Today: 21.38 miles Total: 1048.8 miles 9.23.10
(ed note: this is one of the day’s that I’ve tended to tell stories about since finishing my trip. I had a lot of ridiculous days on this particular trip, but this was definitely one of the more ridiculous.)
What a day.
I woke up after sleeping warm, since it wasn’t like -3839 degrees all night (like every other night), at 7am. Cereal was breakfast. It was raining, but barely. I got all packed up for the day and thanked the beautiful city park and pavilion for their simple accommodations. Within a mile or two, it started raining, hard. So, picture me: I’m listening to my iPod, enjoying an escape from the rain in the form of a This American Life podcast story about a father telling his son bedtime stories, but it ends real early during my ride–but I’m too wet, and it’s raining WAY too hard to unzip my jacket and control my iPod. It’s raining hard. No, that’s too vague, it’s an absolute downpour.
I didn’t have my booties or waterproof gloves on today. I wasn’t prepared for some of the heaviest rain I’ve encountered. It was cloudly, very low visability, raining very hard, and so ridiculous that it was pretty funny to be riding in. I was completely soaked through my rain gear, had no entertainment, was getting tsunami-splashed by every passing car, and had to turn my head and tail lights on just to be seen. The clouds made it too dark to wear sunglasses, but the rain proved impossible to ride in without them. After 1.5 hours, I finally arrived in Ada, Minnesota, SOAKED.
I find the police station on main street because, well, I didn’t know where else to go. A nice, pretty officer (? sherriff? secretary?) insists that I come in the back, soaking her whole office as I drip-walk, and talks to me about alternate bike routes–she makes calls to her officers to get suggestions on road conditions, gets a bunch of maps out, etc. She was super accommodating.
I decided that before I rode 30 more miles to my destination of wherever-it-was-supposed-to-be, I wanted to dry off and kind of start fresh since the rain was supposed to persist. Maybe if I….duct taped my jacket’s neck to my neck, I’d stay dry?
The officer points me to the Dekko Center, a community building a few blocks away.
Upon my arrival, I see that it’s the definition of a community building. It houses the public library, olympic-sized pool, fitness center, public meeting rooms, etc. Ada has less than 1000 residents, but it’s a big, clean, new, and wonderful center. There is NObody there. Joyce, the front desk attendant, informs me that it’s actually 20 years old, and that they just maintain it very well. I’m genuinely impressed.
I tell her what I’m doing, and ask about using the library. She said that it, for some reason, doesn’t open until 2pm, but that I’m welcome to use her computer–behind the reception desk. There’s no one in the center, so I lay my stuff all over the place to dry: I’m using paper towels to shove inside my shoes to dry them out, putting my rain pants on top of the locker room’s lockers to be closer to the fan to dry them out, and hanging clothes on every door knob in the building.
Joyce is one of those people with whom I feel very comfortable speaking. She made me feel at-home and never made anything awkward. Really, really solid communication skills. I LOVE that trait in people. She treated me and spoke to me like a friend from the onset of our conversation: frank, witty, and quick to speak and express opinion. I’m comfortable with that.
Within 2 minutes of being behind the counter, Joyce says, “You’re hungry. Can I buy you lunch?”
“Absolutely,” I reply. I’ve already become accustom to people telling me I look hungry, and no longer refuse–or even pretend to refuse–offers of….anything. She calls Subway, “the only place that will have vegetarian stuff in this farming town,” and tells her friend who works there (remember, small town) to, “shut the place down real quick and jump in a car to deliver it” to me. 10 minutes later, I enjoy a footlong sub, eating by myself, behind the front desk, using an administrative computer to email and charge my stuff, at a rec center, in Minnesota.
The postmaster, Joyce’s friend, was hanging out on the other side of the desk as we eat. I didn’t know how I felt about her initially because she really shrunk the scale of my trip: “Oh, you only started in Montana? Why not on the Pacific coast?…It can’t be that hard, just biking a bit each day…” But we all talk, as they enjoy how weird my story is, and soon she offers me food, too. I enjoy a bag of M&M’s for dessert, courtesy of Ada, Minnesota’s postmaster. Her personality really grew on me.
Joyce told me all about a volunteer trip her and other Ada women were taking to an orphanage in Haiti. She went on, explaining what a big deal this was to her since she’s absolutely terrified of adventure (aka fun). I really encouraged and commended her because I thought it sounded like a great idea for a great cause.
