November 13, 2002
Eating The Elephant

miles to go: 185.47 [YTD: 1,816.53]

David compares it to eating an elephant.

"You wouldn't try to eat a 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 Dave & Secra: eating the elephantlived 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.

It's just that some bites have turned out to be more satisfying than others.

This 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 year. 

When 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 other.

Riding -- if it happened -- would merely be icing on the elephant cake.

David has been trying to sell 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, trailwise. 

"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.

"When we're finished riding the 2,002," I promised David, "we can ride anywhere you want to ride."

But 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 California 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.

Three hours later we were huddled miserably beneath a cork tree, waiting for the typhoon to blow over.

don't let the smile fool you

We'd managed approximately five 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.

"This can't be a good thing," David said, as we rode into a wall of horizontal rain.

I was dressed 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).

More or less in that order.

The following morning was basically a repeat of Saturday. This time, though, our misery had company: Bev 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 BOOB-worthy ride. 

"Isn't this nice?" I happily observed, as we crested the top of the first hill. "It's not even raining today!"

Forty minutes later: we were packing our waterlogged bikes back into our cars and saying our soggy goodbyes.

Still, in spite of the lousy 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 forty minutes of bev is worth the painFwd: 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 week's "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.

Plus -- and I think this is a big plus -- I got a little *taste* of what next year will be like.

We've gotten so caught up in 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 enjoying it, 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.

As soon as we finish choking down those last few chunks of elephant, that is.

in memory of marcella degrasse
in memory of marcella degrasse
[aunt marcie]

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feel better soon, deb.