Thursday, 30 June 2005

I finally posted the first installment of notes from my trip to San Francisco. It made more sense to back-date the entries so they would match when I originally wrote the notes. I did most of the real writing at the time and have been working on the editing ever since.

I have some photos that I’ll put on line just as soon as I can finish sifting through them and doing touch-ups.

Friday, 10 June 2005

When I first got to the airport, I was redirected from the eTicket line into the regular one, which was HUGE. It seems they were rebooking several flights due to weather delays. I was glad I got there the recommended two hours before my flight.

After an hour, I had only moved half-way through the line. Not good. As if traveling in itself wasn’t traumatizing enough, my flight was scheduled for 0918 and I still had to check my bag and get through security. When they announced the plane to Denver would be delayed an hour, it was a tiny bit better, but now I was worried about making the connection in Denver.

Thank goodness for that delay. I didn’t reach the front of the line until 0900, where another person sent me to the magic kiosk I could have used in the first place. As long as I got to San Francisco before the show, I’d live.

By the time I made it to my departure gate, it was 10 minutes before boarding. Not enough time to recharge the iPod, but not so long that I’d be bouncing off the walls. It could have been worse.

It would have been nice to get a couple pictures of the Twin Cities as we took off, but I didn’t want to risk a chat with an Air Marshal by playing fast and loose with the electronics ban during takeoff. Perhaps I’ll be more daring on the flight home.

After walking what seemed like a half-mile between gates in Denver, there was just enough time to grab a quick lunch find someplace to surreptitiously recharge batteries. I managed to get just enough juice into the iPod so it would last through the rest of the flight.

When Jules found me in baggage claim, I was still a little freaked out, but it was finally starting to sink in. I was 2000 miles from home, I was in San Francisco, and I had the whole weekend ahead of me. It was my first real vacation in who knows how long and I was actually there.

Jules had her car, since she lives in the area, so we drove to the hotel and got checked in. After a few minutes to get settled, we decided to head for dinner. Not wanting to think about it too much, we wandered to a place around the corner called “Thai Stick.” It was a small, family-run place, rather than one of the trendy tourist places. They were reasonably priced, the food was good and the service was very attentive.

After dinner we went for a walk and headed through Castro and the Tenderloin. Not the greatest areas of town, but it was still light out and there were two of us. The people watching was good, with only a few panhandlers bothering with us. Strangely, we got hassled more on the block in front of the hotel than we did through the entire rest of our walk.

The camera is still so new to me that, in spite of carrying it almost everywhere, I often don’t think to take pictures. There’s something about urban blight that piques my artistic eye.

Finally it was back to the hotel where we talked for a while and crashed at about midnight.

Today’s soundtrack was Roger Clyne: Americano, Carbon Leaf: Indian Summer, Cafe Tacuba: Avelancha de Exitos, Manu Chao: Proxima Estacion, Tears for Fears: Elemental, Lavay Smith: Everybody’s Talkin’ ’bout Miss Thing, Madeline Peyroux: Careless Love, The Flaming Lips: Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots, Operatica: Shine, and three songs from Reverend Horton Heat: Lucky 7.

Thursday, 04 September 1997

I had just graduated high school and decided that I wanted to go on the Klobuchar bike trip. It is a week long, roughly 500 mile bike trip that is sponsored in part by one of the local newspapers. One of their columnists, Jim Klobuchar, started the mass bike ride many years ago. Originally my graduation present was to be a trip out East with my mom and my brother. I ended up on the bike trip while they went out East and I have never regretted that decision, not even for a minute.

Every day was a new adventure. From waking up and being amazed that you’re alive, to night time when you can’t believe what you’ve done and what you have yet to do. I can’t remember the details from most of the trip. Some things do stand out that make it one of the most memorable times of my life.

The first day was probably the most amazing to me. Gathering at a high school 20 miles out of town there were about 300 people, like myself, that were along for the ride. They represented many different levels of abilities and came from all walks of life.

The day went from awe to exhaustion however. The wind during the first half of the day was incredible. 22 miles per hour heading East. Unfortunately we were heading West. The group I was with traded off for the lead positions with the rest of us forming two columns using the front people as a sort of wind break. When one of the people in front would get tired they would drop back and the next person would take the lead. And so it went, everyone getting a turn.

Slowly but surely, the group got smaller as the morning wore on. People would break off the group to stop and rest for a bit. Eventually I started to get dehydrated and wore out. One person coming by gave me one of his spare water bottles to help me get back on my feet again. In the state I was in, I couldn’t have thanked him enough.

Finally we made it to our lunch destination. A leisurely meal and we were off again. Thankfully the wind and our path changed directions. Now the wind was at our backs for the most part and had died down some. By nightfall I was wondering what I had gotten myself into. I knew I was in over my head, taking on such a long trip, but I was determined to make it all the way through.

The wind quieted down to a mere breeze the next day. It gave me time to take in the sights and actually enjoy the ride. The people in the towns along our route never ceased to amaze me. We’d pass by farms and houses and the owners would be standing out side and wave as we went by. We made a rest stop in almost every town. There were people around with watermelon, cookies, water, lemonade, and always a kind word. I guess it was a big deal to them.

The most amazing group wasn’t really a town, per se. I forget what day, but it was in the morning, around 10 or so that we came across this immaculate white church. Very Scandinavian style construction. So white that you’d swear they scrubbed the thing down with bleach every other week. The inside was as amazing as the outside. The woodwork was fantastic and extremely well kept. Everything about the church, the building, pipe organ, pews, even the hymnals, was taken care of with great pride.

The real reason for our stop however was not a study in architecture. Like most rest stops, we were expected. This time it was a ton of food. Watermelon by the patch, sandwiches, cookies, and lemonade that certainly didn’t say Kool-aid on the package. I wish I could remember the name of little church, or what town it was nearest to. I’d like to go back andi spend some more time there.

Ever been caught in a tornado? How about on a bicycle? Well, we did that. It’s not an experience I’d care to repeat. The group I was with got blown off the road twice before we decided to take shelter. Everything got soaked to the core–sleeping bags, tents, clothes, you name it. After the rain stopped, we descended on this little town about five miles later. In small groups we paraded through a couple laundromats to dry everything out as much as possible. For some reason cold rainwater isn’t exactly pleasant. Luckily it was the town we were to stay in that night. When they saw the rain, the school district opened up the local high school for anyone that wanted to sleep inside that night. About 150 of us decided that we’d wimp out that night and slept in the school gym, tents and all.

The most memorable thing about the trip were my fellow travelers. During the day I’d ride with several different groups, meeting many different people. One of the funniest people was a gentleman in his early 70’s. He was a riot to talk with and had lots of great stories to tell. He’d be plugging right along on his 30 year old, three speed bike. It didn’t have a spot of rust on it. This wasn’t his first time on the trip, and from what I heard it wouldn’t be anywhere near his last. He was heard to say that he won’t quit making this trip until it starts to cut into his polka schedule. If you ask me, he kept up on the trip better than most. I just saw in the paper two or three years ago that he was on the trip again that year too.

It was incredible waking up every morning, watching the sun rise over our little city of tents, and the sunset every night, in a different town, over the same sea of bicycles and tents. I’ll always have fond memories of that week. One of these years, I’ll get off my duff and go again, just to refresh my memory. I never seem to find the time and I miss the experience.