Dan and Hannah Bike the National Mall

Geneseo Owen 5.12.13

With our grandson Owen a mere 75 minutes away by Jet Blue, Hannah and I love to fly to the Commonwealth of Virginia to see him and his parents.  Travelers, don’t you love Jet Blue!  Sports Center, the Weather Channel, and MSNBC are at our finger tips on the television directly in front of our seats.  With the in-flight television, time flies!  (You saw that coming, didn’t you?)

Touching down at Reagan Airport at 8A on a mid-May Thursday, we will not be picked up as we often are since both our daughter Molly and her hubby Tip are working.  We have no choice but to call for a Red Top cab.  Hold the presses!   Sixty-five years old and we two have never been in a cab.

Red Top CabAs we slip into the back seat, we come face to face with a video screen showing us exactly what the charges will be, and that they can all be paid with our Visa card.  We can see how every sixth of mile, the fare increases 35 cents.  In the final screen, there is even a place to include the percentage tip, 15, 20 or 25.   Dan and Hannah go big time and give the driver 20% for our 3.6 mile ride from the airport.

Cab chargesAmazingly, we are in Molly and Tip’s apartment at 830A and have a full day in the Washington, DC metro area ahead of us.   Though I am a road trip kind of guy, I do love to fly.  If we had driven from Maine today, at this moment we’d be stuck in some Merritt Parkway traffic in Connecticut with Big Bad New York City, the New Jersey Turnpike, the tunnels of Baltimore, and the dreaded Washington DC beltway ahead of us.

By 930A we are on bikes riding along the Potomac River to the National Mall in Washington just seven miles away.  On this Thursday midmorning we have easy biking on the meandering riverside trails.

Potomac River Bike Path

Potomac River Bike Path

Potomac Bike Path with the Washington Monument in the distance

Potomac Bike Path with the Washington Monument in the distance

Across the Memorial Bridge with the Lincoln Memorial in the foreground we have the biking trails as our oyster.  Fun fact: Today there are no direct descendants of Abraham Lincoln.

Dan at the Lincoln Memorial

Dan at the Lincoln Memorial

One hundred yards away, we stop by the Viet Nam Memorial.  In 1981, at age 21 and while still a Yale undergraduate, Maya Lin won a public design competition for the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, beating out 1,441 other competition submissions

Dan at Vietnam Memorial

Close by is the World War II Memorial.   Thank you Mom and Dad for your service and to all members of the Best Generation.  Most veterans are near 90 since the war ended some 68 years ago.

Hannah at the World War II Memorial

Hannah at the World War II Memorial

Scaffolding surrounds the Washington Monument, which is now off limits to the public after the earthquake in August of 2011.  It is estimated that approximately one-third of the U.S. population felt the earthquake, more than any earthquake in U.S. history.

Dan at Washington Monument

We see the Capitol in the distance; where the dysfunctional come to play and mess with our lives.  (Oh, that’s being a little negative!)

Hannah on the National Mall with the Capitol in the distance

Hannah on the National Mall with the Capitol in the distance

Veering off the National Mall, we come to the Jefferson Memorial on the Tidal Basin. The memorial was dedicated in 1943 on the 200th anniversary of Jefferson’s birth.

Hannah at the Jefferson Memorial

Hannah at the Jefferson Memorial

And then it’s the George Mason Memorial.In two days Molly graduates in from George Mason University.  He was a mentor of George Washington and quite the ladies man as you can see.

Hannah and George Mason

Hannah and George Mason

We never get enough of the architectural brilliance of the Martin Luther King Memorial with its visual metaphor of  Out of the Mountain of Despair, a Stone of Hope.

Hannah at the MLK jr. Memorial

Hannah at the MLK jr. Memorial

One of the 14 Martin Luther King, jr. panels highlights his words, Darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that.

All this majesty at our finger tips.  But we are not alone.  Hundreds and hundreds of middle schoolers in matching fluorescent orange or green or cardinal red shirts are visiting Washington, too.  They are everywhere.  Going off in random directions, flirting, bored, and often tired of walking.

Middle School kids at Jefferson Memorial

Middle School kids at Jefferson Memorial

As a former middle school teacher who took kids on field trips, I rarely remember having any follow up activities based on the field trip.  For this, I am not proud.  Today I wonder what is the purpose of bringing kids to Washington.  Tradition?  Appreciation of America’s past?  Making history tangible?  Appreciation of being an American?  Likely, maybe, maybe, and unlikely.

And if those are some of the reasons, how then do the teachers know that students have achieved those goals?  How do teachers know that their students were successful?  Projects?  Presentations?  Papers?   Tests?  It’s May.  Really?  Call me a fool, but I’d like to think a few schools determine what learning went on when they return from Washington.

Or is it just a nice time of year to get away, when students and teachers of the Northeast are weary of each other after nine months of the classroom’s four walls?  Is it just to give the parents of middle schoolers a three day break from dealing with the drama and hormones of teenagers?  If so, let’s be honest and admit it.

