Wednesday, May 30, 2007

speaking German to unleashed dogs

Tour de Breaux, aka The Summer of Unrelenting Optimism, aka the Swim! To! Shore! Tour '07, is in FULL FORCE, is racing along like swiftly moving currents; we have hit missouri, our fourth state, 1500 miles ridden, one flat tire on the board, (mine) nine new bike friends acquired, (who knew this would be so social?) and the idea of Comfort Food is, slowly, sounding less and less comforting.

But quickly now, we've no time to dally: Thus far: Dave has had his life threatened fully two times, once half-jokingly by a blatantly intoxicated self-described "5-time veteran" named Buzz in Carbondale, IL, who, at various points of our conversation, (1) attempted, unsuccessfully, to smash a packet of mustard with his fist, (2) mimicked punching and/or choking Dave, although there was never any contact, mind ye, and (3) commented, emphatically, sometimes adding a hollow pound to the chest, on how he is NOT TO BE [EFFED] WITH; and then, par for the middle-of-nowhere course, our young Ulrich was threatened again, this time much less jokingly, by a shirtless dog owner on a four-wheeler (no joke) who had convinced himself that Dave had maced his dog, (he hadn't) and who attempted, in his cutoff jean shorts, to be intimidating...which he was.

Now then. Ye ask, and we happily oblige: Our next mail drop address:

Dave Ulrich
General Delivery

United States Postal Service
106 N. Main St.
Buhler, KS 67522

We will be in the general Buhler area in 5 days, (conservatively estimated, of course) so any tokens of encouragement should arrive thereabouts.

And for you overambitious types, here is the address for the post office AFTER THAT:

Dave Ulrich
General Delivery

United States Postal Service
25140 E. US Highway 50
Pueblo, CO 81006

We should be there on the 10th of June or so.

For all those who have sent letters (electronic and snailed): Thank you thank you. You will be repayed with warm thoughts and not-so-prompt replies.

And now I leave you with a small sampling of photos. Many more to come...

To the slow sawing of sinews!

Making dinner in Berea w/ friends:

Dancing in Berea to African drumming:

The making of banners! Behold, Summer of Unrelenting Optimism:
We learned how to Contra dance...and it was supreme:
Saturday in Berea:
Cave-in-Rock, IL:

Thursday, May 24, 2007

complimentary love letters with each purchase!

we are a small handful of miles from the Illinois border (you know, those 12-mile-handfuls), so i'll make this quick. we love your mail. some of it is edible, but all of it is consumed with primal and ferocious energy. It was yesterday morning that we backtracked the 8 miles to the town of Mc Daniels, KY (long story) to pick up our mail. Over coffees and huge breakfasts at Knotty Pines Restaurant (pronounced "Naughty Pines"), we carefully opened our gifts and it turned our plain jane Southern meals into soul food.

here's the next spot:

Dave Ulrich
General Delivery
United States Post Office
130 Court St.
Hartville, MO

we'll probably be there in around five days.
we're starting to ease into the 80-90 mile days! jip-joe!
this afternoon, we'll get on a ferry in Kentucky, cross the Ohio River, and get off at Cave In Rock, IL. i think it will be a hoot.

love for now,

An open letter to the slightly obese girl who shouted, "Fucking queers!" at us while we were biking by her truck in Springfield, KY

Thank you.


You are the torchbearer! You are our first and favorite!

Everything, finally, is in its right place...

Sincerely spandexed,

Sunday, May 20, 2007

berea, jewel of kentucky

Appalachia is almost over, berea our gateway into flatter lands and longer days, our bellies full of organic greens and co-op sloppy joes and black market milk and gallons of ethiopian coffee, our beards coming in slowly, slowly; our legs acclimating to the constant stress, our achilles tendons turning to sand-dusted jello...and we are officially one-sixth of the way done with the trip.

to our new berea friends: thank you. you are glowing, you are warm.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

we wear spandex; we are powerful

yesterday, after three long days of dealing--not without an untold number of grunts and strains and unharnessable leaden curses--with the starkly steep hills and mountains of Appalachia, dave and i arrived yesterday in berea, KY, a small college town squirming with life, a place blessed with a small but committed community of environmental activists and artistically minded bringers of change. we were taken in by a community co-op affiliated with the college, a house full of girls, all smiles and open arms and hands stretched forth with offerings of food and friendship and frozen treats.

which is to say: Virginia, the first state of this crazy-balls-ass journey of ours, has officially been VANQUISHED! Annihilated! A small worm for squelching. We progress, then, from that land of beginnings, the land in which, many years ago, the word "destiny" was spoken between bonneted and starched settlers (the word "manifest" would not be added for another two centuries), to the land of fried chicken and derbies and sluggers birthed from the loins of louisville. kentucky, though, has not given us the warmest of welcomes. daily: impossible hills and bored unleashed dogs and the mangled and lobotomized remains of once-functioning cars resting forgotten on lawnfront cinderblocks or sinking slowly into soil. this state has been kicking our sore spandexed asses. and we've been loving it....

i am writing now from the living room of our new friends; we have taken another day off and are spanning the hours watching African drumming and sewing flags and cooking communal meals with lovely people.

and i have a home-made dixie burger to eat....

