Thursday, September 2, 2010

A Pig, a Sheep, a Rabbit and a Bicycle

Out of the blue a young woman named Meaghan requested to friend me on Facebook. I’ve had several ambiguous friend requests from cute young women and usually I click “ignore.” But Meaghan was different. Not that she isn’t cute. She’s lovely, in fact. It was something else—call it a vibe.

I don’t friend anyone without first investigating them, and I discovered that Meaghan was in the process of bicycling across the country to raise money for three charities. Playing For Change Foundation builds schools for children in places that lack the resources to do so. Trees for the Future uses an agroforestry system to plant trees in deforested areas and educates people about rebuilding land to be sustainable. The Connecticut Chapter of Surfrider collaborates to keep beaches and ocean waters clean and to protect natural habitats along the Connecticut coastline. That all sounded pretty good to me.

Meaghan left Seattle June 1 and celebrated her 31st birthday on June 6 in Portland. When she contacted me, she was in western New York State and making her way toward Vermont. She’d heard about Fern Forest Treehouse from her friend Carrie, who celebrated her third wedding anniversary with her husband in the treehouse last October. Meaghan loves treehouses and asked if she could rent it long-term. I guess she was thinking about the next step after her cross-country journey.

The longest we’ve rented the treehouse is three nights. There’s no plumbing, although guests are given the downstairs bathroom with shower, which is 70 feet from the treehouse. There’s no kitchen either, but several folks have used our kitchen to cook a meal for themselves. I wouldn’t want to share that small space for more than a day or two, though.

I wrote Meaghan that she was welcome to rent the treehouse when she came through Vermont, but she said she didn’t think she could afford it. I learned later that she had pledged not to pay for motels or hotels during her ride but would rely on the kindness of friends, friends and relatives of friends, and, in some cases, strangers. When I discovered from her FB page that she is a yoga instructor, I offered her a night in the treehouse in exchange for a private lesson. She came back with an enthusiastic YES!

H has a bad back and gets stiff from years of beating up his body on the ice in hockey games. I’ve encouraged him to try yoga, but he has been shy about going to a class. I needed help with my sun salutations, so the exchange seemed a good fit.

Meaghan had spent the previous night in Killington, where she went to a concert of Barefoot Truth. Members of the band are friends, and she thought it would be an easy ride the forty miles from Killington to Fern Forest. I’ve driven it in an hour, so I figured with stops she ought to be able to make it to us in four hours. Mapquest looked to take her down the mountain to Route 7 and then to Route 116, pretty much flat the whole way. But she didn’t use Mapquest. She used the GPS on her cell phone, which took her up Route 100 to Warren and over the Lincoln Gap. You should know that the Lincoln Gap road is, first of all, gravel. Second of all, it’s steep. Really steep. As Meaghan wrote in her blog: “I pushed my bike with the weight of 50# worth of gear up 3 miles of the steepest mountain I have come across yet. And down the mountain too, as the road was bumpy, gravelly, windy and treacherous. The view was stunning though. I most certainly declare that to be the most physically challenging part of my journey.” That journey, I might add, includes crossing the Rocky Mountains.

It was dinnertime when she came up the driveway. We were having a hot, sunny late summer day, and she was dripping with sweat—and spent. H put a cold beer in her hand and I shoved her toward the shower. When she came out, she looked refreshed, and I sat her down and slid a plate of food in front of her.

There are some people who make you feel as if you’ve known them for years. Meaghan is one of those people. She’s my son Bryant’s age, and maybe my mothering instincts kicked in. She’s also a sister Gemini, and so we related astrologically. She was born in the year of the Sheep, the most compatible sign with the Pig (me) and the Rabbit (H). And the last four digits of her phone number are the years H and I were born (5147). The details seemed to add up to more than coincidence.

H and I had a party to go to, so we left Meaghan in the treehouse for the night. She was more than ready for a good night’s sleep. In the morning we had our yoga lesson—an hour on the front deck stretching and twisting as the sun rose over Mt. Abe. Meaghan is a wonderful teacher. She’s gentle, but her voice has authority, and she advised us about working through discomfort but stopping short of pain. After savasana, we had breakfast on the south deck, and H said his back hadn’t felt that good in years.

I suggested Meaghan might think about a rest day after the grueling climb up Lincoln Gap, and she agreed. She meditated and practiced yoga in the treehouse. She read. We went for a swim in the river. We cleaned up and went to Bristol and shopped. Then we took her to the Bobcat for dinner. Because the café was crowded, we sat at the bar. When a seat opened next to Meaghan, Jim—a Lincolnite who had seen her coming down the Gap road—took the stool. He leads cross-country bike trips and was about to fly to Oregon to herd a dozen cyclists on a five-week trip back east. A van carries their gear, and they wouldn’t go through two or three bike tires, as Meaghan did, because of the weight on the back. They sleep in nice hotels, and they aren’t raising money for any charity. Jim asked about the route Meaghan had taken and the details of the trip, but Meaghan seemed more interested in the burger in front of her—she needed the fuel for the miles she has to pedal before her journey ends the middle of September.

The final morning with us, Meaghan gave H and me one more yoga class, and I believe H and I got the better of the deal in the exchange. After breakfast, we could hardly bear to watch her load up the bike and slather on the sunscreen. She had an easy ride that day to Burlington, avoiding another mountain climb. Then she was on to Montpelier and after that into New Hampshire and then the Maine coast. Already she’s planning the wrap up party in New London on the 12th. She’ll have biked about 5,000 miles.

What’s next? She’s not sure. Meaghan goes on instinct, intuition, intelligence and faith. She’s waiting for a sign for her next move. On Facebook, she posted, “So resistant to leaving VT.” With any luck, maybe that means she’ll be back. I hope so. I'd like another chance to see H in downward dog.


Michelle said...

Ellie! It's Michelle Keyes here. I so enjoy reading your blog especially this most recent post. Someday I hope my family will have the courage (and the time) to bike across country. What a wonderful adventure. Hope to see you in the Fall for my last hoorah.

Happy thoughts your way.

Ellie said...

Thanks for writing, Michelle! And for reading of my Treehouse adventures. See you ere long with open arms!