I woke up in Chicago on a Tuesday. “Shit. Today’s Tuesday”. I had told Pamela, Charlie’s mum, that I’d be rolling into Madison today. I sent out a quick email, re-set the date for Friday and hoped I hadn’t just blown my chance to ‘impress the parents’.
Pedaling in from Milwaukee was a pleasant ride, rails-to-trails almost the whole way. It made for pretty boring landscape though, just an endless tunnel of trees, perfectly flat, perfectly unremarkable. Still, I overnighted by a beautiful lake, just 30miles out, and it was a clear blue sky that opened itself to me as I cycled in the next day, around 8am. Birds chirped, chipmunks ducked, and rabbits bounced as I meandered along the smooth bike-path leading straight downtown.
My friends had taken to calling Madison “the promised land”, which might give you an idea of how much I anticipated my arrival here. I had dreams of endless crisscrossing bike paths, roads with narrow lanes for cars and twice as wide brightly painted shoulders for cyclists… two wheeled machines piled into the myriad of bike racks, and every spare post, pole, table leg, used to secure a bicycle. Ideas of vegan bakeries on every corner and homegrown hippies jamming next to community gardens. Basically, I saw Madison as a vegan-tourers mecca.
And I wasn’t far off! This place is magic. Within three blocks of where I’m staying is a local diner, a printing co-op, a huge food co-op, an organic local bakery, a vegan coffeehouse, a fair-trade coffee roasting non-profit, an info-shop for all your anarchist information, and a huge local bike shop in a CASTLE! That’s just this one street. Damn! And yep – bikes everywhere!
I found 417 s. Dickinson St pretty easily, it’s just one block away from the “Bicycle Boulevard”. The address had served as my postal point for several months, so was well etched into my mind. Rolling up to it, I noticed Charlie’s ‘World Bike Tour’ flag on the porch and chocked up a little. I prepared myself for two weeks of Charlie memories, Charlie stories, Charlie photos… and wondered how comfortable I would feel in his house, with his mum, and his cat. The back door wasn’t left open, as Pam had promised, so I sat under the pear tree and relaxed the afternoon away. It wasn’t until I’d done a tour of the town, had a tea, said hi to the bike boys, and returned back to the house – that I realised today wasn’t Friday at all… it was Thursday. Shit.
So by now I’m definitely looking like the most disorganised, ditsy, daughter in law ever to have existed – the only consolidation coming from the realisation that I’m truly in the bike touring ‘time doesn’t exist’ mindset. Thankfully it’s a warm hug and a smile anyway when Pam get’s home, and it’s not long before I’m feeling settled and welcome. A pile of packages greets me too… thank you all SO much for the love – the words are all worth their weight in gold. I even got a “welcome to Madison” postcard from Charlie’s mate Day, who became a great ambassador and friend.
Now it’s been almost a fortnight and I feel like one of the family. The motherly love I’ve been given could never be described in print… every need has been met, every part of my body/mind/spirit re-energised for the rest of the road ahead, from repaired shoes to repaired soul. I got to make a trip out to Johanna’s (sister) farm and picked up pieces of info on native herbs, what to eat and what not to eat, while listening to the soothing creek running through the beautiful ‘drift-less’ region. Juno has had it good too – Charlie’s old bike buddy Derek tuned her, lubed her and loved her, and she’s never felt stealthier.
I got a chance to set up a new Lightfoot Sustainable Post box (Madison would be lost without one!) at Mother Fools, the vegan coffee house. John, one of the owners, has been so enthusiastic and into the project, I can already see the letters flying in.
And now it’s time to pedal out. I’ve had a 23rd birthday, rested and recuperated, and am ready for the Bicycle Film Festival and Josh Ritter gig in Minneapolis. As itchy as I am for the open road, it’s going to be a hard town to leave. In a lot of ways I feel closer to Charlie here, his history and memories is in a lot of the landscape. It’s a reminder too though of the distance between us, and I’m looking forward to centering myself again, to becoming more present. Hopefully this time I can keep track of the days though! Adios!
And some photo’s from Charley III: