Today is a much needed rest day. Laundry, bike maintenance, food assessment, physical health assessment, mental health, sleep, read.
Would be nice to paint…
Time Travelling with a Guardian Angel
Diaries of a Human turned to a White Rabbit only to become a Lost Boy
Today is a much needed rest day. Laundry, bike maintenance, food assessment, physical health assessment, mental health, sleep, read.
Would be nice to paint…
Spring shows itself again this morning.
After crossing the James River by ferry I land at Jamestown where this part of the country began.
A replica of the ship which brought settlers sits in a shallow harbor and I wonder at the courage of those who dared the crossing more than 4 centuries ago.
I head northwest on a bike path safe from the road …it leads to Richmond our nights stay.
Not far in my path is blocked and I wait for them to cross.
The water is calm over the Chickahominy River emptying into the James.
The day is beautiful, small puffy clouds in the sky, a warm sun and no wind.
3/4 in I see ahead of me a commotion and a rider from the other direction go down. There are a few women riding in my direction closer to him.
As I get nearer I have a foreboding that something terrible is wrong. The rider on the ground in the woods is not moving, not even his legs.
As I get closer one of the women tells me she is a nurse and that…he is dead.
“ His pupils are fixed and dilated, look at the tilt of his head”.
Yes it sits at a strange angle on his neck and he remains motionless. At first I thought he was having a seizure but there was no doubt he was in fact dead.
The nurse got on her bike and left …me there with two women and him there on the ground.
Time becomes blurred, suddenly there is a police car, and a rescue squad …again claiming turf over the scene. I tell them I am a physician and was about to say “He is dead” but they push me aside and say that I am blocking the path.
I watch them start useless CPR and shaken I leave the scene.
But for the roll of the dice again that could have been me.
Down the path I found the two woman who had been with me and asked if they saw why he went down…they thought he hit a bump and fell…I never saw any bumps when I left.
I stopped to call home stunned at what had happened but decided afterwards that the best thing to do was to ride on…
I have seen death before as an MD but never like that. I did once as a 12 year old see a similar death but somehow it got deeply buried in my past. It came back vividly as I rode the rest of the day and I was a young teenager in shock all over again.
When I arrived at our host Methodist church I was greeted by a member who asked if I needed anything.
“ Yes, I’d like to talk to the Minister please”.
He was on vacation. When I explained why the member became teary eyed and gave me a hug then disappeared.
Just by chance there was a Hispanic group celebrating there at the church with crowds of beautiful children playing on the lawn.
I bought two pupusas from a vendor and sat down on the green to surround myself with… life…the laughter and joy of children running around.
Tears started flowing down my cheeks as I stared at the ground.
I forced myself to stop crying so as not to frighten the children and quietly ate my food.
Suddenly from the parking lot a woman approached and introduced herself.
“ I am the minister from the Methodist Church down the street. I hear you had a bad day”.
We sat and talked about life and death for a while. As a missionary in Honduras and Sierra Leon she had seen a lot of traumatic death. She ended with a beautiful prayer, calmed me, and left.
As she did she turned to me and said” I was having the worst time writing my sermon for tomorrow but God sent me an Angel in you. Now I know what to say.”
I turned to see my Angel there smiling at me and gave thanks for the protection I receive every day.
I will ride on, watch closely for bumps along the way …and do my best not to block the path again.
Spring is such a wonderful time of the year. Flowers everywhere, animals enjoying the warm sun
and fields in all stages of growth… new corn pushing through the rich soil, green mature wheat ripening, winter wheat harvested. So different here in Virginia just a few miles north of the Great Dismal Swamp.
The ride today is very pleasant, just 70 miles with little wind. The sun warms my back as I head North, ever North. The swamps give way to forests and lakes and I leave the alligators behind.
As I ride I think of the fields in different stages and I ponder my time in life. My two grandchildren are like the fresh sown fields, my son the rich green acres of wheat and me somewhere further along.
I was asked before the ride why I would take on such a trek… my response … “ because I still can “.
Abilities vary with ages and reality takes its toll but so often we passively stand still while opportunities pass us by.
I have been very lucky with the roll of God’s dice. Instead of snake eyes I was handed boxcars on a golden plate.
It is , however, my responsibility and mine alone to maximize the worth of that luck by trying over and over again.
Regardless of the extent of the gifts each of us has received there are aspects of life where “because I can “ pertains…making dresses for children who have none, working to better the lives those left behind, taking care of a handicapped loved one, creating art to enlighten ,teaching to broaden minds… even reaching out and giving a loved one a hug… we do all these things “ because we can “ .
There will come a time in the fields when all the autumn harvests are done and winter sets in. When that time comes for me I won’t be able to say “ because I can” but rather that “ I did”. That will be good enough.
Stop now and look around… at a minimum give a loved one a hug.
Today’s ride is dedicated to Luke who is feeling a little better after his chemotherapy.
It’s a good idea never to anger a Greek God. Yesterday with Hades Cape I snuck off…today I pay for it.
