveled with my friend Donna on a bicycling adventure from Boulder, Colorado, to San Francisco. It was in the mid-1970s, it turns out. I had been living in Boulder for a few years but had not yet begun my career at the National Center for Atmospheric Research, starting in 1979. In the fall of 1976, the two of us decided to bicycle across the country together. I had a ten-speed bike that I loved. We prepared for the trip by taking day-long treks into the nearby mountains and thought nothing of biking thirty or forty miles in a day, so we felt we were ready.

We had panniers (saddlebags) on our bikes, with camping equipment pared down to next to nothing, along with lightweight sleeping bags. We decided to go without a tent because of weight, and figured that if we ran into much rain we would buy one, or hole up in a motel until it passed. Incredibly, in the six weeks we were on the road, we never had any rain at all!

We headed north from Boulder, hoping to make Medicine Bow, Wyoming, in a few days (175 miles away). We had no problems, and we camped in city parks on the way. It would be our first time in a larger city, and we weren't sure where we might stay once we got there. I had the idea of calling the police department and asking for their advice. This was in the days before cellphones, and I remember standing in a phone booth calling the police department, and while I was on hold, a woman cut into the call and said she was the switchboard operator and that we could stay at her place! Apparently whenever there was a call to the police department, she would listen in to see what the story was. And that's just what we did: I hung up from the call and followed the directions she had given me to her home. We stayed with her overnight and she made us a big breakfast the next morning.

This was the sort of hospitality we experienced all across the country. We took back roads because we wanted to avoid the traffic of the interstates and saw all kinds of wonderful sights. We went through Yellowstone National Park, and I remember well having to climb the passes and then whizzing down the other side. I think we went over five passes in Yellowstone, if my memory is right. We traveled through eastern Oregon, which I remember being very dry and unappealing. Other than a few flat tires, our bikes and our bodies functioned quite well. I remember realizing one day that my thighs were hard as rocks from all that biking.

By the time we reached Eugene, five weeks after we began, our friendship was beginning to fray at the edges. Too much time together, I guess. We decided to separate and go our own ways from that point. I traveled down the coast on Highway 1, and I will never forget the sound of the logging trucks approaching behind me. I would always stop and pull off the narrow road because of the size of those big rigs. And I learned how hilly that highway is: hardly ever doing anything but going up and then down on that road.

When I reached San Francisco, I called my parents to let them know I had arrived safely after six weeks on the road. And I learned that my grandmother who lived in Santa Monica was ill and she needed someone to care for her. Was I willing, since I didn't need to return to Colorado right away? I decided to do it, but nobody prepared me for how tough it would be to spend all my days in a small little house with my grandmother and her three cats, after having been outdoors constantly for well over a month! I managed, but I chafed at having to be inside for so long. I ended up taking long walks to the Santa Monica pier and around the area, but I was pretty unhappy. Grandma didn't need much care, just someone to shop for her and take her to the doctor for her treatments. Although she wasn't expected to recover, she did, and eventually I took the opportunity to move back to Boulder.

I still remember seeing her in the doorway as I left. It was the last time I saw her, and she really didn't want me to go but I had my own life to live, and she understood that. Donna had also made it to San Francisco, and she got a job as a bike messenger, with her strong biking legs carrying her up and down the hills of that city. Eventually we both returned to Boulder and moved into an apartment together, our relationship much better for having taken some time apart.

I have only a few memories of that six-week-long adventure, but they are strong ones. Often we stayed at established campgrounds in order to shower and clean up. Once we couldn't find a place to camp and bedded down in an orchard not far off the road we had traveled on. I put down my sleeping bag, with my water bottle within reach on my trusty bike. I woke in the middle of the night to see the stars so brilliant and thick above me that it took my breath away. My bike was my companion, as I turned over and went back to sleep, I felt blessed to be there right then.

Of course, that was more than forty years ago, and sleeping on the ground, even with a thin pad underneath my sleeping bag was something I could do then but have no interest in repeating! But it was an adventure well worth having, back then. I wish now that I had kept a daily journal during that time, because I would be curious to see what I wrote. Reading my old journals from more than three decades ago seem to be written by another person entirely. Much of what I wrote I have forgotten completely, and I mention names of people who are also gone from memory, but when I wrote it back then, I thought I would never forget. One cannot retain it all; there are too many hours in the days and months that pass to remember everything.

My life has been filled with adventures, and thinking back to those days when I was a young woman are rather delightful to remember, but I'm happy in the life I have now. Yes, things change, and activities that I felt I would always enjoy have passed away. That's the way it works, but there is an old saying that never does one door close than another one opens. I've found that to be true in my own life. Eleanor Roosevelt once said, "Today is the oldest you have ever been, and the youngest you'll ever be again." So I'll just keep on with the todays that I have left, and enjoy every last one!

