Posted by: David | April 3, 2010

4-3-10 Bike Ride

4-3-10 is just the date, not some weird kind of fertilizer, gardening friends. I was at liberty this wonderful 3rd of April, a global warming day, known to bring snowstorms in decades past but in this year of  twenty-ten it brought 76° of Fahrenheit to us here in New Hampshire. What could I do but go for a bike ride? My wife said “Don’t overdo it”. I won’t, I said. We’re both still fighting head colds, sneezing and blowing our noses, etc. But we’re winning.

So I change my shirt a couple of times as it takes me until nearly noon to finally get out on the road. The temperature climbed rapidly as I puttered around this morning, from upper 40s to near 70. A short-sleeved top, single layer, and the usual cycling shorts will do. My subconscious plan was to head toward Warner and try to visit a good friend with whom I used to work. From there I would try to navigate dirt roads in the Blackwater flood district to find my daughter’s house-in-construction. We’d driven there once before, last fall, and my Camry bottomed out once on the minimally maintained road.

My friend is home, with her husband, and some visitors. Yay! I didn’t call first, it was a spontaneous visit. So far, each time I’ve stopped by their place on my bike, they’ve been home. They are outside in lawn chairs, enjoying early afternoon cocktails and pistachios as I ride up their driveway. I set for a spell, chatting, politely declining the extremely tempting offer of a Bloody Mary. They look good, celery sticks and all, one of my favorite mixed drinks. But I’ve miles to go … and I get some good directions. Sounds simple enough. Keep going up Pumpkin Hill Road, it turns to dirt, pass the flood gate, which is open, pass the 4-way intersection, then take the second right.

It seems to take a while to get there, but that’s because I’m going less than 10mph. The second right brings a closed and locked flood gate, with the Army Corps of Engineers signage. I expected as much, so I duck under the gate with my bike and continue on. There’s a slippery little stretch of loose sand and a muddy stretch which throws dirt well into the fenders. And then there’s the flooded section of road. About 50 yards of it. Which is why the gate was locked I guess. It doesn’t look too deep, but I bet it’s cold, and my wife’s caution about not overdoing it comes to mind. What? Is it bad to wade through cold water when you’re still fighting off the remains of a cold? Maybe. I’m not about to turn back. So I take off my shoes and socks. The shoes I tuck into the pannier rack, and the socks I put in my pockets, which turns out to be 50% smart. I carry the bike by the seat post. The water got to crotch depth, unfortunately, but the footing was fine, after all it was a nice roadbed under the water. I used the water to rinse the mud off my wheels. When I got the other side and found a place to sit down and put my shoes back on, I found that one sock was completely soaked, while the other was dry.

Just a little past this flood I get to the logged out area which looks familiar and I know I’m almost there. One more locked gate to duck under and I arrive at the kids’ land. 16.8 miles.

I didn’t hang out at the house for long, but did pedal up the driveway to admire the finished chimney. The top 3 courses of brick are corbelled outward for a nice finish effect.

I headed home the normal way through Warner. This being April 3, one day past the anniversary of my son’s passing, which happened in that town, at his school, I stopped to take a few pictures in memoriam. It’s been seventeen years now …

United Church of Warner, where a lovely memorial service was held.

A crabapple tree. The second tree planted at the school playground in memoriam. The first, a maple, didn’t make it.

imonds Elementary School. Danny loved that place. Most days anyway.

I may have overdone it after all. I clocked 32 miles by the time I got back home. I stopped at a rushing stream to capture some video.


  1. Is that house built on farm land? How far from the next village or town? Are people allowed to build just about everywhere? That is, is there no legal difference between farm land, wasteland, and land meant for construction?

    I am asking because both in Switzerland and here (in Spain) this is a problem. The Swiss think that the whole country has to be protected against over-construction. The Spanish have a corruption problem, because any town mayor can buy cheap farm land and then change it by law into construction land and become filthy rich, as the market price of the land increases by 1000%.

