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Sunday, October 10, 2010

Living the dream

Today's forecast: a few well needed days off.

We set our first pseudo-deadline on Monday. We were going to ride a bit over 150 miles to get to my uncle's house in Connecticut by Friday. I anticipated an easy week of flat land and tail winds. A brief peek at the maps and the weather reports would have revealed that my anticipations were incorrect. We had a week of hills and headwinds and rain and hills, which made for a week of tired legs.

On Tuesday, our goal was to stay at the Friendly Crossways Hostel in Littleton, Massachussets. We woke up at our usual bright and early time, and we were greeted with a cold, consistent drizzle of.....you guessed it! Rain!

The rain did wonders for my mood, which was somewhere between grumpy and crotchety for most of the day. Up to this point, the sky had only graced us with sun for 2 and 1/2 days, and I was tired of being wet and cold. We rode 60 mildly unhappy and hilly miles to arrive at the hostel, and my mood took a turn for the better. We ran into Rene and Crystal Hoekstra, a Canadian couple who were also staying at the hostel. Rene and Crystal were 3 months into a year-long quest on their motorcycle, and I believe that it is safe to say that the Hoekstras are living the dream.

Here is their story, in thumbnail format: Crystal is a social worker, and she was given a year's leave, and Renee was dairy farmer. With the "now or never" timeline waning, they both dropped their workaday lives for a year on the road. They loaded up their Kawasaki motorcycle with camp gear, clothes, etc. (sounds familiar...) and plan on making their way around the U.S. and Canada. Check out the link to the left for more info on the cruising Canadians.

After the first night at the hostel, we scoped out the weather report, which told us that we would need gills to ride that day. Rain, rain, and rain. Say no more, Mr. Weatherman. I'll gladly oblige and take a day off and sit in bed and watch Arnold Schwarzneggar movies all day. And so went our Wednesday.

The day off put us in something of a bind. We needed to make roughly 130 miles now in 2 days. To make matters worse, the ride was going to be mainly uphill. Gameplan: wake up early, and pedal until the cows come home. On Thursday, only the second part of the plan was realized. We rode about 60 miles before it started getting dark, and we were nowhere near our scheduled campsite.

We spent a long half hour looking for a place to camp, and we finally came across a small field across the way from Nichols College in Dudley, MA. This field was adjacent to an old looking tavern. The porch of this tavern was populated by a man, a woman, and a dog with very big eyes. I asked the man if we could stay in the field, and he said that we should stay in the backyard of the tavern. The tavern turned out to be a 200 year old historical building and the current home of the Black Tavern Historical Society, and the man turned out to be Bob Ducharme, who was the live-in groundskeeper/history buff. The dog turned out to be, well, a dog. But a very friendly dog.

I believe that it is safe to say that Bob is also living the dream. After spending 37 years as a schoolteacher, and a similar amount of time as a passionate Civil War expert, he was presented with a great opportunity. The Black Tavern Historical Society needed a new groundskeeper, so they offered Bob the following opportunity: in exchange for your services as a history buff, you can live in the Black Tavern. In layman's terms, this means: "if you keep doing what you already do for fun, you can live in this completely cool house." Bob ran this proposition through the calculus of pros and cons, which revealed only 2 cons, and roughly one bazillion pros. He sold his house, and moved into the Tavern.

That night, Bob gave us a super secret tour of the Tavern, and a semester's worth of American Civil War history. All in all, a very, very cool way to end a day of riding.

*****ABRIDGED VERSION*****
We rode our bikes, and met some great people who know how to live the dream.

Tomorrow: 71 miles to my uncle's house in Connecticut!

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