And now I've finished my post, and it's time to get up and move into the rest of my Palm Sunday. It's the beginning of the final week before the Easter celebration. I hope it will be a good one for you, and for those you love and cherish. Partner is still fast asleep and I'm ready to get going. Be well until we meet again next week, dear reader.


Linda Reeder said...

It's 7:55. The sun is up in a mostly clear sky! It looks to be a lovely day, but still cold at 39 degrees. We will celebrate Jake's birthday later today. My youngest will be 42 on Tuesday!

That book might be something for me to take a look at. I grew up in a logging family.

Memories are selective. I have written my memoir, about 150 pages, such as it is, but when I mentioned it to my sister, she was full of "Remember to tell abouts" that I only dimly remembered and did not consider that significant. We do live life through our own mind window.

I have never been adventurous and marvel at people like you who set off on long, physically demanding quests. Great story!

John's Island said...

Reading today’s Eye put a smile on my face. Well, just yesterday I was listening to a cassette tape (remember those things?) which I had recorded in June, 1981, almost 36 years ago. It was a recording of one random hour of radio I listened to in those days, including a news broadcast which mentioned something about the USA trying to overthrow Castro’s leadership in Cuba. So many things on that recording brought back old memories. So, while reading Eye, I wondered if you were making the bike trip today if you would be taking all kinds of photos and perhaps even videos of the journey. If you had that for your trip I think it would be a fascinating thing to look back at. As it is, I enjoyed your memories of the trip. Thanks for sharing another fine Eye on Edge! Hope you have a great week ahead!

Arkansas Patti said...

Somehow I am not a bit surprised that you took such a trip. I guess it is one a lot of us nurtured in the back of our minds in our youth. Wanting to make the trip either on foot, horse back, bike (motor or pedal) or car but few of us get beyond the dream. Kudos for just doing it. Those I know who did a similar trip, all to a person, say they met the finest people along the way. Thanks for taking us along. Glad I didn't miss this post.

Elephant's Child said...

That sounds like an amazing trip. I am glad you recognised that you needed space - before the friendship broke down.
Enjoy your week.

Marie Smith said...

Your adventurous spirit has taken you on some great journeys, Jan. You are courageous! I would never have headed out on my own like you did.

Gigi said...

Wow! What an adventurous life you've had - and continue to have! I would have loved to have traveled - although not by bike. I'm not one for camping then or now.

Have a wonderful week, D'Jan!

Anonymous said...

It's nice to have some adventures in your life. Better than staying in the same old situation day in and day out.

Jackie said...

The sunrise from your front porch is beautiful....
I thank you for sharing it with me.

Red said...

Making a challenging cycling adventure probably changed your life for the better in ways you'll never know. People did bike trips in the 70's. I don't think it's that common any more. Would people sleep in a park today? Would people sleep under the stars today?

The Furry Gnome said...

Beautiful sunrise from your porch! You're lucky to be able to look back and say your life was full of advetures. Me too, but I know people who can't, and it seems sad to me.

One and Doll said...

I don't know how I ever found your blog or why I put it into my blog reader list but I love what you write...an inspiring stranger...

Rita said...

Wonderful to have you share our memories with us. What a trip! I remember sleeping on hard floors with nothing but a blanket and pillow. No way now. Even just in this one lifetime it is like looking back on many lifetimes to me. I guess we are lucky to live so long that we can forget parts--LOL! ;)

Linda Myers said...

What a great adventure! I love those close-to-the-ground trips.

Rhapsody Phoenix said...

It has been a while. I trust you are well.
It is time to write your memoir. Your journals will be a great source of reference. I have been reading your blog for a while now and I think you have a great life story to tell. Why not immortalize oneself? So many great lessons to pass on.

likeschocolate said...

Happy Easter! Hope you are having a lovely weekend so far! Gorgeous photo!

Terra said...

I like your story of your cross country bicycle ride with your friend, and how that switchboard operator invited you to spend the night. How friendly of her.

C-ingspots said...

Oh my gosh, what a blessed and adventurous life you've lived! I haven't been here in a while, and now see how much I've missed reading your thoughts and your reassuring perspective on this life. From where I sit, it seems like you've lived many different lives and each one has been a unique and adventurous experience. I only wish I could be so footloose and fancy free for a change! Just wonderful!

C-ingspots said...

Oh my gosh, what a blessed and adventurous life you've lived! I haven't been here in a while, and now see how much I've missed reading your thoughts and your reassuring perspective on this life. From where I sit, it seems like you've lived many different lives and each one has been a unique and adventurous experience. I only wish I could be so footloose and fancy free for a change! Just wonderful!