Thursday, June 01, 2006
Former Chicoans bicycle all the way from Chico to South Carolina in 55 days
By DAN BARNETT
Michael F. Foley, who now lives in the Bay Area, joined a group of five other guys in the summer of 1992 as they embarked on a bicycle trip from Chico to South Carolina.
Part of Chico's cycling community, Foley would join other riders for the Fast Fifty, which begins "Wednesday evening at 'One Mile' in Bidwell Park. ... It was on these rides that I met Ken, Jeff, Jon and Gary." That would be Ken Husband, Jeff Cantarutti, Jon Wynacht and Gary Thompson. Add to the mix Dario Frederick, and you have "Team USA '92."
The cross-country trek, which began June 1 pretty much on a whim, is detailed in "Bicycling Beyond City Limits: A Journal of Endurance, Friendship and Discovery" ($17.95 in paperback from LUF Enterprises, available from ). There are more than two dozen black-and-white photographs, a map, and a list of Foley's gear.
Foley captures each stage in 55 short chapters. On just the second leg, from Quincy to Reno (85 miles), "I start to feel nauseous, bad enough to want to throw up, as we make our way into Border Town, 20 miles short of Reno. Gary stands up on his pedals, coasting, leaning back on one bar end. 'Hey, Mike, you okay?' I force a smile, telling myself to keep moving—push through it! My glycogen levels are way too low—a condition known as 'bonking' among endurance athletes."
Most all of the team members have their difficult days and on occasion humor wears thin. Money is thin, too, so the cyclists spend a lot of time sleeping in tents in fields, tennis courts, RV parks. Here and there some friendly folks take them in for the night, like Lou Jones in Arkansas, the "Dulcimer Lady." Later Foley remarks on "the kindness of the American people," but that is before the little band passes into Tennessee and Georgia.
"It almost feels like we've entered a foreign country," Foley writes. "From ... racial remarks (to) the little kid yesterday who waggled his middle finger at us. ..." And then there's the fried foods. "Fried chicken, fried chicken fingers, fried steak, hush puppies, french fries, and fried potatoes. Oh yeah, and white bread." One waitress responds to their complaints: "But it's fried in real grease!"
Georgia is not much better. "People in this part of the country, especially the young men in their pickups, carry firearms. We remind each other—more so, the guys remind me—to keep our mouths shut and our middle fingers on the handlebars."
Foley excels at describing the natural world. Earlier on the trip, during the hundred-mile stretch from Cimarron to Clayton, N.M, storm clouds chase the riders. "As we continue east on Highway 56 into the early evening, the sky beings to clear. Lavender, blues, reds and oranges mirror off the still water in a cattle trough below the barbed wire running alongside the road. In the field, the skeletal remains of a barn lean to one side. The walls have folded inward and the roof has caved in. Across the crest of the hill, cows follow each other's tails."
And then the trip is over. "A pervasive sense of fulfillment slides under my skin while a deep and complicated sadness sits stubbornly in my gut." But the friends, scattered now from Chico, still meet for the Wildflower Century and to reminisce about that summer of '92.
Dan Barnett teaches philosophy at Butte College. To submit review copies of published books, please send e-mail to email@example.com. Copyright 2006 Chico Enterprise-Record. Used by permission.