Joey wanted to muse about how First Nations people might have discussed the Pioneers (dirty, smelly, bearded, odd looking, importing drugs [booze] and deadly disease [poxes, plagues] and strange religions, fouling the land with farms instead of treading lightly as nomads do, claiming exclusive ownership of land instead of sharing it as one shares air). Joey wanted to discuss oddities we saw and heard, like Ammon Bundy for Governor signs and a man in camo shooting twice at something.
All that must wait.
Because each year, Joey lets me have the last word.
On our Ride routes beginning 2011, we’ve pedaled (and coasted) 13,436 miles, to 43 of the Lower 48 states. (This year’s additions: 4 states, 1,157 miles.)
A closeup of this year’s route, marked by orange pins:
Tuesday morning, our friend Scott met us in Ogden to talk a bit and to pick up our gear.
I got off the plane, savoring the oxygen-rich sea-level air.
Time to re-adapt after 3 weeks of immersion in another world.
Just outside the terminal, I started.
I jaywalked. It’s what New Yorkers do.
Despite a “face coverings required” announcement at every station, some JFK AirTrain passengers failed or refused to wear a mask on board. (I masked, as on the plane.)
To exit the AirTrain costs $8. The Port Authority turnstiles don’t accept my auto-refill Metrocard, nor are they equipped with the MTA Omni machines that let you pay by tapping a credit card. I had to buy a $1 Metrocard and load it with $8 more to pass. The indignity!
On the E train (subway) to Manhattan, several passengers failed or refused to wear required face coverings. I kept my distance on the uncrowded train, with noise blasting from headphones worn by someone at the far end of the car.
As I left the subway at 53rd Street and 7th Avenue, a young fare-beater vaulted the turnstile. I dodged a glistening glob of spit on the concrete steps.
Outside the station was Stephen Colbert’s joint.
I just missed an M57 bus (free transfer from the subway) that would have taken me almost to my door. The walk to my apartment was 20 minutes. The 15 minute wait for the next bus wasn’t worth it.
En route, I smelled cannabis smoke, heard half a dozen different languages, and narrowly missed being run down by motorized delivery bikers, one in the street, two on the sidewalk.
The sights, sounds, smells, chaos, irritations, the urge to jaywalk. I’m back in New York City!
Where was Nancy?
My early return caught Nancy by surprise. She was a 3-hour drive away, playing with one of the grandchildren . . .
. . . so his mom could give a talk at a professional conference.
On Wednesday afternoon, Nancy returned.
Nancy is everything to me.
Why do I leave her for weeks at a time?
The Rides support Human Rights First. (Nancy and I pay all Ride expenses; please click here to donate and we’ll mail you a souvenir Beatles postcard, signed not by the Beatles but by Joey and me.) That alone is a reason to go.
In Salmon, Idaho, I found Nancy a sterling silver amulet, among the last works of a retired Idaho artist. It is unique, as is Nancy. She’s smart. She’s strong. She’s kind. And she accepts that the Rides are something I want to do.
The Rides themselves . . . wow. Words and photos but hint at the vastness and beauty of the wild spaces. The sounds of birds and animals, water and wind. The frights and triumphs. The feeling of well-being when things go right; the fight to stay calm when they don’t. The stories people tell.
I could lose myself in that world. A simple world. Bike all day, every day. Write and edit an illustrated essay every night. (Every night. Professional columnists get days off. Not us.) Engage with people. Try to rest. Try to eat. Repeat. Repeat.
Liberating too. Simpler than urban life.
Yet I pushed hard. I pedaled fast.
I came back to Nancy in a hurry.
Because I had enough of wandering alone.
Because only with my Nancy, my love, am I well and truly home.