I’m safe! I’m well! And I’m happy to be on the road.
Last week I said genius inventor Ben would gift me a bike to start off my trip. He came through. Big time. Here’s us (me and the bike, not me and Ben) together:
When we picked up the bike he needed some tender loving care. Ben showed me how to remove, clean, and re-install the bearings. We got new tubes and a spare for the road. We cleaned him off and I tested him out. I’ve never used toe clips before, and they scared me. Toe clips are basically torture devices that hold your feet firmly to the pedals even if you’re wiping out and wish you could bail. But they let you deal with hills a lot better (you can put strength into the up-stroke as well as the down-stroke) and Ben convinced me I wanted them. He says I’ll be happy with them. Okay.
After we got the bike all set, Ben and I drove up to his parents’ cabin for a relaxing evening. His two nephews were in the car, too. I told Ben I had a favor to ask.
“Well, since you got me this bike… you have to name it.”
From a nephew up front: “Oh shit.” It could be seen as an honor, but it’s kind of a big responsibility and all. Ben’s family are the type who, like me, take that stuff seriously.
“You’re a bastard,” Ben told me.
He didn’t start throwing out options. He began reviewing them in his head. It would be nearly 24 hours later, just moments before the final departure, that he’d decide.
We were walking the shore of Lake Itasca. I was in my trunks. Before starting the Adventure I had a plan: swim to the center of Lake Itasca, which is the source of the ‘Sippi, and place an offering there. As we walked, I told a story.
The story involved fomhóraigh, the titans of Irish folklore.
“That’s it!” he yelled.
“That… whatever you just said. That’s your bike’s name.”
I was taken back. I couldn’t refuse it. The duty was given to Ben and he fulfilled it perfectly. But the titans of Irish tradition are not exactly loving beings: they’re selfish, cunning and dangerous. Enemies of the gods. In a sense, Ben had just cursed me.
(I managed to hold back “You’re a bastard,” in reply.)
But with some thought, I like the name. There are stories of heroes who safely employed the fomhóraigh, bonded in chains. (Well, just one story, but still.) I can handle that, right? Right?
And so my bike is named the Fomhor (pronounced like foe + or) or, to make it easier, The Giant.
“I’ll travel with giants,” I mused.
“You’ll be carried by a giant,” Ben corrected.
The Giant is a Miyata 1024. He’s almost as old as I am. The years treat us both the same: battered but ready to take the world. Loaded with over 40 pounds of gear, he handles like a large shark—agile, but give him room. The gears run smooth and he chugs halfway up a hill before I have to pedal.
Ben and I gave him panniers we built out of $10 tote bags. (The engineering was all Ben; I was just extra hands. Like I said, inventor.) At first opportunity I’ll decorate him with something suitably Fomorian. Perhaps a single eye in the middle of his frame.
The Giant and I do well together. I got a late start on Day 1, but made 33 miles in 4 hours before setting up camp. I hung my hammock in a stand of red pines near an abandoned shed in the country. The following day I began troubleshooting strange noises from The Giant’s belly and made another 46 miles. I camped in a forest owned by an Ojibwe family near Ball Club, Minnesota. (Yes, Minnesota has a town named Ball Club. And that entire town is three houses of Ojibwe families. Population 171 my ass.)
Today I put in 20 miles to Grand Rapids where I’m using wi-fi at a cafe. The barista volunteers at her church and I’m hopeful she’ll find a place for me to crash tonight. If not, it’s me in a hammock somewhere off of US Highway 2.
Thanks for all your great, encouraging comments last week everyone. It means the world. Adventure on.