Cycle St. Paul. Hills and All.

I am seated on a steel bench just after lunch: June 25 at 12:30, hot sun, and worries about my sunburn getting worse. I cycle this university campus. Indeed, I was here 18 hours ago peddling my bike up the hill to the student center. I’ve cycled over 800 miles this season getting ready for RAGBRAI, most spent on the terrain of St. Paul. I hear a lot of groans from other cyclists when I tell them I choose to train here.

No really. I choose to ride these hills.

RAGBRAI is a 7-day ride from the western to eastern border of Iowa. About 20,000+ cyclists make the journey annually during the last full week of July. It averages about 468 miles in total length, which means 67+ miles per day. I can also expect over 12,000 feet of total climb. Iowa is not flat.

Have I mentioned the corn sweat?

I frequent a coffee shop downtown. It’s a good mid-way point and I have spent many hours there in the off-season writing (not in spandex). But it is summer, and the baristas are impressed by my mileage. I got a 50-mile ride in last Sunday and plan for 55 miles the next. I come into town by way of Shepard’s Road and out again by Big Rivers Regional Trail.

I often see eagles hunting along the river. Soaring grace until a fierce dive to the fish below. I feel that way on my bike. I feel like I am flying. There is no other world besides the connection between me and the steel bike frame… the bike tires and the road… the road leading forever to the horizon. Sometimes, the meditation is so deep I really believe I can go on for days. Then I stop for a snack and a dose of reality.

I came to cycling in 2014, about a year after my back surgery.

A friend asked me on a whim, “You wanna ride RAGBRAI with me?” I knew what it was having attended the University of Iowa as an English major years before. But I had never cycled before. I thought there was no way I could ever do such a thing.

Then I paused.

Two years earlier, just after my 40th birthday, a disk in my spine herniated and cut into my spinal cord. Intense waves of pain and weakness in my left leg caused it to randomly stop working. Some days, it was all I could do to walk the few blocks from the bus stop after work and lay on the floor all night. This went on for nine months: pain, mobility loss, and isolation all stealing my life and dignity away. Then I got back surgery. I got my life back. And I got asked to ride a large, insane cycling event.

My leg was working again… why couldn’t I ride RAGBRAI?

There is something about the slow pace of 14mph that allows you to see the world in a way that driving does not: deer darting through the high grass, tiny flowers of yellow and blue, and every butterfly that lights upon them. But that’s fast enough that if you are panting, and a June bug decides to commit suicide by flying into the back of your throat, you have little choice but to swallow it.

Hey, it’s fuel for the ride.

We are so spoiled in the Twin Cities by our extensive system of bike trails and lanes. I’ve tried cycling in other cities, in other states, but there is simply not the same quality and quantity. This place is dedicated to cycling access. I feel safe here. I don’t have to ride on the streets and when I do, there are safe places to do that. Without it, I don’t think I would have taken up what has become one of the best parts of my life.

Thank you for that St. Paul… ride on!

-Copyright C.M. Mounts, October 2018

Apple Tree

Every apple
Every last Macintosh
Has a hole in it
No holes before
Dad died
Now the tree sags
Weight of unwanted fruit
Scent hangs heavy
Apples drop
Rot on the ground
Memory preserves
Harvested bushels
Apple pies, apple butter
Dad had a gift
To tend life into green
Growing things
Twenty years later
It is old and dying
Animals live off its bounty
Insects, birds, and rodents
His care gives life still

-Copyright C.M. Mounts, March 2005

Blue Sheet of Sky

Huge blue sheet of sky
Largest picture window
Spread a blanket
Watch a meteor shower

Us in romance
A little wine
Hands clasped
Dreaming

It will get chilly
It will feel suspended
At least I hope it will

Day to day creeps in
It disturbs my happiness
In this moment

With a friend
With a lover

I will want to know
How it ends
Stop
Be here now

Fish jump in nearby lake water
Frogs call out in the night
Seek their own lovers

Let us be lovers
At least this one night

 

-Copyright C.M. Mounts, October 2017

Magic

Magic in the moon
Early morning
Sub-zero walk
No one is about

Ground crunches
Snow
Sky is clear
Nothing blocks
View of space

People are home
Snuggle each other
Snuggle the cat
Snuggle in blankets

But I am out
Walk to breakfast
Hot coffee

A tramp outside
Between
One warm inside
To another

Winter in small doses
Reminder of childhood
Play, romance
Simpler times in my life

 

-Copyright C.M. Mounts, January 2018

Great American Road Trip- Part 8

Friday, August 4 ~ MT (740 Miles)

East Glacier Park Village, MT; Choteau, MT; Great Falls, MT; Helena, MT; Butte, MT; Bozeman, MT; Billings, MT; Miles City, MT; Glendive, MT

Saturday, August 5 ~ MT-ND-MN (619 Miles)

Glendive, MT; Theodore Roosevelt National Park; Dickinson, ND; Bismarck, ND; Fargo, ND; St. Cloud, MN; Minneapolis, MN

On my last night in Glacier, I wake up in the middle of the night, draw the curtains back, and there above the mountains is a blood red moon. This has been quite a journey to the west coast and back again, to loving family and friends, kind strangers, and thousands of miles of scenery. It’s been a journey through my past, present, and future. A journey through past lives and bitter regrets, childhood memories and dreams forgotten. It is a solitary pilgrimage of closure, an end to many things.

I am finished. I will coast home. These are travel days not sightseeing days. I had planned to visit Theodore Roosevelt National Park in North Dakota but I am just too exhausted. Forget touring, I need rest. The climb to scenic point whipped me out and resulted in an impressive case a heat rash on my legs. Over the boot cuff under my socks are the worst of the red, blotchy, itchy welts. It will take days to heal but as I head home to my office worker life, it will at least get no worse. I have a final breakfast with my niece and her husband and I am on my way. Continue reading “Great American Road Trip- Part 8”