Obi-wan has left the building. Provoked, and awakened from his tranquility, Obi-wan has transformed into Erich the Father.
And we thought the last couple days were going to be easy, joyful, and self congratulatory, like the last day of the Tour de France, in which the competitors ride together arm in arm doing laps on the Champs-Élysées, sipping champagne while they ride, and goofing for the cameras.
Not quite. So much has happened in the last 36 hours I don’t even know where to start. I guess I’ll just take it in the order it happened.
First, the kids have been pushing pretty hard to get home. They are calling for big days, and short rest stops. Two days ago was 106 miles. Today will be 95 over the Kancamagus highway, if we make it to Conway (update: we didn’t). Yesterday I hijacked the rolling convoy and directed us all down to the banks of a river in the hot afternoon. We had a splendid break swimming in the river. No one said, “C’mon, time to go.”
Yesterday afternoon, after the river oasis, Owen started poking at Erich. For the past
few days, weeks, from the beginning Owen has been poking fun at his father, variously harassing him, teasing him, or ridiculing him. Yesterday when Erich mentioned we should be thinking about where to stay for the evening (a very reasonable question of course) Owen started taunting him, calling him soft, ridiculing that he wanted to stop riding at a civil hour and enjoy the evening.
A typical conversation between Erich and Owen looks like this:
Erich: “I know you are eager to get home Owen but your persistence ad nausium is starting to wear thin.”
Erich: “Owen please. Do you know what a barrel organ litany is?”
Owen: “DURRRR! Darrel’s organ! Literally!”
Erich: “A barrel organ litany is an expression which refers to monotonous, and unbearable repetition. We all understand you want to get home. We also need to rest and eat.”
The conversation went on like that. Erich patiently explaining, Owen taunting. I drifted away from them and cycled on my own. Evidently Obi-wan snapped. Next thing I know Erich passes me with his boys in tow, stampeding down the road ahead. If Owen wants to push on, Erich will show him what it means to push on.
At around 7pm we pull into Montpelier VT and aim for an inexpensive motel. Erich pulls up short, “Not us, we’re pushing on for Danville.” Danville? Danville is another 30 hilly Vermont miles away. It will take them well over two hours and the light is fading. His boys howl in protest, and cry invectives at him. Erich is unflinching. We check into a motel and have a lovely dinner at a pizza place with a view of the river. It was delightful.
I receive a text message from Erich at 11:18pm saying they have just stopped and are boondocking somewhere in the woods beyond Danville. (Boondocking is a term we learned back in Wyoming from a local. It means to set camp wherever you please, permitted or not.) So evidently, sometime after 11:00pm they finally stopped and are camping in the brush outside of Danville. Good lord.
That separation also sets us on different trajectories. Erich chooses a northern route around the White Mountains toward Bethel, Sunday River and then south. We choose to ride easterly, a more direct route over the Kancamangus Highway.
We reunited last night at Panther Pond, just 25 short miles from home. We had been separated as a group for the past two days and it was heartening to find Obi-wan has returned, the kids are back together, and we are thoughtfully hosted by Erich’s brother at his lake house. Food, drinks, joy abounds. At the moment the boys are out water-skiing, and shortly we will ride to the coast to dunk our heads in the Atlantic Ocean.