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Friday, April 20, 2012

Lesson of the Second Monk: Excess Baggage Penalties

01/20/12 65m
Today's blog post is dedicated to the Second Monk, who chose to carry too much baggage for far too long, as told in the original Buddhist story:
Two monks, one old and one junior, were strolling by a stream on their way home to the monastery. They were startled by the sound of a young woman in a bridal gown, sitting by the stream, crying softly. Tears rolled down her cheeks as she gazed across the water. She needed to cross to get to her wedding, but she was fearful that doing so might ruin her beautiful handmade gown.

These monks were prohibited from touching women. The senior monk was filled with compassion for the bride. Ignoring the sanction, he hoisted the woman on his shoulders and carried her across the stream -- assisting her journey and saving her gown. She smiled and bowed with gratitude as he noisily splashed his way back across the stream to rejoin his companion.

The second monk was livid. "How could you do that?" he scolded. "You know we are forbidden even to touch a woman, much less pick one up and carry her around!"

The offending monk listened in silence to the stern lecture that lasted all the way back to the monastery. His mind wandered as he felt the warm sunshine and listened to the singing birds. After returning to the monastery, he fell asleep for a few hours. He was jostled and awakened in the middle of the night by his fellow monk. "How could you carry that woman?" his agitated friend cried out. "Someone else could have helped her across the stream. You were a bad monk!"

"What woman?" the tired monk inquired groggily.

"Don't you even remember? That woman you carried across the stream," his colleague snapped.

"Oh, her," laughed the sleepy monk. "I only carried her across the stream. You carried her all the way back to the monastery."

Today I got to dwell on the foolishness of excess baggage.

The trailside Marriot was excellent in terms of bike-friendliness; they clearly are pursuing the trail economy. I love that they're cool with bikes in the rooms, and that they have an outside patio marked as a bike-washing station. If I could have just one more thing, I'd love for them to have a floor-pump. Sure, there's a bike shop 500 feet away, but they open at 10am and most bicyclists are gone by then. It would be awesome if they had a floor pump, even if they kept it behind the front desk.

Complimentary breakfast and packing and checking and we were on our way at about 0845. We took the obligatory photo with the canal donkey, and stopped at the National Park Service offices to score some paper maps. At the spot where the trail leaves the train station, there's a small sign asking bicyclists to please ring a bell or give some sort of warning when passing walkers; I thought it was a nice to express the local expectation. (And I think that bike bells are an under-appreciated, under-utilized asset.)

The context of the first day, Confluence to Cumberland, was the tolerable, sustained 40-mile gradual climb followed by the thrilling 20-mile descent. The context of the second day would be the same climb over half the distance, followed by a gentle long descent, and the story (for me) of the second day would be the hauling of unwarranted mass up over the Continental Divide.

I think I did pretty well for the first 14 miles, but about two miles short of Frostburg I popped - done, spent, empty. In Frostburg I got something to eat and cooled off and continued over the hill at a much slower pace. Beautiful vistas that drew ooohhs and aahhhhs yesterday were ignored with disdain as the death march continued, and then, once we reached the top and gravity became an ally again, some sense of balance returned and with it our conversation. It was wonderful to cross the top westbound.

It was so stupid of me to carry all that stuff and to imagine that it wouldn't affect the work-food-water thing. How stupid? I can only express it by invoking my seminal childhood memory of Goofus and Gallant:

We descended west into Rockwood, and this time I noticed that a rebuilt natural gas pipeline seems to run underground along the trail, east of Rockwood. At Rockwood we went into town and the Rockwood Opera house, in search of a real bathroom and ice cream. Departed Rockwood and rode around the Pinkerton Bypass, where we met this entourage:

They've been riding with the dogs for years, about 2500 miles a year, and the cat is a new addition. About five miles east of Confluence, with the sun getting lower in the sky, the shadows of the fence posts presented what could be the "ghost tracks" of the railroad that used to be where the trail is now:

(concept by R, photo by S)

We made it into Confluence at 7:15 pm, 70F, a perfect day for a great ride. The bicycles did very well with no mechanical problems, no flat tires, etc. Next time I will try to remember the second monk and the folly of excess baggage.

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