Follow the Beak


Golden-tailed Sapphire (Chrysuronia oenone) (♂) Small hummingbird flying and static suspended on a background of green leaves and plants and blue colors, with outstretched wings looking to the right

Each year hummingbirds migrate thousands of miles, some actually crossing the Gulf of Mexico. I have often wondered about this feat. 

On a ride once in San Diego I was swarmed by a group who mistook me for a large orange blossom. I asked them how they managed such a trip and to my surprise they said “ Easy, we follow our beaks”…and off they flew…

Two night ago I awoke in a panic about the ride. Suddenly I had great doubts about my ability to complete this trip. Was I too old ( yes, no, maybe), was I in good enough shape ( yes, no, maybe) had I trained enough (yes , no, maybe), did I lose enough weight (no), was I up for the heat and sun of the desert again (yes, no, maybe), could I sleep on hard ground again(no)? At a loss as to how to sort out my woes I buried my head in a soft pillow and faded off to restless sleep.

The next morning I arose at 6 and road 40 miles as fast as I could to prove to myself that I was in fact ready to go. 

As I pedaled I thought about previous trips and recalled that each day is a single event, and that in fact each day has partitions…the water stops. A successful rider thinks ahead only to the next rest stop just 20 miles ahead. In this way the magnitude of the ride is less overwhelming. The maps help , each panel no more than 30 miles with a bright red line showing us the way…if only someone had bothered to put that red line on the actual road for us…

Concentration telescopes to a single map panel, the next water stop, and the constant living in the moment so each of us stays safe. 

Worries of the total path ahead disappear 10 seconds after the first departure point.

This year ,however , there is an added concern, that of Covid. Organizers of the trip have put in place elaborate contingency plans if anyone gets sick. Campsites and places of worship have asked for modifications in how we camp. Each rider has been vaccinated 3 or 4 times and each tested for the virus before the ride. 

The East Coast Riders just completed 2500 miles and luckily none tested positive or became ill with Covid.

As an MD I may be asked to make difficult decisions if someone become sick…but I’ll cross that bridge if and when need be…

As I pondered all this Angel and Flossie appeared, wondering at my deep thoughts. I shared with them my poor night’s  sleep and concerns only to have the two of them launch into endless stories about how they lived through the Black Plague centuries ago, Angel ferrying souls up, across, or down on Dantes orders and Flossie calming her bovine relatives who suddenly found themselves alone in the world…their bipods being led off by Angel of course.

Given their great expertise in times of crisis I asked their advice.

“ Well wear your mask of course… and follow the beak.”

I guess I’m ready now… 

2 thoughts on “Follow the Beak

  1. Sweet. Wonderful! And I’ve always known you to be an “orange blossom,” indeed, a special one!


    Rodney Schmidt — “To pay attention, this is our endless and proper work.” — Mary Oliver (1935-2019)

    “People only see what they are prepared to see”.— Ralph Waldo Emerson



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