Wednesday, June 15, 2011

There's Got to be a Morning After

June 9, 2011

Last night there was a storm. It came and went just as quickly as an Internet hook-up. It was literally upon us and gone in an hour. I was already in bed, reading Dead Reckoning when the lightening started. There was no audible thunder at that time, just lightening. Sookie Stackhouse was also in the middle of a storm, as the one I was getting ready to experience in real life was approaching. It made the best ambience for reading that particular chapter. Anyway, the room in which I slept in our cottage had cathedral-style ceilings with exposed beams and two skylights mirroring each other on the angled ceiling. It was amazing lying in bed watching as the lightening lit up the sky. Slowly the thunder started rumbling, as the storm got closer to the Vineyard. Then it was upon us. The rain was pelting the windows. I wanted to run to Vampire Bill and hold his naked body close to mine. Not that I was scared, but because it would be romantic. Hell, it would be hot! Then I remembered I was human and real and Vampire Bill and Sookie were fictional characters. I just lay there and enjoyed the sounds. And then it was over. No more lightening, no more thunder, no more rain. It had moved on from us mere mortals.

When I awoke, I slid open the door that led to the deck off of my bedroom. After 2 days I already had a routine. I was greeted with the intoxicating morning smell of fresh rain and flowers. My piece of world had been washed clean and the washing left no residue, only nature’s fresh scent. I just stood there and inhaled deeply; “In with the good, out with the shit.” What a place to be for a week. There was no keeping the smile from my face.

On the Vineyard instead of having your Chinese food delivered you have your rental bike delivered. Just a quick call to Edgartown Bike Rental with our address, our height’s and a credit card number and all that was left was to wait. Taking a page from the Dominoes delivery book, the bikes were at our house in less than 30 minutes. They didn’t say they would be, but that didn’t change the fact that they were. I hadn’t ridden a bike in years. I told the deliveryman thus. His response, “It’s like riding a bike.” I’m pretty sure you don’t use that phrase to describe riding a bike, but it did elicit a smile from me.

Well, it is just like riding a bike. I was nervous at first – afraid: a) I was going to fall off, b) not be able to steer it straight, c) steer it off the curb of sidewalk or d) fall over into an oncoming car. I’m nothing if not dramatic. I did fine. I got better and more confident as the day progressed. That was the problem, you see, my lack of confidence that I would be able to do it. By the end of our ride I was no Lance Armstrong, but I was a better Michael Rohrer than when I started. Neal said as we made our final turn onto our road that I was “transformed”. It was exhilarating, the sense of freedom I felt throughout the course of the day as we rode.

We left the house shortly after 10 am and rode to South Beach. That’s the same beach to which we had walked 2 days earlier. It’s about two miles from our cottage. If you know me, and readers of the blog surely you do by now, I had to use the bathroom by the time we got there. I had gone twice before we started, but somehow managed enough liquid in my system to have to go again by the time we rode the two miles. Lord help me I think it’s nerves or something, but don’t cry for me, there were stalls at the beach so I emptied my bladder and we were back on the road.

Instead of returning on the same stretch of road we had just ridden, we looped back around towards Edgartown on a road that ran parallel to the beach. There were dunes between the beach and us, but at low points in the dunes we could see straight out into the water. It wasn’t as magnificent a view as the people in the homes to our left must have had, but it was still nice to be able to see the water as we rode.

Once we made it into Edgartown we took a moment to walk through an old cemetery that we had to pass everyday on the way to and from our cottage. I’m fascinated by old cemeteries. It’s history. On an island this old, gothic headstones covered with yellow moss are a lot of history. Many of the men were Captain’s. One woman’s headstone named her as “the widow of” and then listed her husband’s name, not even her own. Neal pointed out that her identity was completely wrapped up in being his wife. There were small headstones belonging to children. One gravestone in particular named both mother and child, buried together having perished on the same day. There was no husband/father buried next to her. Neal romanticized that maybe he had died at sea and there was nothing to bury. That’s an interesting idea except that I had seen a headstone that read “lost at sea”. I’m assuming there was nothing in the earth below it but an empty coffin, if that. It made me wonder if the woman in question had never married the father of her child or if he remarried after her death and was buried with that wife. Whatever the stories of these former inhabitants of the Vineyard, they had once lived there and they had died there. History.

We got back on our bikes and continued our ride down-island towards Vineyard Haven. We had yet to explore that part of the Vineyard so it seemed natural to take the adventure since we had the bikes until 5 pm.

My legs began to feel the burn when we got about halfway to our destination. I had not sufficiently trained on the stationary bike at my gym to prepare for the up/down terrain of Martha’s Vineyard. I was a trooper though. I didn’t let achy quads deter me from riding that bike as long and as far as we wanted to.

Side note: We stopped a little over half way to Vineyard Haven and watched as packages fell out of the back of a UPS truck. Oncoming traffic got the truck driver’s attention while a gentleman heading in the same direction as the UPS truck stopped and began to move the boxes out of the road. Neal and I helped with that transfer. The passenger side rider of the UPS truck joined us for the removal of packages from the street. She said, “That’s not something you see every day is it?” You know, it’s not. And people helping each other is not something you see every day either. At least not in NYC. No one was angry. No one was honking at the stopped vehicle whose driver was helping. I noticed a lot that the walkers and the bikers said “good morning” or “hello” to each other, to us. I started doing it myself. What a nice feeling. We don’t do things like that in NYC. I do it sometimes in my neighborhood, but I’ve moved to a street where people know each other and have been living there for years. I need to say “hello” more.

