Amy says . . .
An early morning wake up. A shower with toads at Alana Springs. A hot coffee spill. Emerging from the campground before anyone else is awake. The short road to meet Holly and Kent - only the second people to offer to ride alongside us on this trip. And how this was the very best day for it. A gift of bananas and home made granola bars. The first easy 8 miles. Holly’s parents suddenly appearing, waving from the side of the road. The Button Cemetery. The irrigation sprinkler shooting water over us. The flat tire Kent changed in less than a minute. Spring Green. Green Spring. Taliesen. Remembering Loving Frank and wanting to read it again now that I see the beauty of this place with my own eyes.
And then the hills in this part of Wisconsin, the ones that would have been used for the cycling portion of the 2016 Olympics if Chicago had won the bid, rising vertically in front of us like a challenge. A beastly challenge. The luck of cloud cover and the beat of Kent’s music. The competitive edge that kept us riding further and harder than we would have if we were alone. The easy conversation like a song gliding between us on the flats. Stef’s face as she approached one of the last hills beside us. Her shouts as we descended and rose. The delight we felt when we reached the top again and again.
The euphoria in Mineral Point. The quick rainshower to cool us. The beer and fish & chips and sharing more stories. Slowly feeling the tired set in. The walk, uphill, to High Street Sweets to meet Lisa. The joy on her face in the bright-colored candy shop. The exhuastion setting in. The rally. The ride to the elementary school to meet townspeople for the Free Walk to Visit Little Free Libraries. Roland’s hat. The applause. The newest library covered with wooden butterflies and a bell. More libraries. More walking. Roland’s gorgeous architecture. The exquisite painting Lisa did on the new library at the foot of Merry Christmas Mine Hill. The relief in Alan’s offer of a ride. The nap, face down on the king-size bed exactly where I landed. Sleeping like the dead. The heat of my shrimp & grits at MP Dining. The muddled cherries in my Old Fashioned. A feather duvet to cover us. Three in the bed. The delight we felt when we drifted off to sleep again.
Plotting the ride, then driving to Lone Rock to meet fellow tandem riders Holly and Kent, here from California on a visit home to see Holly's parents. Serendipity in Wisconsin. A bicycle that folds into a suitcase. How they barely got any sleep but got up anyway. How we slid into such ease at the first turn of the pedals. Jane's bananas and energy bars. Bob's directions and cheerleading. The first eight miles to Spring Green. Holly's old high school. Trolling through Nina's and a coffee stop at the bookstore. How happy Stef looks with a chai in her hands. Spotting two Little Free Libraries on the way to Dodgeville. The winding inclines. How the bike wobbles when we go slow. Kent and his music alongside. Stories from the road while on the road. The way you realize what good timing looks like, lives intersecting yours at the moment you need them. How the company did us good. The focus of the ride as we climbed. The deep breaths. Missing the turnoff but finding another way. Dodgeville and a stretch of the legs at 26 miles. The day blissfully overcast, not yet hot. Taking County Highway B and the left onto Survey Road and the wallop of hills that followed. Pedaling for our lives and then, on the descents, clinging to the handlebars. The thrill of going so fast you forget everything that came before this moment. The rigor of going so slow you forget everything that came before this moment. The gift of each kind of forgetting.
Turning toward Mineral Point and already dreaming of a lunch menu. Brewery Creek Inn and seating for 7. Jane saying "This is my treat" and understanding the meaning of that. How happy she knew her daughter was. Ice water. Belgian fries. Vegetable soup I could have bathed in. A pale ale I couldn't finish. Saying reluctant goodbyes. New, fast friends and thoughts of California on the horizon.
A quaintness greeting us. Lisa and the candy store and our sweet apartment on the second floor. The light coming in the bathroom window. Robes hanging on a hook. Two kinds of blue M&Ms in a glass jar. The bed, otherworldly with softness. The desire, after the hills and lunch, to collapse. Knowing we couldn't. A planned walking tour of the town's Little Free Libraries and inauguration of the two latest. Arrival by tandem. Roland the builder, cycling to meet us. The small crowd. An elementary school garden. The schoolteacher who became a principal. Sun and a sudden humidity. Walking in a bit of a daze all afternoon. Lollipops at High Street Sweets. Lisa's clear joy in her painting. Liberated laundry baskets. Lemonade at Longbranch Gallery. The Cradle of American Haiku. Allen introducing himself. The teenage boy with the trumpet, who played at each stop. Shake Rag Alley and handmade bookmarks. Bottle cap art. Geocaching. The delight at our merry band of wanderers. Each library like a kind of matryoshka doll, story after story inside. Roland's shop and his handiwork and how he said "there's not much in there" and of course, it was the opposite.
The ride back from Allen and how he said "two more minutes" because he wanted to show us his library. His stories and how I wished I hadn't been so tired, but what it feels to listen when you're tired. The pliancy of exhaustion. The sieve it turned me into.
Coming back for a shower and rest. My legs groaning up the stairs. Dinner, later, at MP Dining Company. Cornmeal-crusted fried chicken. Steamed carrots I actually loved. Bites of Stef's gnocchi. A glass of cold rosé. Thanking Lisa and how she said "Anytime" and meant it. The delight in her eyes telling the whole truth. How it feels to hear that, and believe it. Our walk back and the streetlights blessing us goodnight.