We see the teachers reminding, cajoling, rule explaining, and directing.  (Interestingly, we never saw one kid texting.)  It’s got to be exhausting for everyone.  We wonder if they possibly pay middle school teachers enough for what lies ahead tonight back at the motel!

I think not.

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Dan and Hannah and Mom

Three days before Mother’s Day, Becky’s 92 year old Mom died peacefully.  Right til the end she lived in her own home.  No nursing home, no extended stay in the hospital, no pain.  She lived the dream.

Our sister-in-law Becky had moved to Maine some year and a half ago to be near her, living in the condo just above her mom in Portland.  They had plays, concerts, meals, and Sundays together.

Today in Portland the family and many friends gather to celebrate her life.

Of course, Gamma’s passing got me thinking of our mom.  (Using my mom feels too personally possessive and proprietary, like I am claiming someone that I rightfully share with my brother Richard and sister Patty.)  Mom turned 92 early this month.  She, too, lives independently, in a complex for 2000 seniors.  At any one time, she may be enrolled in 20 Elder Hostel courses or having friends to her apartment.  Each evening, she has dinner with friends and a movie out if she wants.  She’s just so upbeat and interested in others that people love to be around her.  And Mamoo loves time with her great grandson.

Owen with his great grandmother

Owen with his great grandmother

She has had her physical challenges.  Who hasn’t?

Two questions guide me as I think about Mom and any medical issues that lie ahead.

             What does Mom want?   

             What would her doctor do if she were her 92 year old mother?

She decides her final act.  Our job is to listen.

I’m in your corner, and I can’t say it too much, I love you Mom.

Mamoo with her grandson Will

Mamoo with her grandson Will

Dan and Hannah Prep to Bike Prince Edward Island

Go confidently in the direction of your dreams.  Live the life you have imagined.              – Henry David Thoreau

We start in Tignish.  First night in Summerside.  Second night in Mount Stewart.  We end at Elmira.

We start in Tignish. First night in Summerside.   Second night in Mount Stewart. We end at Elmira.

Dan and Hannah hear voices.

Really?  Are you two serious about biking the 273 kilometres (about 175 miles) of the Confederation Trail from one end of Prince Edward Island, Canada to the other in three days?  Though you biked 24 and 22 miles last weekend, do you have any idea what it means to bike 70 miles one day, 60 the next, and finish with 45 more?  

The answers are yes, yes, and no.  But it’s a dream of ours and we think we’re ready.  We won’t know until we try, will we?

Bicycle Sweethearts

Bicycle Sweethearts

I like your sassiness and your optimism.   Let me tell you I’m pulling for you kids!

Confederation Trail

Confederation Trail

So faithful readers, we are told that it’s our butts more than our knees that will feel the pain from such long distance biking.  A local bike shop owner clued us into the healing qualities of Bag Balm.  We will apply it before, during, and after our ride to relieve any chafing and soreness.

Bag Balm

A cross country ski instructor has his skiers lay down, legs extended, for 20 minutes every few hours to recharge their bodies.   We can do that.  We have all day to do 70 miles.  The cliché is true, it’s about the journey.   There is no rush to get to that night’s B and B.  After breakfast, we have 12 hours of daylight to complete our daily goal since, in June, the sun sets after 9P on Prince Edward Island .  We want this ride to be more than chalking up miles; we want it to be about the people of PEI we meet.

All winter, we’ve been working out at the Coastal Fitness gym in Kittery, Maine three to five times per week.  We elevate our heart rates and build endurance on recumbents, treadmills, and ellipticals.  Will that be enough?  We shall see.

I’ve learned from a Confederation Trail blogger that there are no hills on the trail.  It is a former railway bed so there is no grade above 2%.  That sounds very doable.

Hannah on the Trail

Hannah on the Trail

So some questions that remain:

You two are not backpackers, you wouldn’t sleep in a tent unless you lost a bet, and you would never share close quarters with others at a hostel, shelter, or lean-to.  So where are you staying?

True, true, and true.  Truth be told, we are soft.  We have no interest in roughing it.   Picture this.  Each night after a day on the trail, we will have a warm shower followed by a fine red to toast this day and the next.  That night we slumber in a queen bed.  Come morning, breakfast will be served before another day in the saddle.

How will you have a car waiting for you at the end of your ride?

Our friend Bill from New Brunswick, Canada will follow us in his car to the east end of the island (East Point).    We will park our car there; then load our bikes on his car and drive with him to the other end of the island (North Cape).

What if it rains? 

It rains.  We suck it up and deal with it.  Heavy rain?  We pause.  Light rain we pedal and thank our lucky stars we have the health, the time, the wherewithal, and each other to make this trip.  Ponchos will be our fashion statement.

Bring on the rain!

Bring on the rain!

How will you take all your gear?

We have panniers, saddle bags for our bikes; we’ll wear no backpacks.  We’ll line the panniers with plastic in case of rain.  Dressed in bike shorts, dry-fit shirts, and bike shoes, we’ll have light clothes to change into each evening.  It’s only three days.

Panniers make the Man

Panniers make the Man

What will you do for food?