I know I have 93 miles to go. Notus has dropped cold air from the North and Zephyr adds 25 mph headwinds as I start my ride at 6 with dawn in the East.
Misery, pure misery. By my fifth hour I have gone only 40 miles as I look ahead to see the wind vane spinning beyond belief. I am already exhausted with 50 miles to go.
I look to the East and say good bye to the ocean, I will not see it again until Maine.
I turn to the west to head in after encouraging words from a friend and bear the full brunt of Zephyr’s wrath. Onward I pedal for a total of 10 hours to the place of my rest at the edge of the Great Dismal Swamp.
I will sleep well tonight as exhausted as I am. I wrestled all day with Zephyr and I’m not sure who won…
Today I am a little leery of the ride. There have been times in the past where I’ve known that there would be dangerous passages and I recall that today there is one…an extremely long,high bridge between two Outer Banks islands. I’ve ridden here twice before , and both times been frightened by the powerful swirlings found at the top.
I leave early knowing that there will be strong winds from the west and north directly into my path.
Recent hurricanes have changed the geography of the islands. The northern tip of Ocracoke no longer exists and has been wiped away by Neptune and his violent storms.
I ride north and suddenly new bridges appear, ones I have never seen. Storms have cut new inlets where there were none before.
I top the bridge and look across the ocean to the shining sun.
Further on I come across a more peculiar bridge one that traverses 2 to 3 miles of sand. I suspect water washes through here and that this land becomes no more.
From the top of his bridge I peer north and see the one I fear 10 miles away.
I know it will be a challenge given Zephyr from the west Neptune from the east as they vie for an orange morsel at the top of the span. I get closer and feel internal warnings to stay safe , hoping to find Flossie and Angel at my side. Massive dunes still protect me from Neptunes fury but I can hear the crashing waves.
As I approach the bridge Zephyrs bursts fills my mouth with sand. I stopped to wash out the grit and cry out “No fair, foul play from the Western Wind.”
I see the bridge now wondering if I should drink my last chocolate milk as a boost for the climb but I visualize Neptune with an orange blob on the end of his spear… dripping my chocolate milk. I put the drink back and ride on… alone… Angel and Flossie are gone… instead a crowd of cheering bystanders betting on the game…
Across the bridge three or 4 miles in the distance I see a light at the top of a tower “ What’s that?” but have little time to ponder that thought.
I start my ride and the winds rip harder and harder around me, pushing me back towards the sand.
150 yards up suddenly all is quiet and calm . I don’t understand. I turn to the ocean and there stands not Neptune but Eurus with a big grin on his face.
“ I stole Hades Cape and covered you round .Neither Zephyr nor Neptune can see you now. Don’t be Procrastus but move along little one” and with a gentle push up I go to the top of the bridge. Far to the north I see Zephyr ripping clouds but Neptune is no where to be found.
I speed down 2 miles to finish and wonder at my luck as I have on this trip again and again. Back on dry land closer to me now is that tower I saw from a distance afar …and behold Flossie and Angel are there beaming down.
Zephyr appears and lets out a shout “ You can’t hide from me I’m not done with you yet.” He blasts me with strong headwinds for the rest of the ride but I care not for I have crossed that massive bridge.
During the middle ages, Jerusalem was considered the center of the world by western monarchs and the Pope. Multiple crusades, sometimes won and sometimes lost the city fighting another ancient civilization.
How many countless people died for the symbols of a city in the Middle East… probably just as many going back to the days of the Greeks versus the Trojans in that more ancient war.
Today I look east over the ocean from the top of a bridge and know that beyond the horizon lies the city of Jerusalem some 5 or 6 thousand miles away. I realize that it sits closer than Seattle where I will end my ride. It’s hard to fathom the distances yet to come…
I look to my west and see thousands of acres of salt marsh
guarded by giant sentinel trees who warn me that I am at civilization’s end.
I stop to look at early spring flowers along the road, the only dry patch of earth in this wetland wilderness.
I stop to enjoy the cool ocean breeze, the fresh smells, the warm sun, and the isolation that abounds. I look right again to that Holy Land .
Angel and Flossie appear
and look East too then turn to me smiling.
“That was never the Center of the World… you have found it here”.
I look again at that Beauty before me and suddenly my companions are gone.
I board the ferry to the outer islands leaving Jerusalem behind .
“The Lost City Of Heracleion, which was once the largest port in Egypt, was discovered underwater after more than 2,000 years in the year 2000. Its legendary beginnings go back to as early as the 12th century BC, and it has many links to Ancient Greece.
Flourishing as long ago as the waning days of the Pharaohs, the city was destroyed over time, as it was weakened by a combination of earthquakes, tsunamis, and rising sea levels, according to archaeologists.
At the end of the 2nd century BC, most likely after a severe flood, the monumental buildings of Heracleion collapsed into the water. Some of its inhabitants stayed in what was left of the city during the Roman era and the beginning of Arab rule, but by the end of the eighth century AD, the rest of Heracleion had sunk beneath the Mediterranean.”*
Today I head due east with a strong push by Zephyr the god of the West Wind. Sometimes there are gusts of 30 mph rushing me along. As the sun rises across the horizon I pass vineyards with ripening grapes.
