Friday, September 19, 2014

outdoorsy, active-gal-type-blogamajig, thing!!!!

Westhaven Guest House
And….she's back!!!! Less encumbered, more jazzed and ready as ever for new adventures out in the world.  Recently, my younger child looked over my shoulder as I labored over a blog post.  She insisted, aloud, that I wasn't Unencumbered These Days….I urged her on, and as it turns out, her definition of Unencumbered Woman is one who bikes, plays, and cavorts about in the world, as I often profess to do.  True, to a point, but I picked at her thread and said that actually the Unencumbered Woman means many things, and the only thing that it always means is that she is a gal who is attempting to unload burdens, make life simpler, lighter, less obligatory, sometimes more or less fun, but  there's never a pat recipe for this Unencumbered-ness.  The very act of thinking about the baggage we carry can be a quieting of the noise of every day, whatever sort of noise it is we are confronting.
But I digress, because, this week I embarked on a good old-fashioned adventure worthy of an outdoorsy, active-gal-type-blogamajig, thing.  So….take that, little one!!!
The plan, as conceived, was that I would drive to my friends' house a few hours from here, since there's no traffic, hills, and a whole lotta gravel roads that we can tool around on, with fat tires and not a care in the world.  Sounded like an ideal date to me, and since I stood her up all summer on our Madison training rides and Ironman itself, I figured it was the least I could do.  Besides, what with Ironman behind me and the kids back in school, I sort of have a little window in my schedule that I haven't seen in a while.  My plan was to drive out of town on Wednesday night so I could crash at the (yes) guest house, and wake up rarin' to go.  What a life, huh?

Trader Joe's? The modern equivalent of TV dinners.
 But leaving my suburbia at five-ish doesn't come without it's own costs.  It's only when I leave at this time of day that I realize how essential my very existence is, every single day, between, say, four PM and 9PM.  So, let's just start with the obvious: 1. Rides.  2. Dinner.  The rest, I figure they can work out on their own.  I made a few quick calls to make sure transportation was in place and my companion's ETA was not too far off.  He also had an evening meeting, so as it turned out, the one kid came home on her bike at about 4:00, the other got picked up at 5:35, Peter got home at about 5:40, then made dinner, the big kid has non-stop homework, Peter leaves for meeting at about 6:45, the little one gets dropped off at about 7:00, and so on (I got a text about five minutes after I left (5:20), from the younger: "why are youlettingherbabysitmeshe'sbeingsomean?")  Let me just say, the essential requirement of unencumberment is Heartless Selfishness.  I drove on.  They've got this. No problem.
Loaded, ready to go.
A lot easier than traveling with four.

Often, a road trip gives me time to think.   In fact, I've always had a soft spot for road trips.  Hurts that our roadways can be so clogged, unforgiving, and unglamorous (not to mention wasteful and expensive), but I can always settle into a conversation with myself while my R&B commercial station plays the evening set of the "Ghost DJ", or I can learn a few things before I become totally nauseated by the drone of "Marketplace" on NPR (the other night I learned that fifty percent of Americans are one $400 unplanned expense away from financial ruin. OK driving on).
Ahh…the open road, beautiful sprawl.  It's what we're about.

Lookie here! Sunset!  Making progress, fewer cars on the Rod Blagevocich tollway!

So arrival time, amidst stars, crickets, and total darkness.  I'm feeling decompressed already.  The guesthouse (popular with couch surfers) is a gem.  We're all hugs, talk about tomorrow, last week's Ironman, and a little bedtime tea.  Looking forward to sleep with No Cats, I won't lie.

Almost every piece is a found object, craft fully put in place.
Nothing like waking up with nothing on the mind except coffee and a no-drop-ride.  The day promised perfect weather and quiet.  I could definitely get used to this part of the field trip.

And it's a sunrise!!!! Who says that rural IL isn't beautiful!?  All in the eye of the beholder, and I must say that my companions have found and built their own piece of jaw-dropping beauty.  Not without the difficult labor of many many years in this spot.    

After a little coffee and granola, we hiked the grounds.  Friends have quite a spread with motocross bike trails, hiking, quarry, wildlife, and old farm buildings, lovingly kept standing.  I'm in awe of the delightful whimsy coupled with essential carpentry and construction skills.  We're not in Oak Park anymore!

Uphill, old chicken coop, trails, woods, quarry. Wow.
Guesthouse Kitchen window
 Our walk took us through dew soaked brush, for the better part of an hour.  If i have to lead this tour next time, I'll still get lost.  What a spread!
I was having so much fun just being away from home that I really could have skipped the ride.  After all, it's not like I've been that itchy to ride lately, but with the encouragement of a monster athlete, I was on my trusty Cannondale and we hit the road.  The scenery was quiet, corn and soy fields, a smattering of houses, barns, lots of silos, and scrub forests here and there.  We were comfortable in the fall sunlight and the wind was unusually quiet.  I stopped once or twice for photos, and this particular farm arrested me.  I love the haunting allure of styles that have come and gone.  I love the very essence of seeing what is there.  And in a state like Illinois, in particular, the void that separates urban from suburban from rural is such gaping hole.  Not that this solitary cyclist can stare into that gap and create any sense, any community, any future for it all, but for a moment wonder what it's like,  what it's like for someone else.  Someone else not far from here, not far, really.

And so i sat on a saddle for a few hours.  An accomplishment that I have to credit to a friend who saw a need to rescue me from myself before I let my lack of cycling get totally out of hand!  After this, showers, snacks, more coffee and yarn work.  An early supper of catfish on the deck and I was headed back to the land of screaming swim meets, homework deadlines, and anxious drivers.  Alright, as long as I'm planning the next trip!  Get out there, and have fun!!!

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