Back on the road, we continued our trek to Vineyard Haven. I think it was coasting down a hill on this leg of our ride that I really began to feel the freedom. I had a bike helmet on and even if I hadn’t my hair is too short for the wind to whip, but I swear the wind would have been whipping my hair. I felt kind of like a child. I used to love riding my bike in the neighborhood where I grew up. Coasting down hill was the best. I used to clothespin curtains or sheets around my neck and let them billow in the wind behind. It was that kind of feeling I had as we rode in the breeze.

There were areas on the road to Vineyard Haven that were strewn with dried pine needles. That took me back. When I was younger than 7-years old my mother’s parents lived one lot over from my granddaddy’s uncle. We called him Uncky and his wife was Aunt Anna. As a child her name registered as Ananna. I’m assuming people called her Ain’t Anna. Uncky and Ananna had a grand daughter, Crystal, who had been born one day before me. She lived in Louisville. We always made it a point to see each other when she was in Arlington. They had many towering, large Pine trees in their back yard. I remember the look of all those needles and pinecones on the ground, as well as the smell. Oh the smell. What a powerful sense smell is. Smelling the dried pine needles on our ride took me back to the tree house that was built amongst those trees. I loved it. Uncky and Ananna are dead now and that tree house does not exist anymore. I haven’t been behind their former house in years, but on this day I was surely there in my memory.

To me Vineyard Haven was nothing to write home about. It wasn’t as quaint as Oak Bluffs or Edgartown and it didn’t have the hillside cottages of the Aquinnah area. We continued on the bike route toward the area known as East Chop in order to see the East Chop lighthouse.

Located on Telegraph Hill, the lighthouse stood at the center of attention. On the day we saw her she was getting a fresh coat of white paint. We took a stroll across the small park to a fence that allowed us to look out over the vast Atlantic from a different vantage point than we had seen thus far.

Back on our bikes, we continued on East Chop Road until we ended up in Oak Bluffs. By our estimation we had ridden 15-16 miles. It was time for a little lunch. We chained our bikes to the bike rack and proceeded to the front porch of Island Bar & Grill, a restaurant connected to Island House Hotel. It was nothing spectacular, but we were hungry and needed a place to rest our weary legs and asses from the bikes. Also, they had outdoor seating, which was a plus for both of us.

A burger, a wrap, and a couple of beers later we were ready to get back on the road. One more errand to run before doing so. I had to buy a postcard for the guys in my box office back in NYC. One of them in particular requests a postcard every time one of the other three of us goes away for vacation. I had never sent one. This trip seemed the perfect time to rectify that situation. Postcard purchased and mailed now back to the bike.

As soon as we started my legs began to burn again. Wouldn’t you know it, we were also now cycling into a headwind. Damn. I was huffing and puffing with no house to blow down. I was just pushing through the pain. My legs were screaming. What that respite on the Island House front porch did was give me a false sense of recovery.

We peddled the bike route that ran along State Beach from Oak Bluffs to Edgartown. The plan that morning when we departed had been to stop at State Beach on the way back, so we had worn our swimming trunks and had packed flip-flops and beach towels. When we hit the bike route in front of the beach we made a decision to ride until we were almost past the beach before pulling over. That way we would have less road to cover in wet trunks to get back to our cottage. Ya gotta have a plan.

Bikes locked to a fence by the road, socks stowed in sneakers, flip-flops on, we headed to the beach. By this point it was between 3:30/4 pm; we’d been gone since shortly after 10 am that morning. It was a full day of riding.

We hit the beach and I prepared myself for the cold water that awaited me. I was apprehensive, but determined to fully immerse myself in the Atlantic. Neal suggested an old trick he learned as a former lifeguard – splash water on your face and chest as your brain and heart are the organs that have the most powerful reaction to the temperature. We did and then it was time. On the count of three Neal dove and I held my nose and went under. All we could do was laugh. Muscles on the right side of my back, as well as in my neck, seized. I was certain my scrotum would be as small as if I’d been on steroids (George Costanza anyone?) but my teeth didn’t chatter and I realized that now that the first submerge was over, we were used to the temperature. We did it again. Then we walked out of the water and sat on the beach. As my body warmed a bit, my muscles relaxed. Then it was back into the water. We took pictures and submerged one more time. How often do you get the opportunity? We had to seize the moment (just like my muscles) and run with it.

We dried off, got back to the bikes, changed shoes, stowed everything back in our respective backpacks and began the last leg our trip. Isn’t that always the leg that seems the hardest? The cold water had been shocking to our bodies, but it had also been good for the aching muscles of our legs. When we started to peddle both of us felt better. It didn’t take long though to feel the burn again. The cold Atlantic bath was but a small reprieve.

We made it through Edgartown – through the traffic that stopped for cyclists, through the beautiful, quiet neighborhoods where no cars were on the street, past the cemetery and onto the final stretch of Pease Point Way. We peddled on Herring Creek Road before turning onto Meeting House Way ever so briefly then home at the end of Sutton Way.

It was 4:30 pm. My legs were tired. It was a good tired, but they were tired. My sits bones felt bruised. There’s a reason they call it blazing saddles. We rode an estimated 24-25 miles; reason enough for the fatigue and the blaze.

Both of us chose to take advantage of the outdoor shower post ride. The breeze was cool and the warm water felt amazing. I stood in the completely private outdoor shower and washed the sweat of the bike ride and the salt of the cold Atlantic from my body. It was incredible. I’ve never been in an outdoor shower. It was freedom having the breeze whip around my naked body.

Our plans to drive to Menemsha and watch the sunset were scrapped as the sky began to darken and the wind began to change. Rumblings of thunder preceded the weather that we knew was inevitable. We went upstairs to the balcony off of my room and watched the storm clouds roll in. We acted like we had never seen a storm before. It was spectacular to be out there as the wind picked up even more and the dark clouds moved over us. The previous night had ended with a storm and so had this one.

I slept well.