Large rivers now open into the ocean and the inter coastal waterway shows itself.
Further east I begin to see the multitude of canals that dot the landscape leading to the wide open expanses of salt marshes.
The closer I get to the shore the more I see evidence of flooding from yesterdays rain and realize that at best I am three feet above see level for the next 5 days.
Here I see the dangers of climate change and realize all this will be under water with just a little Greenland or Antarctic ice melt.
The beauty will disappear just as did that of Hearcleion…maybe to be re discovered 2000 years from now.
How lucky I am to be able to see it as it is…I am surrounded transient beauty at Davis my nights stay before the ferry to Ocracoke in the AM.
For the next three days we will traverse the NC Outer Banks.This Beauty too will disappear beneath the ocean for perhaps 2000 years. I will relish my time there as I pedal north.
* Greek Reporter 6/1/22
The winds were ferocious off the lake and bitter cold. Mid February at 5 AM walking on top of 3 feet of frozen snow to a VA hospital in west Chicago for morning rounds…my last year of Medical School. At that moment I vowed to move South but where? It flashed through my mind… I always won at monopoly if I could get the three green squares. Pacific was to vague, PA too cold but NC sounded just right. And so 4 months later I moved never to leave.
Today I part early from Wilmington to head to the outer islands again, the first Topsail where I was introduced to the NC coast so many years ago. I was excited to see the draw bridge to the island and miles of clean white sand. A tail wind sped me on my way. As I approached the coast I noticed more stores than I recalled and wondered at the expanse of building before me.
5 miles later looking forward to a slow draw bridge instead I encountered a massive 2 mile spans 300-400 feet high. I pedaled to the top and looked out over the island to see hundreds of homes had crept in. I was stunned.
To the South rain clouds …so there wasn’t time to consider the change. The rains hit almost immediately and for the next twenty miles I became drenched to the bone in a warm spring rain.
At the north end of the island the winds were so strong I feared being blown into the sound. Safely across I found a McDonalds which had sprung up from the swamp …tried to get breakfast but was 5 minutes late.
I sat there dripping and composed myself while the staff made it clear my wet rags and bike were not welcome there.
I left feeling sorry for myself and pedaled on to the highway
leading to Jacksonville our nights stay.
Not far down the road I found a gas station with breakfast food …the staff said it was ok to come in and sit down.
While drinking my coffee and eating a mystery meat cheese croissant my drippings totally soaked the floor. Feeling sorry for myself suddenly in front of me was a 10$ bill.
I looked up to see a weather beaten young man.
“ Thank you for riding, my wife has MS. She is out in the car, will you please go talk to her”.
In an old brown van sat a young woman with giant light blue eyes. I approached her and she smiled. “ I dont feel too well, riding in a car makes me dizzy from my MS…my husband went to get me a drink. Thank you so much for riding as you do.”
I told her of my planned trip and how much I had raised…tears filled her eyes and she thanked me again. She refused to tell me her name and wanted the donation from her husband to be anonymous. I took her hand and held it for a minute, wished her well and she smiled through her still flowing eyes.
I turned…and suddenly …there was no rain or clouds but only blue skies …”not possible “ I thought “how did that happen just now?”
Angel whispered gently in my ear “ Just to remind why you ride again”…
I dedicated the next 16 miles to a young woman with MS whose name I don’t know who most likely I will never see again…
They died in a basement in 1862 during the middle of the Civil War.
After a blockade runner from Nassau snuck though a Northern Blockade supplies were unloaded through a temporary release of a yellow fever quarantine. A few days later Wilmington was hit with a massive outbreak of the plague. Deaths reached an average of 18 a day with a total of 1000 dead. The epidemic let up only after a rare snowstorm in November of that year.
Just 24 hours ago I entered my home state to the site of shrimp boats setting out for catch of the day.
Not far away I was greeted by MS supporters, always a good sight
and half way through the ride I was given a break with the first of three ferry rides to get to the outer islands off the NC Coast.
Disembarked there were 2 long hours of riding before I entered the beautiful city of Wilmington, a laid back place.
Our host showed us to our rooms and I set up my stuff.
Angel and Flossie , not needed for a while went off to explore and play.
The building we are in dates back to the early 1800s. There are hidden passages, closed off rooms and spooky halls with tunnels.
Down this hall 69 people were quarantined in 1862 and all eventually ended up dead of the plague.
At the end of the hall is a tunnel leading to the harbor 3 blocks away but none were allowed to escape.
We were told the ghosts of 69 still roam the halls at night.
When I retired I shut my door tightly but wondered about flickering lights in the wee hours of the morn.
Only later did I find Angel asleep guarding and keeping me safe all night.
A rest day today and the NC Coast for the next week.
Too tired to write tonight. In a wonderful church , private room with couch, showers, washer, dryer, kitchen in downtown Wilmington. Group dinner of pizza, will sleep late then treating all to bagels in the AM. Rest day tomorrow. Story then. Now at 690 miles 1/10 done. Sleep well … I will.