Waking into an early Sunday morning and forgetting where I was, exactly. The bed holding its grip. The time it took to hoist myself out of it. Still feeling yesterday's ride in my legs. Wondering how much we'd put in on the tandem today. Wanting to be more ambitious than I felt, Madison more than 50 miles away. French toast and a fried egg at the Rooster Cafe. Returning to the room to pack up. Amy & Stef off to get the car and Maude and my slow movements delaying my progress. Getting on the bicycle, regardless. The wind kicking up like a dare. Making it the 7 miles to Dodgeville before our thighs gave out. Stopping at Cobblestone Coffeehouse for an Americano and a warmed-up cinnamon role. The immediate resurrection and healing of caffeine and sugar. Stef arriving with an "I told you so" written on her face. Hopping in the car and taking the back roads toward Mt. Horeb. The beauty of that scenery, the rolls and dips of the road, the backdrop of endless green, the silos and farms, and the sweet silence we drove in. The stop for antiques before making the final descent into Madison. The startle of a busy highway. The sudden feeling of compactness, land at a premium, population density. Maria's welcome and Ava and Quinn playing on the lawn and how quickly Ava said yes to a spin around the block on the tandem. Glasses of cold water and how college friends reconnect and the wind whipping wild outside. The little nip of chill like a preview of fall. The Capital City bike path and how we took the half-hour rest before gearing up again, and the ride not too bad and Indie Coffee less than 6 miles away. Sidewalk signage to tempt passersby and Rick arriving with his open-hearted grin and then JJ and Sarah and the man who played classical guitar while we set up our things on the tables and waiting for the possible crowd. The crowd not coming, but instead, the sweet reunion with Grace, and a cup of good decaf, and Sarah clutching at her heart when she read the tiny books, and the word "Golem" briefly stumping us, and how tired we realized we were and how okay that was. Feeling so close to the finish, so close to the bone, and maybe just a little bit saturated, cup running over in more ways than one, my eyes a little achy from being so open, my heart packed to the gills, my ears clashing with stories and my fingers feeling almost spent of poetry.
Not yet, a little voice keeps sidling in, even as my body barrels bed-ward searching for the release of sleep. Not yet, the poems whisper as I dream of who-knows-what. And I know this because when I wake in the morning, some muscle responsible for all of these mechanisms girds itself again, ready and alert and full of the most exquisite hunger.
Don’t underestimate the power of breakfast. A good night’s sleep. A big bowl of oatmeal at The Red Rooster in Mineral Point, and a leisurely morning and we felt ready to ride again. Sort of. There was an ache in our muscles and a weariness that felt like jet lag. (Red flag.) But we were sure we could push through it and make it most of the 57 miles to Madison. After 7, I was pretty sure we couldn’t. (Red flag.) The wind was ferocious and even though the scenery was gorgeous and the clouds were the prettiest of the past 27 days, we were wrecked from the previous day and every pedal felt like we were riding through tar. We were nearly silent, both lost in our exhaustion and probably afraid to admit defeat. Mile 8, Maya suddenly said she felt like she was going to lose it. (Red flag.) I suggested we text Stef for a pick up and she murmured, “No, we can make it to Mt. Horeb.” Another 20 miles??
Another minute ticked by and our headset mysteriously cut out. I couldn’t hear a word she was saying. The red light had gone dark. (White flag.) The universe had spoken. We texted Stef and she turned back to meet us in Dodgeville. We slumped at the table of a coffee shop to wait. Both of us hated giving up, but sometimes you just have to listen to your body. We had pushed ourselves to the limit the day before and we should have rested longer before trying to ride again, at least maybe waited until after lunch and attempted a shorter ride.
And so, a little disappointed, we hopped in the car and rode through the back roads to Madison. Stef’s roomate from college, Maria, and her adorable family live in a suburb of the city so we pulled Maude into her neighborhood and hung out on the lawn with her kids, Quinn and Ava, who checked out the camper and the tandem and peppered us with questions. We relaxed with them and just rested our broken bodies until it was time to hop on the bike and ride downtown to Indie Coffee. Where Grace graced us with her smile and her long hard hug after her drive from Boulder. And where JJ had planned a quiet easy event with a guitarist playing background music and people sipping caffé lattes and beer and drifting in and out while we wrote poetry and caught up with Rick Brooks, the co-founder of Little Free Library, and a few of his friends and neighbors who came out to meet us. Where my favorite word of the night was "softly." It was intimate and mellow and exactly what was required today.
Sometimes the universe knows what you need better than you do. All you have to do is show up and listen.