    We have something here called “zoning”. It is a municipal classification which specifies what uses are permitted for parcels, or zones, of land. Supposedly the zoning where my house is located is both residential and commercial. Meaning that we could run some sort of retail business out of our home if we desired. Not sure why this is so, but it doesn’t really matter. The important thing is that many of the small towns in this state are rather deliberate about how commercial and real estate development is allowed to unfold. My daughter and her husband had to wait a full month before their town gave the building permit. And there was a significant “impact fee” associated with obtaining that permit. That town is not likely to be a target for a wealthy developer to come in and set about throwing up a development of ticky-tacky houses to multiply his money. But the next town over, depending on its governance, the story might be quite different.

    But, yes, the house is built on what was farmland a century ago. It was probably a hay field as little as ten or twenty years ago.

  2. I have been thinking about this post since I read it days ago. What a wonderful tribute to sweet Danny. Just so you know Danny is on our annual Kaddish list and his name is read several times every year. We all as a family light a candle and say the kaddish prayer for him. Ariel even went to services in Keene! I should post a picture of our pear tree we planted for him. It is now about 48 feet tall. Enjoy the time of year D because the black flies and mosquitoes are hatching as we speak!

    Thank you Carol, that is very nice. I’ll never forget your being there at the hospital for us on that day, and your kids mentions of him at their bat and bar mitzvahs. I’ll add that picture of the pear tree to this post if you send it along.

    I am most certainly enjoying this special insect-free period of early Spring. Last night and tonight I was out prepping some of the garden beds for planting. While I have to tolerate a minimum number of bites, I’ve found over the years that yellow garment and hats, sprayed with Off! or some other repellent, and not getting all annoyed and arm-wavy, both go a long way toward keeping the swarms away. However, when the deerflies start chasing me around on my bike (at speeds below 10mph) then my serenity is severely challenged.

  3. Dahveed – you mention the house is in the Blackwater flood plain – is it right on the river? Are they in Webster? Are they near the dam? My grandparents ashes were thrown in the Blackwater, where my grandfather grew up. I wonder if they are near the homestead…

    Let’s get this figured out via email …

  4. I stopped riding my bike when I moved to the new digs last May. Not sure why. I think it’s because I didn’t feel like establishing a new route. I took my bike out for the 2nd time this year today. Feels good to be back…even though a guy threw a bottle of water at the back of my head. I think I need to pick a new route that goes through a better part of town.

    Hi Allison! Thanks for visiting! What!? Why would someone do that? I hope that never happens to you again. Yes, let’s find some better routes. Unfortunately we must share the road with assholes. Dammit. 😦 True regardless of our vehicles.

  5. Hi David!

    Can’t believe it took me two weeks to get to this post! I have been so behind, but am calling this a pure blog-reading morning 😉

    I think actually, that this was one of your most “in the moment” bike-ride posts; I could feel each pedal and the wading through the crotch-deep water…you were definitely overdoing it! 😉

    PS: this post spun into a very lovely tribute for Danny Levine 🙂 Sending hugs xo

    Hi Romi! Thanks for visiting. I thought that this rainy weekend might be bloggy too, but today I just hung about, read my new WIRED magazine, watched stupid shit on the the tele and never got to that post I thought for sure I would be writing … Damn April.

    Thank you for your comment. Hugs received. 🙂

  6. Would you remember a blogger who signed Danu, was an artist from Roumania living in Canada? Always lived in extreme poverty trying to make a living off his art. He was very good at doing water colour portraits.–

    Well, there came an e-mail from Danu to my husband’s address asking him point blank for US$ 3400,- and explaing in competent administrative style that he (Danu) was in London, got stranded there and had been robbed of his “valuables” and his cash.

    Danu was very spontaneous and fluent in his English, but always had about three mistakes per line. The missive could not have been written by him.

    Well? HIs e-mail address evidently had been hacked. But worse: he had some time ago announced he was going to be without internet connection for some time (probably to save money). No way to warn him!

    Though he had quit blogging, we sent a message to one of his blogs to see whether the message would get erased, since whoever got into his computer would have discovered his blogs, and it did get erased. —

    I remember this blogger, yes. The email to your husband that you describe sounds like one of those unfortunately common e-scams that our wondrous internet has brought into our lives. I have received such false messages with friend’s names connected. These web-scams are often the work of web-bots. Hopefully he will learn about this and notify his email contacts.

    I really like his artwork. 🙂

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