Eating The Elephant
to go: 185.47 [YTD:
compares it to
wouldn't try to eat
whole elephant at one sitting, would you?" he asks, whenever he sees me
walking around wearing my panicky overwhelmed Oh
my god we're
never going to make it! face. (A
face I practically lived
in, the first six months of 2002 ... but which I mainly reserve for
special occasions and out-of-town visitors these days.) And the answer
is no, of course not: nobody in her right mind would try to choke down
an entire elephant at one sitting. Everybody knows that you
should eat your elephant in pieces:
one tough, sensible, semi-manageable bite at a time. And that is
precisely how we've been trying to *eat* those 2,002 miles this year:
by taking it one tough, sensible, semi-manageable bite at a time.
just that some
turned out to be more satisfying than others.
past weekend in
Sacramento, for example. Even by our flabby middle-aged standards,
fourteen miles in two days barely qualifies as a bite out of the
elephant. (Hell ... it barely "qualifies" as a nibble on the elephant's
pinkie toe.) But then again, this weekend wasn't supposed to be about
how much elephant we could cram down our gullets in 48 hours. We're
close enough to our goal at this point that we can actually afford to
slack off, here and there. Sleeping an extra hour on Saturday mornings.
Taking a shortcut once in a while, instead of constantly looking for
ways to tack on a little extra mileagemileagemileage.
Stopping to smell the Jamba Juice, as it were. As long
as we don't get cocky -- as long as we don't underestimate the
weather/overestimate our abilities -- we can probably afford the
occasional goof-off weekend between now and the end of the
we headed for Sacramento on Saturday morning, we both agreed that this
weekend wasn't so much about riding, per se, as it was about Dave
& Secra unplugging from the world of newspaper deadlines and
soil sample reports, for a couple of days, and plugging into each
-- if it happened
would merely be icing on the elephant cake.
has been trying to
me on the American River Trail for over a year now -- It's
flat! It's scenic! It's fun! You'll love it!
-- but I've been
resisting the idea. My feeling has been that until we've reached our
riding goal -- until all that's left of the damn elephant is a smelly
splintery carcass, stuffed into the dumpster behind our apartment
building -- we should probably stick to the tried-and-true,
"At least on the Iron Horse Trail," I reasoned, "we know we can knock
off fifty or sixty miles in a weekend." Fifty or sixty mile chunks go a
long way towards finishing off a partially-eaten elephant, after all.
Fourteen miles: not so much.
2,002," I promised David, "we can ride anywhere you want to ride."
last week we were
unexpectedly gifted with the prospect of a full weekend -- two solid
days of work-free/family-obligation-free time-off, as opposed to the
usual one-and-a-quarter days -- and even *I* had to admit that this
sounded like opportunity knocking on Dave and Secra's door. "If it
isn't raining on Saturday," we decided, "we'll drive to Sacramento and
spend the weekend." Weather then became the issue. Northern
was hit with torrential rainstorms late last week -- the first
significant rainfall since May, according to the TV weather puppets --
but they promised us that it was supposed to clear up by the weekend.
So we kept an obsessive eye on the Dopler radar all week long, and on
Saturday morning it did seem as though the rains were letting up
finally. (Or at least tapering off to a manageable trickle.) We tossed
our bikes and our overnight bags into the Subaru, popped a Bob Dylan
tribute concert into the tape deck and headed north. If we were able to
ride, once we got to Sacramento ... fine. If we weren't able to ride
... fine. The main thing was getting away for a couple of days and
recharging the marital batteries.
hours later we
huddled miserably beneath a cork tree, waiting for the typhoon to blow
minutes' worth of ride along the banks of the American River before the
skies opened up and dumped on us like the punctured bladder of God.
be a good thing," David said, as we rode into a wall of horizontal
semi-appropriately for the weather -- long riding pants, long-sleeved
bike jersey, spiffy new SheBeest jacket -- and the truth is I probably
could have stuck it out for another few miles. But David was instantly
miserable. Shivering in his buttercup yellow windbreaker (which is NOT
waterproof, we've discovered) and his ancient holey bike shorts, he
quickly looked like someone auditioning for The Blue Man Group. We
ended up sheltering twice: once under a railroad bridge, and then again
a few minutes later beneath the cork tree. We were hoping that the
squall would pass, that the rainstorm would be over and that we could
continue our ride eventually. After spending almost an hour under the
cork tree, where we killed time by playing "I Spy With My
Little Eye" and making long-distance cell phone calls to TicTac, it
became painfully obvious that the storm had no intention of letting up.
The best we could hope for was a fifteen-minute break in the downpour:
just long enough for us to turn around and slosh our way back to the
Subaru. Finally we caught our break and made it back to the car, soaked
to the skin. But that was the end of bike-riding for the day. We spent
the remainder of Saturday driving around Sacramento, looking for food
and bathrooms and reasonably priced motels (preferably with hot and
cold running cable TV).
or less in that
basically a repeat of Saturday. This time, though, our misery had
and her husband Walt met us at the Nimbus Fish Hatchery, and the four
of us optimistically set out on the trail for what we hoped would be a
this nice?" I
happily observed, as we crested
the top of the first hill. "It's not even raining today!"
minutes later: we
packing our waterlogged bikes back into our cars and saying our soggy
in spite of the
weather and the aborted bike rides, I can honestly tell you that the
weekend wasn't a complete bust. David and I enjoyed a little bit of
much-needed marital reconnect. I have a new bar of motel soap to add to
my collection. We finally got to watch an episode of "The Sopranos." I
saw the Capitol Building and Old Sacramento and The Great Valley of
California. On Saturday night, we had dinner with David's old friend
Kenny (who I had planned to despise on sight, based on the 43,897,621
gratuitously tacky e-mail Fwd:
FWD: Forwards he sends us every day, but who proved to be so
unexpectedly charming that I will probably have to forgive him for last
"Skeletons Having Sex.") I watched salmon spawning and woodpeckers
pecking and one rude oblivious cyclist taking a very public leak in the
middle of the bike trail. And we got to ride with
Bev for a few minutes: that alone was worth four
hours of driving, an $80 motel room and possible pneumonia.
-- and I think this
big plus -- I got a little *taste* of what next year will be like.
gotten so caught
the whole process of finishing off the 2,002 in 2002, these past couple
of months, that sometimes I think we lose sight of the fact that
bike-riding isn't always going to be about odometer counts and mileage
charts. As much as I'm enjoying this final push towards the finish line
-- and that's the weird thing: I am
more than I ever expected to: it's like the more we ride, the more I want
to ride -- there is a part of me that looks forward to more out-of-town
trips ... more leisurely rides in interesting places ... more goof-off
weekends like this one.
soon as we finish
down those last few chunks of elephant, that is.
memory of marcella degrasse
in 2002 index