The introspective humdrum life of an eccentric hexagenarian.

Visit my other blogs: "Elderberry Bike Rides of Delaware
," organized bicycle rides for families, senior citizens, and anyone interested in getting back into biking; and "Cloister Voices," the collected thoughts of modern and ancient hermits, eccentrics, solitaires, wanderers, mystics, and others who inhabit the monastery within.

Sunday, September 7, 2008


After a very hot and sticky 10 mile ride the other day, I hit the wall, passed out and slept for 11 straight hours. Waking up at 3:30 PM in the afternoon on a Sunday was a little disconcerting since I had planned a major investigation of the environs of New Castle, Delaware with a lunch stop on the river's edge and time for a little novel reading and napping.

So much for that plan. Instead I decided it was time to finally find the Northwest Passage between my house and my favorite shopping area. I can take the long way around but after pondering Google Earth I was convinced there just HAD to be a shortcut that would make the ride free of cars and a cool quiet passage through an undeveloped wooded area.

But first there were errands to run which required a bus/bike combination. I waited on one side of the road for a southbound bus while a young man waited on the other side of the road for the northbound bus. Both buses were late and I noticed that he paced up and down while talking on a cell phone. His conversation could be heard now and then over the numerous passing cars.

There was something very intense in his voice. It was emotional and it sounded if he was near tears. I postulated that he was having an argument with his girlfriend or arguing with his mother. He was a very young man but he already had that tone that men reserve for talking to women. At one point I heard him sob, "You've got to help me. Something terrible has happened."

The traffic was too ferocious to cross the four-lane road and offer my assistance. He was clearly very upset and it broke my heart. I tried to look away to give him some privacy though he was oblivious to my presence.

Finally he snapped the cell phone shut and walked several yards forward and kneeled down to the ground. It was then that I saw the problem. At first I thought it was road trash but then took on the appearance of a mangled furry pile was lying by the roadside. It was impossible to tell if it was a dog or a cat.

With such tenderness the young man leaned down, picked whatever it was and walked it to the edge of the woods to a shady area and laid it down on the ground. He took out his cell phone again, opened it, but then snapped it shut again.

He'd grown up a little in that moment. He'd faced something very sad, reached out for comfort without finding it, and instead drew on his inner strength and bent to the task at hand. I wonder if when he is an old man he will remember that moment. I doubt it.

There will be so many more moments more poignant to deal with and grow with. He may not remember it; but I will.I was no longer in the mood for errands and wanted to ride somewhere quiet and serene where I could just zone out on a Sunday afternoon in the last dregs of summer.

I found a bucolic spot that erased every feeling but wonder and appreciation of the stoic nature of trees. When things get bad, a tree can't just uproot and move. They have to bloom where planted and deal with what comes.I always think of trees as being feminine. Perhaps it the sway of their limbs and the rustling of their leaves that reminds me of women. Perhaps it's the deep roots that ground them. Perhaps it's the way they provide shade and comfort to anyone passing by.

Refreshed and recharged, I take a spin over the pedestrian/bike walkway that transverses a deep gorge between the University of Delaware new dormitories and the remainder of the campus.

It replaces a very steep path full of hairpin turns and steep ascents/descents that must have been a killer for bicycles.

I pedal through the campus on the Sunday before classes start. There are parents and kids everywhere unloading cars and new shiny bikes filling up the bike racks. There is also the evidence of bicycle theft in several places.

I stop for some lemonade and admire a building mural that invites you to climb the ladder. well as ponder some odd yard art......

But it's time to become Lewis and Clark and find the Northwest Passage. There is a section a mere 100 yards long through some single-tracked areas that would shorten my ride to my favorite bike store, camera store, and steak house. Surely it should be a simple matter of finding the path....

With very little effort I actually do find a single-track path at Point A and merrily roll along on it on a hybrid bike not designed for such shenanigans. The path goes on and on and I ponder the fact that I don't have a spare tube even if I could remember how to change a flat tire. The path goes around a bend and there in the distance I can see the other side that leads to the deserted Continental Drive no longer used by cars. There seems to be a little hill with a drop-off ahead but I figure that I can always walk it if need be. I think that only until I reach the drop off....

...and discover that it's a good 50 feet STRAIGHT DOWN with no slope. So, like Moses who was allowed to see the Promised Land but was not allowed to enter it, I turn around, take the long way around, and console myself with a filet mignon at Bugaboo Creek Steak House.


The expansive Christiana Hospital campus is between my home and a major shopping area I frequent on my bike rides. Today I discovered the "Garden of Hope" that has been newly added outside a new Cancer Treatment Center. There is a gazebo next to a pond with fountains and a Canada goose conclave.

I stopped for my lunch picnic in the gazebo.

It's very peaceful and quiet. The fountains in the pond drown out all traffic noise and random thoughts cluttering your brain. I noticed a memorial in the distance.

I went to investigate and found a memorial plaque that made me catch my breath as tears stung my eyes.

I sat there for a long time taking it all in....the intense poignancy of it, the scores of women who lost their babies, the women yet to come who would add a name to a bronze leaf. The surroundings of the memorial tree plaque had a distinct feminine feel to it. The keens and ululating of centuries of women who lost their babies hung in the air from the collective consciousness. The leaves of the bronze tree appeared to be rustling in the breeze and dancing in the sunlight. I had to stand very close to see that they really were not moving, they were reflecting the sun.

Surprisingly it was not an oppressively sad place for only a few feet away was the Garden of Hope and the Walk of Hope pathway. It's what women do....pick up and go on, often with the camaraderie of other women.

