"You shall not go down twice to the same river,
nor can you go home again. That he knew; indeed it
was the basis of his view of the world. Yet from that
acceptance of transience he evolved his vast theory,
wherein what is most changeable is shown to be fullest of
eternity, and your relationship to the river and the river's
relationship to you and to itself, turns out to be at once
more complex and more reassuring than a mere lack of
identity. You can go home again, the General Temporal Theory
asserts, so long as you understand that home is a place you
have never been."
Ursula Le Guin
Finally, a week-end where I have a day to ride by myself. The weather is predicted to be hot and quite windy, but I have an entire day and plenty of time as we approach the summer solstice. It seems as if it has been forever since I was able to jump on my bike and have a day to go where I will. Yes, I have been riding, and I have been enjoying the company and the different routes, but with work there are only two week-end days, and while I could still ride both, age and the additional responsibilities that widowhood has laid upon my doorstep seem to corral that desire. Too much riding alone eventually becomes burdensome, my mind aches to share the thoughts that randomly tumble through it with someone whose company I enjoy or I miss teasing a friend or the quiet companionship I have with a few special friends, but group riding also can become burdensome. A mix, that is the ticket. Unlike riding with others, when you are alone there are really no expectations. You can ride quickly, you can ride slowly. You can walk a hill or climb a hill or attack a hill. You can take an alternative route to avoid a hill, though experience has taught me that normally this backfires. You can stop and take photos or sit on the road and eat a cracker and feel the cool sweetness of water easing the thirst that arises on a long ride. You can talk with a stranger along the route. All this without the worry that you are inconveniencing someone or making them wonder if admission to bedlam is appropriate or worry that you are boring them to death.
I decide to ride to Norman to see if Jiggs, a restaurant in the middle of nowhere, has ever re-opened. The last time I passed that way, the owner had suffered some health issues and the restaurant was being run by someone else, but on a changed and limited schedule, allegedly until his return. No , I was not close the the owner, but I know the restaurant was named for his deceased father, that he did not want to serve large crowds but enjoyed the occasional cyclist or two. I know that cooking was a hobby that he had that he wanted to share, but that he also wanted a place where people could gather in a town that no longer had even a grocery store or gas station. I know he had a nice smile and a rather high pitched laugh, that his writing was cramped and difficult to read. And I know that I will miss seeing him occasionally and the brief respite that his restaurant provided along my path.
The cool air wraps itself around me as I head out and momentarily I wonder if I made a mistake in not bringing light arm warmers or a jacket, but the constant activity required for bicycling soon warms me up. It is early so there is little wind yet, and I make it to the first store with a 16 mph average. I smile to myself thinking how things change, that once I would have been a bit disappointed with this average, but now felt quite proud of myself. I think of a friend who recently told me this is why she is not riding anymore, because the decline in her abilities was becoming troublesome to her, and I hope that I don't follow her down that road despite the fact I admire her commitment to finding new activities and trying adventures she has not experienced before, for I love my bicycle. I love almost everything about it, the freedom it brings, the sounds of the wheels and the gears, the sight of bright multi-colored jerseys, the feel of the wind on my face, the sound of rain on my helmet. I even love the way I hate it at times despite knowing those difficult rides are what make days like today possible where you can ride and ride and feel as if you will never get tired and will never quite have enough. Different, I remind myself, is not synonymous with bad: it is merely different. So far, everything is comfortingly familiar, until I enter the store. Shelves have been moved and there is obviously some type of remodeling effort going on.
I purchase a V-8 and down it, plus some crackers for my bag in case Jiggs is closed, then head back down the road. The route thus far has been essentially flat, but I know that when I make the turn at the old Brick Factory, that will change. It never becomes monstrously hilly, like the group century was last week-end, but there are climbs, and the first is after the factory. I am completely taken aback when I see that they are using the brick factory for storage and they have cut down the brush and growth and the old buildings are now quite visible. I stop to take photographs and think of when I first came across the old factory and how I started to explore but was afraid I might fall down a well or something and only be found years later. I think about how this was supposed to have been one of the largest brick factories in the United States, and I wonder what made it fail. Poor management? Location? Lack of workers? There is a beauty in the old buildings, not yet fallen down but decaying.
Next to the old brick factory, is the saw mill, wood neatly stacked. Now I know that
logging is necessary, but I absolutely hate what it does to the land I ride through, but there is beauty in the arrangement as there is the field nearby, hay neatly rolled to prepare for the winter.
I am looking forward to the bridge on Jason McKreig Road despite the effort involved in lifting my bike over the barriers and climbing them myself. I am taken back with what I find. The bridge, the beautiful bridge, is gone, replaced by a bridge that has no beauty, no poetry. Functional, yes, but so very plebeian. (Photos of the old and new. What do YOU think?) I think of how there is beauty in the old, beauty that we carelessly throw away in our quest for the new or for convenience. The line from a country song I used to like comes to mind, "But someday I'm sure you're going to know the cost, 'cause for everything you win there's something lost." (Dan Seals)
All too soon I arrive at Jiggs which is obviously closed. With the heat, I hopefully climb the porch to the pop machine, but it is dead. A man wearing a ripped tee shirt, belly hanging over his jeans, blackened teeth, rides by on his lawn mower and stops for a chat. He said he is not really sure what happened, whether health or the lack of customers caused the closure. He tells me how in his youth, the building was a store and how the one side of the building was added on, how the owner died in 1990 and the store closed and no business has made it yet. I ask about the other restaurant in Kurtz, Cafe 58, and if it has perchance re-opened, but he tells me it is now a gun store. He said there are no stores anywhere nearby and I assure him I will be fine and can make it to Brownstown. He rides off on his lawn tractor and I ride off on my bicycle thinking how I will miss this place. (Old picture of when Jiggs was open and I took a group there)