My charging phone rings. It’s my good friend Mandy, calling me from RWANDA! She’s there with the Peace Corp–although I’m convinced that all she does is play hide-and-go-seek, tag, and other requisite childhood games with giant jungle gorillas. I had to tell Joyce how important this conversation was, and I sat there, behind her front desk, with her sitting there patiently and probably uncomfortably, listening to me get filled with my yearly dose of Africa news. We talked for a long time–I bet over 20 minutes. It was so relieving and wonderful to hear from Mandy. She’s never able to reply to my emails and I know how many people she could and should be calling back home, so it means so much that she calls me.
Probably out of boredom from talking to me, Joyce had called the newspaper reporter as soon as I arrived, and he showed up to do an interview while I was talking to Mandy. I let Mandy get back to giving gorillas pedicures so I could talk to Tom, the reporter from the Norman County Index. We did a short interview, although he was clearly not overly-interested in what I was doing–or what I’ve ever done, for that matter. I pretty much interviewed myself on tape. He took some pictures of me in the rain next to my bike. The paper isn’t online, so I’ll probably never see the article.
All this time my clothes are spread everywhere, TRYING to dry. Joyce was supposed to leave at noon, but we talked until 12:40pm. We talked about various life philosophies and how they fit into each of our lives. The center’s manager came in to get something from his office. I met him, from behind his own front desk as my rain jacket dripped on his floor. He was super nice.
Having bought me a sub, let me use her computer, gotten me in the town newspaper, and desperately tried to hook me up with her friend’s daughter who was in college in Minneapolis and was “some environmental philosopher (which she repeatedly, to our amusement, called ‘psychology’) type” (which she kept thinking I was, regardless of my economics major), it was finally time for Joyce to return to her 18-year-old son at home. We said bye, and I was alone in the Dekko Center. I talked on the phone with many friends as well as a bunch of my family. Both Aunt Nettie and Uncle Ron are so excited to come join me this weekend. Soon, Becky, the new front desk ranger, took over the desk’s reigns. I introduced myself and told her why I was there, and she didn’t care. Soon, though, between my phone calls, she called me over and told me that Joyce had called and requested my email and facebook (sorry, no tengo un facebook) information for her friend’s daughter.
At 2pm, the library finally opened. I had been in the center for hours already, and had bought another bag of M&Ms for myself. The librarian was very nice to let my barefoot self sit on her computers. Well, I didn’t technically sit on the computers, but on chairs in front of them. Within a few minutes, the librarian covers the microphone as she pulls the front desk’s phone slightly away from her mouth and toward her shoulder, loudly whispering, “do you mind if the newspaper comes to interview you?”
“They already have,” I laugh.
“….oh….” she says, disappointed, as she slowly and discreetly (but unsuccessfully) hangs the phone up.
By this point, I’ve submitted to the fact that I don’t want to bike anymore today. It’s absolutely pouring outside, still, and the internet tells me that severe flooding is ravaging parts of Minnesota. I decide that I’m just going to wait for my clothes to dry, get dressed, and head onto the streets to find a place to set up my wet tent. How awesome.
I spend/waste a bit more time online as I wait for my phone to charge. (ed note: it’s important to understand this: I made a very, very stupid mistake of brining only a USB cable to charge my phone. I did it for the sake of saving weight, I guess, but it was an awful idea as I DIDN’T HAVE A COMPUTER TO CHARGE IT WITH. I was always seeking out computers to charge my phone–which only holds a charge for a day or so. The phone became very problematic, as I always wanted to call people to check in, but never had battery life or service to do so. It was truly a constant battle against service and battery life. I carried a small solar-panel to charge my phone and iPod, but my “smart”phone (aka stupidphone) sucks so much power that an all-day sunny charge could supply me with MAYBE 5 minutes of talk time. Oh, and there was never any sun to charge the panel–it rained every day. I quickly learn that my nemesis (aka stupidphone) charges 1/20th the speed from USB as it does from a typical wall outlet, so even 4+ hours of sitting in a library gives me almost no charge. Because of this, my phone hadn’t seen more than a 1/2 charge since leaving Bozeman, Montana, almost 3 weeks prior).
I read the first nearly FIFTY pages in another Malcolm Gladwell book, Outliers, which definitely seems like my type of book, although not as much so as The Tipping Point was. Around 5pm Rachel, the librarian who went to acting school in NYC but moved here, to her husband’s hometown, after marriage, approached me with a handwritten note that would signify a huge shift in my opinion of mankind.
…check tomorrow for the rest of this story!
Happy Sunday 🙂