Full disclosure: I am not my brother Barclay. While this is good news for me, I am indeed his older brother by 4.5 years, and we've set out on a cross-country bike ride that may test the family bond, and certainly our stamina. After two days, no crises.
This "Barc's Chair" blog, established by my little brother in 2015 as a chronicle of his trip with his son Seb, was originally meant to be a full-purpose site on which readers could follow their Southern Tier adventures and hear regional jokes from interesting people met along the way. The hilarity and local colour would be compelling enough to become a Youtube sensation, with TV offers soon to follow. The idea was for these locals or fellow travellers to be filmed sitting in the 85 lb chair Barc constructed and was to pull behind his bicycle across the Southern Tier route for 5,000km or so. He realized after Day 1 and a series of long climbs that this project was a Sisyphian folly, and thus Barc's Chair was modified to become Barc's Bench, only 40 lbs and thus much easier tow. Always a quick study, Barc recognized within another day or two of pulling this load up some long hills that any trailer was not going to function as planned if he was to pull it, so the whole assembly conveniently broke and was discarded somewhere in the California hills. Last year Barc did the trip again with other son Emerson, their trailerless journey successful and largely joke free. Blog entries for Years 1 and 2 can be viewed somewhere on this site.
This third year I will be Barc's trailer. Being a considerate fellow, Barc has worked hard at his diet to ensure his conditioning is relatively poor, so my rookie trek begins with both of us looking to be in shape by the time we reach the Florida coast in early April. We have agreed to co-blog intermittently for those wishing to follow our adventures, and we will not be reviewing or editing the other brother's posts in advance. Perceptive readers may discern the literary device known as the "unreliable narrator." Barc's posts typically feature "alternative facts," but you can count on my contributions to largely accurate and truthful. Whatever the case, we will be rolling through the Southern US in the early days of the Trump administration, and so have confidence that all this country's ills will be addressed in short order. Or not. It will be an interesting ride.
Brother Geoff has written some kind of preamble giving context for his decision to ride across the States with me. Presumably you've just read it. Well, now you can hear my side.
It's Day 2 of Trip 3. The same trip I've done each of the previous two years, each time with a different son. It feels strikingly similar to the previous Day 2's, except for the fascinating sibling element that allows me to blame my brother for all aches and pains, all unfavourable weather conditions, all... everything. As a parent, I took full responsibility for every aspect of the trip. As a sibling, I only take responsibility for the good things. This could be fun.
What hasn't been fun - and I blame my brother - is re-entry into the tedious reality of the 60 or so mile climb that begins the trip. The happiness barometer, bright and sunny in San Diego, drops steadily as we move up the Sierra Nevadas. Lunchtime reads drooping and weak. Late afternoon, feeble and disoriented. I called June last night and, after a few minutes of what I thought was light, clever banter, she said "I'm going to go now cuz you're rambling." The bottom of the happiness barometer reads: "No One Loves You". Sigh...
But that was yesterday. Today we've climbed for a mere 25 miles and knocked off early in beautiful Pine Valley. Saying we've "knocked off early" in that blithe way sounds nice. It almost sounds like it was a conscious choice rather than a no-option response to our bodies shutting down. I never knew legs could have a heart attack. By infallible logic based, I think, on Newton's fourth law of misery and overreaching, our bodies will feel better tomorrow. I long for tomorrow. Some people train for these cross-country trips. Others merely complain for these cross-country trips. I speak, of course, for my brother.
I write from the Pine Valley library. Time has gone by and Geoff is slumped in a chair behind the stacks looking unwell. Several people have nudged him to see if he's still alive. They are not reassured. I'm going to end this first posting before someone calls the paramedics. Perhaps if I wipe the stream of drool glistening on his chin he'll look less disturbing. Perhaps not. Later y'all.
In the Footsteps of History
I am thankful to Barc for partnering with me on this trans-US trip, but at this early stage it's clear that we are inevitably re-tracing the route and highlights of his two earlier treks, his history. The youth hostel in San Diego, the motel in Alpine CA, the tent site behind the fire station in Pine Valley CA: these are touchstones for Barc's nostalgia for his younger days when his lovely boys did his bidding on this ride. I am less tractable, and in time, my perspective will factor. Curiously, his staple diet of bread and peanut butter is not my thing at this stage, but I am willing to share my sardines, avocado, and almonds. Theme 1 of this trip for me is to eat interesting regional food, but thus far slim pickings beyond the usual fast food options (Jack in the Box, anyone?) in populated areas, while in the desert we'll carry our rations. Mexican street food is the first cuisine on my radar, and Barc clams to like this food too. Thus, in the shadow of The Wall, we plan to eat well in the near future.
A word on my travelling companion: Barc is an agreeable free spirit who has fought a long, losing battle against the indignities of age. As the owner of a seasonal business, he is free to take on new projects, and as he ages has found in cycling a new obsession, and has crossed the continent three times in the last four years. We'll see if this experience breaks him.
The first two days were mostly uphill as we cross the Sierra Nevada mountains, and we have some climbing tomorrow as we make our way to whatever town has a TV on which we can watch Atlanta win the Super Bowl. Good nachos will be a bonus. My road biking and stationary cycle training brought me to a baseline level of fitness in advance of the journey, but there's nothing like the real thing, baby. Several hours of sustained riding and hills at the outset are a fair reminder of my own mortality. Still, I'm feeling remarkably good after finishing today's ride, helping Barc clean up his vomit, and eating a slice of fine pizza for lunch. The sun is shining, and our first night of camping is nigh. Whether Barc is only an indoor snorer remains to be seen. Adios