Sunday, March 21, 2010

When Ibti met Ollie

Today is a momentous one. Not, not because of a particularly long or grueling ride. Not a mileage milestone, nor an exceptionally poor-weathered day....

One year ago today I first laid eyes on my beloved Ollie and brought her home. She was as beautiful in the catalog as she was in the... steel. (A mail order partner, what can I say?) And she's only grown more lovely as I've gotten to know her, each ding and rust spot steeped in memories.

With no champagne in sight -- it is West Texas, so I could perhaps rustle up a bottle of the Champagne of Beers -- we have decided to collaborate on a poem to commemorate the occasion. Narrated by my fearless ride, and in the style of our all-time favorite poet (who I hope is not rolling over in his grave), I give you:

The Love Song of J. Olympia Surly

Let us ride then, you and I,
Toward where the road just meets the sky
Off to find the true America and food;

Let us go, traversing half-deserted streets, Sometimes needing to retreat
Share restless nights in one-night cheap campsites
And beercan stove dinners filled, at least, with lots of spice:
Facing winds that blow like an obstinate argument
Of insidious intent
To lead you to an overwhelming question. . .

Oh, do not ask, "Are we there YET?" We've come so far, and still you parrot.

The long haul truckers pause to say
Did you see that loony on a bicycle on the highway?

The cursing from inside your tent I hear
When the morning frost encrusts the rain fly on mornings clear,
Pricks its tongue into the corners of the sleeping bag, Lingers upon your fingers and your toes.
I discern you falling back onto the sleeping pad for just a few moments more,
Then, determined, you emerge fully dressed, make a sudden leap,
  And seeing that it is a bright March morn
Start loading up, lest you be tempted to lollygag and crawl back to sleep.

And indeed we change our view of time
For the unflagging headwind that hits us in the face,
Slows us down again;
There will be time, there will be time
To prepare a face to meet the farmers that you meet;
There will be time to weed and cook and learn,
Yes, time for all the works and days of hands
And hope that when they let you into their kitchens, the rice you will not burn;

Time for us to slowly make our way,
Not quite time yet for a hundred miles--
I suggest just 40 or 50 for the rain today is wild--
Before the taking of yet another pb&j.

The long haul truckers pause to say
Did you see that loony on a bicycle on the highway?

And indeed there will be time To wonder, "Uphill again?" and, "No, seriously, AGAIN???"
Time to push onward and descend,
While the odd rash on your thigh is one more thing with which you must contend.

[They will say: "How her boobs are growing small!"] Your shorts too tight, fitting snugly to your legs and all,
With shirtsleeves grey with grease, no longer white, and a few specks of gravel from when you fall—
[They will say: "But check out that bike glove tan!"]

Do I dare
Disturb the traffic flow?
At a stoplight there is time
For us to topple, clipped in, as we have done many times when we accidentally crash instead of go.
For we have eaten dust on roads, even in ditches, many times;
And always, though sometimes through gritted teeth, you smile,
I have measured out my life in miles;
I know the sound of tire tubes bursting, pinch flats, and the maddening, leak of air
As a thorn or shard of twisted metal scratched.
So how many have you patched?
Oh, I have known the flats already, known them all—
The tubes you fix as darkness starts to fall,
And when I am wheels-up, sprawling on my handlebars, On the roadside as it starts to rain,
Then I count them. As I recall each, a dozen now, dare I complain?

And shall I reminisce?
For I have known the hills already, known them all— Like elephants the ones in Pennsylvania were [But paling in comparison, we noted, once we conquered the mountainous Big Sur!]
Is it the subtle sound of hissing air
That makes me thus despair? I think it may be number thirteen. And are you swearing now?   This time in French?  .     .     .     .     .
Shall I say, we have journeyed 'cross the country's narrow lanes
And milked the sheep and bottle-fed the kids
Of hungry ewes who tried to eat your pants? . . . I should have been a pair of dull handclippers left out in the rain.        .     .     .     .     .
And the afternoon, laundry blows so lovely in the breeze! Hung by weathered farmers' fingers, Freshly washed . . . sundried . . . yet the sweaty odor lingers, Stretched on the line, up above you and me. Should I, after five thousand miles traveled,
Have the nerve to point out that your favorite smartwool socks have unraveled?

But though I have creaked and wobbled, borne such gear, Though I have seen screws lost (and some grown slightly rusted) 'long the way, I am no road bike–-nor mountain bike as you know from tires busted;
I have known the glory of the mountain's acme, And I have shared the misery of fallen trees which, for us to cross, you needed to unpack me,
And in short, I was overladen.
And would it have been worth it, after all, After the salsa shoes, the saffron, the other frills,
Among the bags of gear, among some talk of your packing skills, Would it have been more wise,
To have left some things behind and perhaps downsized,
To have squeezed a few less things into panniers?

We roll toward some overwhelming question, To say: "I am Ibti, come from DC, Come to hear you all, I shall tell your tale on my blog" If one farmer, setting a coffee cup aside in response to a posting, Should say, "That is not what I meant at all.   That is not it, at all."

And would it have been worth it, after all, Would it have been worth while,
After the church lawns and haylofts and gas stations where we have slept, After the fear of snakes, of lightning strikes, and death by tree limb falling and crushing us in our sleep— And this, and so much more?— It is impossible to say just what I mean! But as if a magic word would change the way we eat: Would it have been worth it
If your hero, Mr. Pollan, sitting up from writing at his desk or reading fan letters,
And turning to his e mail, should write to you: "That is not it at all,   That is not what I meant, at all."
.     .     .     .     .Yes! You are not Ms. Waters, nor were you meant to be;
But a committed lover of her work, one that has hoped to be heard,
To join the movement, start a seed or two,
Advise the District; no doubt, an easy hope,
Excitable, glad to be of use, Intrepid, joyful, and meticulous; Full of 80s pop culture references, but a bit obtuse; At times, indeed, almost ridiculous— Almost, at times, a nerd.

We grow old . . . We grow old . . . And you still wear the bottom of your right trouser rolled.

Have we left five thousand miles behind? Do you notice when I squeak? I hope in Austin I shall finally get a tune-up, and move without such creaks. I have heard the rain tapping on the inside of your tent. (It leaks.)
I do not think the rain will bother me.
I have been left out in many storms (ahem),
Endured the deluge without fear
When the wind blows so strongly in your ear.

We have made our way so far from our first ride
From the bike shop now two-thirds around
Till we make our way back home, to share what we have found.

[21 March 2010]

Sent from my Verizon Wireless BlackBerry


  1. Lots of time to compose in your head as you ride. Good stuff. Keep on spinning!

  2. I'm having The Rime of the Ancient Mariner flashbacks...get here soon, we need you!


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