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

trail magic

the appalachian trail hikers call it "Trail Magic." local hiking enthusiasts leaving boxes of food, gatorade, gifts of encouragement, etc, along the trail. unexpected nuggets of joy. for us, that has come to us in a few different forms. behold, the photographic inventory of our trail magic to date:

Cookie Lady June Curry:


Blacksburg Addendum:

Stuart Family:

have i mentioned life has been beautiful?

swim, young ones, to shore!

when there is no pebble dropped or wind to blow

(this was written by dave but posted by mua)

when you first meet someone you create a perception of them
you perceive who they might be
the strong cheekbones tell you how their ancestors drank pure water and probably farmed leafy greens
wild hair says i got me right where i want me so take me
and wearing anything with beads might say i make a soft noise when i move about in the world because everything else is so loud

so i guess what im trying to say is we per ceived about 15 or 20 people at once in the blacksburg area (were going to keep writing about blacksburg until we move there) and we watched the funny delicate arc of where our perceptions started to where they ended up with just being friends because you realize when you really start to know people you stop perceiving them you just know them youve learned the real things about them and band t shirts and teva sandals and tattoos cease to be anything but handles by which to describe your friends to others to let them hold the feeble perception that you started with

right now nick and i are hammering away at handicapped keyboards in haysi virginia mine happens to be punctuation disabled (thus the lucid and free flowing rainbow which im currently riding) here at the library were flanked by mike and adam who we just met on the road about 10 miles back they are fighting the good fight as well (wind hills joints tendons loneliness country gas station supermarkets)

ill tell you the truth for a little while i was lonely there i think leaving the plush nest of my birthplace struck a sad chord in my heart not to mention that next night we stayed in the weirdest little dead town of Whytheville sneaky camp on a carpet of brown needles in a beautiful grove of dead pines but it sure felt empty i mean nick was a little sad too

next mission when i get back is to fight the tyranny of punctuation

as for all of you
please send things written glued bought sold bartered half eaten
the holes you left in us are curiously mailbox shaped
so fill them

Dave Ulrich
General Delivery
United States Postal Service
9501 S Highway 259
Mc Daniels KY

we should be at this spot in about a week so if you send anything try to have it there by the 21st of May

secret handshakes to you all (different ones)

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Thursday, May 10, 2007

home court advantagE

seems to me the closer i get to my birthplace, the better stuff gets for me. after a 70 mile hilly day yesterday, Nick and i settled down in Catawba Valley, VA. crashed down, faded, achille'd down, i should say, ahem. so we sprawled in the lawn of Catawba Valley Baptist Church and rocking through the walls we know it's youth Worship team practice so we wait for a break in the wailing and i step in the door "excuse me, we're bikers, can we camp out on this here lawn" beautiful vista on one side of the valley. Jeff, so it says on his shirt, says "well, ahem, let me call the pastor". i think Jeff's the no pastor but minivans roll up and calls are made and Alan Lee down the street says we can camp in his yard tonight and come on down to shower and everything.
So down we go. he's got this like cattle grate in his driveway that we tiptoe our bikes over and we plopemdown and in the house to shower. then, over left over s we (mashed potatoes, mmmsweet potatoes, green beans, stuffing, semi-sweet tea) end up shooting the breeze for over an hour with the Lee family. they are great. we now have these friends in the Catawba Valley. So i call my mom from the tent in Alan's yard and she's telling my dad "They're camping in Catawba Valley" where i used to dine as a two-year-old with my family.
So of course, now i'm in my birth-town of Blacksburg and i'm automated like a robot like moving the right ways and mouth drops out my jaw mechanical to say things to people and make friends and i don't think about any of it just let my home sweet home self do the talking and lordy it's fine.

we list!

