Home are the hunters, home from the hills
Home are the travelers, gone are the thrills

(slightly mangled Robert Louis Stevenson)

20121103-094025.jpgHOME SWEET CHELAN HOME

Remember when jet travel was new and exciting? I do. I’m afraid the thrill is gone and flying home on Thursday confirmed it.

Have airline seats gotten smaller in recent years (if that’s possible)? When I’m standing in the inevitable Conga line in the airplane aisle these days, waiting to inch my way back to my seat in the rear of the airplane, I find myself staring longingly at the large, plush first-class seats that we po’ folk must pass. Oh, to be able to stretch and move when seated!……and then I remember what crossing the continent must have been like in the days of the Conestoga wagons and I make a mental note to shut up and wedge myself in.

It’s always a crap shoot who one draws for fellow passengers. This time we drew several unusual ones. We lucked out being assigned Row 12 which is close to the front, in front of much of the engine noise and enabling a speedy exit at flight’s end. We were seats 12d and 12e. The line had stalled, however, soon after we entered the plane. The cause was a short, fat man dressed in a leather jacket and wearing a pork pie hat who couldn’t decide where to stuff his and his wife’s many carry-on items. ( Airline policy is to allow only one carry-on but they are lax about enforcement.) It seemed like he held up the line for at least five minutes. To their credit, the other passengers politely waited while he attempted to solve his dilemma. It was when he attempted to wedge his own corpulent body and the corpulent body of his wife into Mary’s and my seats that I had to step in and object. For some unfathomable reason, he couldn’t understand that seats 12d and 12e are not seats 12b and 12c. The couples dress and accent brought to mind a particular ethnic identity – gypsies, perhaps? The wife, especially, in her shawl, long red dress, and scarf-bound head could have reported to casting for a gypsy fortune teller role. All she was missing was a crystal ball. They argued amongst themselves in what I presume was Roma, the gypsy language. I pointed to the plaques above the seats that clearly indicated their seats were on the other side of the aisle but he insisted otherwise. Finally, a flight attendant stepped forward and settled the dispute in our favor.

Our next lesson in cultural diversification was the passenger already seated in 12f, the window seat on my right. I greeted her with a cheerful “Hello, how are you?” to which she scowled and grunted. She was an elderly black woman dressed in one of those colorful, print dresses African women favor. Her head, like the gypsy woman’s, was wrapped in a scarf. After rebuffing my overture she soon turned her face toward the window shade and kept it there through most of the flight. When the flight attendant came around offering refreshment, I asked my fellow passenger what she would like and she grunted “Water” so I know she at least knew some English. My impression was that she was at the very least a profoundly unhappy person. Mental illness is also a possibility. She did not have a problem claiming possession of the arm rest we shared (or, rather, did not). She forcefully elbowed my arm off the arm rest whenever it strayed into what she obviously perceived to be her territory.

Incidentally, the in-flight movie was captivating and I enthusiastically recommend it: Liberal Arts. It’s a romantic comedy with a great script.


We landed in Seattle at 8:30 PM which, of course, is 11:30 PM in the Eastern Time Zone our bodies had acclimated to. We rented a car and drove home, arriving at 2:00 AM, once again utilizing the miraculous properties of caffeine we had come to know so well on our epic bicycle ride.

The next morning, soon after waking, Mary and I each hurried to test how far the inevitable atrophication of our muscle mass had progressed in the week since our ride ended. While we enjoyed or stay with Nick & family, we felt a little uncomfortable lying around and flabbing up. You see, we have both become quite enamored of the sleek, muscular bodies we now find ourselves in possession of and dread the inevitable loss of them. Mary’s exercise of choice is the stationary bicycle in our gym while mine is my trusty mountain bike. I tested myself by riding up the road to our house from town, a 2000-ft climb, which has always been a lowest-gear endeavor for me. To my delight, I rode the whole thing in 3d and 4th gear standing up on the pedals – with no thigh burn! I’ve still got it. Mary reported positive results also.

As if we needed another reason to end our ride in St. Augustine, Florida beside Hurricane Sandy and burnout, I cited in an earlier post concern about frost damage to our RV here in Chelan. The weather here of late has been safely in the 40 – 50 degree range so we beat the hard frost that could have burst pipes. I need to get to work on winterizing the RV. We have a mountain of firewood to the split and stacked. I also need to get to work on transcribing my journal entries from the trip and dredging up what memories remain for inclusion in a possible book about the journey – a second and third book to complement my obscure publication about our 2006 cross-country tandem ride called The Northern Tier.

Already the rose-colored fog of nostalgia has begun to descend over the trip. If I don't get right to work on my account of it, the final product will bear scant resemblance to the actual event. There are already signs of this in our conversations about the last three months. I have a vague inkling, for example, that there was something unpleasant about our entry into San Diego but I can't remember what it was. So, without further adieu, adieu (until my next post.)