But sometimes, we must go it alone and when no one is looking, and after the acceptable time limit that others will give us, sometimes we need to go alone to a private place and place a wreath for the anguish in our hearts.

And then we come back from that private journey with the instinctive urge to be with other women who know where we have been and may go again. There is such joy and beauty in that.

I want to honor all women who has loved and lost, and women everywhere yet to take that path. I worked a photo through Photoshop of fountain sculpture I found in a park. Women of all sighs and sizes who draw strength, humor, and knowledge from other women on the same journey.

Yes, I'm sure of it. Those bronze leaves that seemed to move weren't just reflecting the sun. No, the babies of our heart are definitely dancing.


A record day of 12 miles on the bike.

What to do with a bike on a lunch hour?

How long has it been since you've reclined on a luscious lawn of grass without having to park the car, find a spot, and then fidgeted because you are "supposed" to be doing something else.

On a bike, this is a snap. Put a foot down, stop, and collapse in a bed of Kentucky bluegrass, closely-clipped but not so close that you can't run your fingers through it and ponder how wonderful nature is.

Have you ever noticed that some blades of grass are blue?????

Or pondered the stately, albeit degenerate nature of another relic like yourself?

Or eavesdropped on a conversation between the asparagus and the rhubarb at the Riverfront Farmer's Market?

"Hey Rhubarb! Get a load of that tomato that just walked by!"

Back at work you convince your princely manager that it's a dire emergency that you have your gearing upgraded that afternoon and you need to take a few hours of vacation. Being a Prince with the Wisdom of Solomon, your manager recognizes the earth-shattering need for this emergency vacation leave.

A bus/bike ride to Bikeline, and you want to ring your hands to see Trekkie exposed in such a proctological position before surgery. Howard, the store manager and expert bike mechanic sterilizes his hands with a greasy rag and tells you to come back in two hours.

There's not much to do in downtown Newark, Delaware for two hours. You can watch the paint peel....

You can find faces in the wood of derelict buildings being renovated....

You can shop for items that won't fit in your bicycle saddlebags even if you could afford it...

You can stop in an antique store and ponder that fact that while others were doing drugs and rock and roll you were campaigning for Nixon. And then you can ponder that drugs might have been a wiser choice.

You can meet a little girl with her new puppy Riley (all 6 inches long and 2 pounds of him).

And then you go back to the bike store to gather your reamed and gleamed new gearing system. So Howard sends you out on a test ride and in your exuberance you sail down a road, shifting all the way through the 27 gears and ummmmm.....well accidentally you end up on both large rings and suddenly the gears grind to a stop and you've broken the bike and have to walk it back to the bike store in anticipation of three men who will find the whole thing very amusing.

"Good God, Howard! She did what? And you said with her panniers loaded she'd never make it to the third ring and get in trouble."

So Howard reamed things out again and loosened up the chain so "Rocket Lady, won't get in any more trouble."

Two trips around the Hall Rail to Trail and I went home and collapsed.

Saturday, September 6, 2008


The View from Pardes has turned on a dime, or more precisely it has turned on a 700x32 bicycle tire.

Such moments have a way of sneaking up on you. One minute you are a comatose driver of a car stuck in an interstate gridlock and the next moment, you are discovering that change is as easy as it is sneaky. You never forget how to navigate change…. It’s easy, it’s like riding a bike.

Last year when I turned 62, I realized that I no longer noticed the seasons change and that I was working the majority of my waking hours, passing out in front of the TV, and repeating this day after day.

I attempted to remedy this with mixed results and none of them permanent.

One of my brainstorm solutions was to take the bus to work. This would stick my tongue out at the escalating gasoline prices and it would force me to get some exercise by walking 0.4 miles to the bus stop twice a day.

This was a great plan. I actually started becoming aware of my surroundings again. The weather, the nosey or catatonic or secluded neighbors, and the time on the bus allowed me to read, nap, or fraternize with the myriad of people who ride the bus.

The only snag was the severe spinal and hip arthritis that made even a 0.4 mile walk completely impossible without taking pounds of pain killers.

“I know what to do,” I thought one day as I limped home in pain. “I’LL GET A BIKE AND RIDE TO THE BUS STOP.” The irony is that even if you can’t walk ten steps without severe pain you CAN ride a bicycle for miles and miles with a smile on your face.

Who would have thought that such a utilitarian idea would blossom into an obsessive hobby as that which a bicycle brings into your life.

Such things as gear inches, saddle fit, land topography, the time of sunrise and sunset, and the weather channel became uppermost in my mind.

I splurged and bought a hybrid bike, my beloved Trek 7.6 FX, which would be light enough to lift unto the bus bicycle rack and a bike that had the required granny gears to keep me moving on what were to me the Mt. Everest hills of Delaware.

Within a month I’d lost 25 pounds, significantly lowered my blood pressure, and acquired a sense of contentment that I haven’t felt since that first time I learned to balance a bike and ride with the wind.

More and more Baby Boomers are taking up their bicycles and leaving their pains and worries and distractions behind them and rediscovering their generational pledge to change the world beginning with themselves.

At 30, I resigned from a successful career that had me on the fast track in the chemical industry. I felt like Peggy Lee singing “Is That All There Is,” as I turned in my letter of resignation with the quote from Charles Dubois, “The important thing is this: to be able at any moment to sacrifice what we are for what we could become.”

I never regretted that decisive change or the others following it. Indeed, once again, I revel in becoming myself once again but this time from the seat of a bicycle.

For previous blog entries, see the "Blog Archive" on the top right of the web page.