“The only thing Columbus discovered was that he was lost!”
— Windom Earle
“Do you want some more pie? A whole pie?”
YES I WOULD MISS JOHNSON. AND A PIECE OF PAPER AND A PENCIL. I PLAN ON WRITING AN EPIC POEM ABOUT THIS GORGEOUS PIE!”
— Gordon Cole to Shelley Johnson Twin Peaks (1990)
Happy European Colonialist Oppressor Day! Or Happy Columbus Day, depending on where your alliances lie. Personally, I like to live in a haze of rose-colored denial and say the latter.
The idea of setting sail in search of a new world is exciting, exhilarating… and a little bit scary.
Imagine being on a ship for days on end, wondering what you will find when you get to land. Will there be trees that eat people? Flowers that taste like cocoa? Animals with stripes, spots and multiple tails? Humans with more than one head? Will they eat us? Will they welcome us with open arms before they eat us? More importantly, will they be dressed better than we are? There’s no more food or water- why did we leave Spain again? The mind boggles. It’s like going on a cruise, except without Captain’s Dinners, lounge singers, climbing walls and the guarantee of great sightseeing when you dock. Wow.
Writers have been inspired by Columbus for centuries- Twain, Verne, Morrison, even Shakespeare featured characters who braved the unknown in search of greater truth. Columbus may have been a disease-carrying, genocidal fiend, in funny clothes, but for better or worse he left an indelible footprint on our consciousness and we are his children- inquisitive, stubborn and scared.
I prefer my voyages into the unknown to have markers and rest stops with pie. Which is why, despite not clocking much if any time on the bike all year, I headed to Salisbury, MD last Friday after happy hour to participate in the annual Seagull Century. The Seagull is cosponsored by Salisbury State University and is known as the flattest century on the east coast if not in the country. Located as it is near water the route is also ridiculously windy, which just adds to the challenge as far as I’m concerned.
Though Seagull lore dictates that every other year is supposed to be clear, it rained last year and this year as well. This year it was also 5-10 degrees colder, which played no small part in my decision to do the metric century instead of the full century route. Last year I trained and 100 miles in the rain felt like nothing, but this year with no training a cold, nasty day would suck. Even better, I wasn’t able to contact a friend of mine who had a campsite, so I drove straight to the race site, parked right up front, tilted back my seat and curled up for a few hours’ snooze.
Next morning, after changing and picking up my registration info and tshirt (a cheery American cheese yellow this year), I got another rider to pump up my tires for me and trundled over to the start. (Yes, though I’ve been biking semi-seriously for nearly 5 years I still haven’t figured out how to use a pump.)
The first 20+ miles weren’t too bad- I got to the first SAG stop in less than 90 minutes, grabbed a half a bagel (cinnamon raisin, which I usually loathe, but when you’re hungry everything is tasty it seems) and a banana, and shoved an orange slice in my mouth. Before rolling in I’d met a really charming and talkative woman named Mary who was originally from Maryland and had come down from Vermont to do the ride. With a bit of regret I pulled out of the lot, fig Newtons stuffed in the back pocket of my jersey, and took on the next leg. Then it started to suck.
Will there be trees with red leaves and animals with three heads?
In the long, open stretches with few trees lining the road, which was bordered by fields out of a Van Gogh painting, the wind kicked up so much that I found myself slowing down. At one point I felt like if I stopped pedalling the bike would stop dead and fall over. Add to that the utterly strange phenomenon of people passing me that I never caught up to again. Yeah, it happens, but last year I was passing people and then never seeing them again. I kept telling myself it was because of the lack of training, and focussed on the recumbent in front of me, nearly laughing my arse off when I saw it was a tandem. I have literally never seen a tandem recumbent in my life until this ride.
Another fun thing was the sudden realization that the markers spray painted on the pavement were no longer matching up with the cue sheet. Hello, navigator? Where the heck are we??? I decided that with marks on the pavement, a map in my saddle bag and cops at every major intersection, that I had enough to go by, so I forged ahead. I met a woman named Angel who was taking it slow and we kept pace until the second SAG stop, when I pulled off for another rest.
The second SAG stop had pie and a river view. Bagels, bananas, apples, Newtons and slices of apple and cherry pie. And wrapped squares of vanilla ice cream. Yum- insta-pie a la mode. At this point I noticed my arse was starting to hurt a great deal, and between forkfuls of pie and ice cream I rocked around on the bench and tried to find a spot that wasn’t chafed or sore. Yikes. But it was darn good pie. Gorgeous, in fact. Full of tart, plump cherries. Not too bright in color, not too sweet in taste. The crust was thick and buttery and good. Delicious.
Will they welcome us with open arms before they eat us or just take our clothes and enslave us?
The last 20+ miles were the worst. My legs began to feel heavy, hamstrings felt strained, knees throbbed. I had charley horses in both cheeks and my sitbones hurt. The rain jacket was wet and the windblocking jacket underneath was starting to feel damp- with sweat. Rain was dripping down the front of my helmet and onto my sunglasses. My feet were soaked. Ow ow ow.
We’re out of food and there’s no end in sight. Why did we leave home again?
I hadn’t installed my computer so I couldn’t keep track of the miles. I asked folks who passed me for the good word and talked to myself until I believed that I was almost there and that the last 2.5 miles were almost over. I can be pretty darn encouraging. I should be a life coach! Ech, no! Suffice it to say that when I saw the finish I was ecstatic. I’d left at 8am, made two stops of indeterminant length, and rolled over the finish at about 2pm. Not bad! After a shower and a quick stop for food, I headed back. And then fatigue hit. Hard. After an hour of napping in a parking lot I bombed home and was in bed by 9pm. By then everything was starting to hurt, but I was so tired I didn’t care.
Why do we do these things? Because they are there, because we can learn things about where we are, where we can go, and what we are capable of.
And because somewhere along the way there’s epic, gorgeous pie.
If you have a gorgeous pie recipe to share, by all means, send it along!