Number of toe-clip-related falls:
Nick: 5
Dave: 1
Number of cafe owners who, upon discovering that Dave and I were on a cross-country journey, supplied us with free stuff: 2 (Tuan at Cville; Brian at Lexington Coffee House; both lovely people; both supporters of Good Thing in General)
Dave's problem area: Achilles' Heel (swollen, sore)
Nick's problem area: Left eyelid (swollen, annoying)
Intensity, on a scale of 1 to 10 (10 being extremely severe), of our sunburns:
Dave: 5
Nick: 2
Average mileage per day: 60
Most miles in one day so far: 87
Least: 30 (today)
Number of families who have allowed us to camp out on their front lawns: 2 (Barry in Charlottesville, the cyclist, the giver of water; and the too-gracious Lee family in Catawba, who, in their infinite kindness, supplied us with showers and warm meals and long lounging talks, even though we had asked merely for a plot of grass)
Chafing: No(t yet)
Allergies: Yes (Nick only)
Blue Ridge Mountains: Conquered!
Appalachia: Forthcoming!

We are in Blacksburg (the sun is shining; the days have brimmed unflaggingly with too-beautiful-to-fully-process pastoral scenery--there: dilapidated barns! there: impossibly green hills of grass! there: long white fences; brown mares, coats ashimmer!) and we have been taken in by a coterie of bike co-op twentysomethings and are on our way to the river to lounge with them and drink deeply (collegiately) of wine and our legs are growing stronger and our butts are becoming less consistently sore and at night I think of what I would be doing if I had not decided to do this--where I would be sitting, what beers I would be drinking at which bars with what unclose acquaintances--and I beam, and I swat the bugs away, and I rub my swollen eyes, and I think lingeringly of my loved ones, and I sleep.

Monday, May 7, 2007

private property - ain't no one here but me

well. we're still in Virginia. it sure is beautiful, but it's strange to see that most of the vast land in this state, in this country is owned. Nick and I had our first little rogue campout two nights ago in a meadow that seemed to be part of this huge farm outside of Ashland. We both got a decent sleep, but i had close to twenty dreams - all of them involved the owner of the farmland under our backs. I'll tell you all about them. In the meantime, y'all can dream about my thighs and my bald head.

Saturday, May 5, 2007

sleeping on the floorboards of churches

Traveling leaves you with so many names. The names of passing towns, of people met, of roads ridden and rivers crossed. You collect them. Like sea shells. Or dead starfish. So far our inventory of names is somewhat small, a modest offering of syllables and stringed memes, but they are wide and amplified; they are heavy like water: Elsa Bakkum and the grace of her aptly-named church; Lewis Haynes and his willingness to inconvenience himself and teach us how to lock unruly doors; Ray the Mountain Climber and his ropy advice; the encouraging sagaciousness of Heidi Holliday's registry scribbles; the triumphant and multi-syllabic Chickahominy River, over whose waters Dave and I high-fived each other; the cornicopia that is the forgivably-named Ukrops; the likewise-curiously-named VA encumbent, Trip Chalkley; Ashland, VA and its life-saving coffeehouse; the counter-intuitively engineered Charles City Road; the nameless formerly-comatose-motorcycle-accident-survivor we encountered at Horizon Food Mart (large eyes; toothless; purple corduroy shirt); the hope of Success, MO (more on this city to come....), etcetc.

We sing to ourselves. We stretch when we can. We eat bread and cheese and bananas voraciously. We cook with olive oil and wear sunblock and drink coffee at every available opportunity. We breathe in deep mountain air and feel with satisfaction as the avenues of our lungs are cleared of their New York debris. We coast down steep hills, bordered on both sides by the unimganiable green of the American countryside, and, automatically, like clockwork, as though we've been doing this for weeks now, we throw our fists in the air with excitement. We yelp.

This is Day Two. Dave, for reasons you can reference above, has named his iron steed Elsa. (the regalia! the nostalgia!) I, for similar reasons, have named mine Heidi Holliday (or, alternately, Mama Xi...or, when i'm feeling ambitious about the trip, Portlandia...) 110 miles down, a few thousand to go....

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

setting ships to sail

And we have arrived: The evening before the sending-off of boys to their lessons; before the uncertain launching of ships.

I am writing from Dave's mother's office in New Jersey, the entire day having been devoted to bikes bikes bikes maps bikes, New York having faded, sadly, perhaps only temporarily, into the gray behind us. We leave for Yorktown tomorrow morning, 6ish, the tailend of the witching hour, arriving some time in the afternoon, and, always observers of decorum and ritual, both Dave and I will partake in a ceremonial dipping of our rear wheels into the Atlantic, thus, with yet-un-sunburned faces and wet rubber, beginning our little journey.

We have already set up the first of nine mailboxes along the route, for those among you who would be interested in sending us some tokens of encouragement/love/edibles (potables?). Here is the address information:

Dave Ulrich
General delivery

United States Postal Service
211 N. Reynolds St.
Damascus, VA 24236
(276) 475-3411

We plan to arrive in Damascus around the 11th of May, so it would be best if the packages arrived by May 10th.

More soon. As for now: We have celebratory beers to imbibe....