Breakfasts will be at the B and B each morning.  We plan to stop each noon in a pub to be served a recreational beverage and a tasty sandwich.  Evenings we’ll order take out (Hannah’s partial to Chinese while I love anything with tomato sauce), and just chill at the B and B.

Will you take your laptop to record the days’ events for the over60hiker blog?

My phone will be my entire photo-journalism toolkit.  I’ll use the Siri and voice recognition software on my iPhone to record my impressions and observations and take still pictures and videos throughout the day.

How is Hannah’s leg?

She says she’s 96% of normal.  Of course, normal for Hannah is off the charts for most others eligible for Medicare.   Walking downstairs is a little slow going, but all in all, she’s been exercising all winter and recently biking our country roads with no pain.

Hannah is ready for action!

Hannah is ready for action!

What have you done to prepare your bicycles?

Each bike has been tuned up and a new chain installed.  We have spare tubes and extra water bottles.  We’ve purchased a dual bike pump for our tires.

In the end we are interested to see just how resourceful we are.  We’ll rely on our problem-solving and people-meeting skills to deal with any issues.

Can’t wait.

We learn the ropes of life by untying its knots.
Jean Toomer

I’ve never made a mistake. I’ve only learned from experience.
Thomas A. Edison

PEI map 2

Dan Has Another Good Book for You – Quiet by Susan Cain (#1)

Ever feel that things just aren’t right in a group you are in?  You are not very satisfied with the interaction and your lack of participation.  You have little voice and soon conclude that you aren’t nearly as smart or as interesting as the others.  You think, no wonder no one wants to know what I think.

Clearly there could be a lot of reasons why you might feel that way; but for me, Susan Cain’s Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking provides insights for me as I navigate with the people of my days.  I never thought that being an introvert could explain the dis-ease I sometimes have in large groups and with some folks.

Quiet title and Susan

You might be thinking, Dan, my good man, you an introvert?  You taught for years.  You had to stand up in front of the class.  In retirement, you are a rounder at York Hospital who just knocks on patients’ doors, goes in to meet these strangers, and talks with them.  You’ve led many literacy workshops where you stand up in front of 50 to 100 teachers.  Introvert?  Please.

Well, let’s take each example one by one.

Have you ever been in a class I’ve taught?  I never lectured.  I was just not comfortable standing and delivering; my university classes were experiential in nature.  That is, my students participated in experiences that approximated what they would do in the public school classroom.  For example, I had students teach actual reading strategies to their classmates that they would use with public school students.

Rounding?  Once I am in the hospital room, I was in conversation with the patient.  That is a classic hallmark of an introvert – one to one interaction.

Leading workshops?  I knew if I was going to make my way as a teacher leader I had to get beyond my preference for small groups and share my passion with larger groups.  I became a Pretend Extrovert (Cain’s term) for an hour or two to share what was important to me.

Susan Cain’s Quiet has given me a lens to make sense of my world in many ways where I can feel the misfit, not being one who is outspoken or always quick with a ready and witty comment.

Ever had such unease?

Perhaps these questions will get you thinking about yourself on the introvert/extrovert continuum.

Do you ever go to a meeting and think, I’ve got to say something so it’s not so obvious I am not speaking up at all? If you are like me, you do it regularly.  Once I was on a church committee of 20 and rarely said boo at the monthly two hour meetings.  When we infrequently met in small sub-groups, I felt that I had a voice.  At campus-wide faculty meetings of 50 or more at the University of New England, I sat quite passively taking in all that was said but not participating.   Not once in eight years did I speak up at those meetings.  I soon stopped going.  In the Education Department, where five, six, or seven of us met, I felt more comfortable speaking up.

Do you ever spend a lot of time just listening to others who talk and talk?  No matter how interesting someone is, I get bored if I am not engaged in the conversation.  My mind wanders and I’m planning my exit strategy.   I need dialogue not monologue.  Introverts like to develop their relationships in twos, threes, and fours.

Do you ever get frustrated that the Extrovert Ideal (Cain’s term) is held up in our society as the goal for one and all?  For too long, I thought I should just try harder to be out there, more animated, more expressive, talk more.  Research shows that extroverts are perceived as being smarter, better looking, more interesting, and more desirable as friends.  Who wouldn’t want to be an extrovert if those are the assumptions people make?

The research is that one out of two or three people is an introvert.  In my experience I think that estimate is low.  Or it could be that I hang around with more introverts?

So what is an extrovert?  How does that differ from an introvert?

Extroverts tend to be gregarious, alpha, and comfortable in the spotlight.  They prefer action, risk taking, and being certain.  They love socializing in groups.  They are the ones you love to invite to a party.  They are rarely at a loss for words.  Extroverts tell stories and can dominate any pairing or large group they are in.  They joyfully barrel through their days.

Extrovertism is often seen as an appealing trait, but it can be seen as an oppressive standard for introverts.  Just because they are good talkers doesn’t mean extroverts are always the ones with the best ideas.  Often introversion is seen as a second class trait, somewhere between disappointment and pathology.

Introverts tend to ask more questions and listen.  They like meeting in pairs and small groups.  They can work slowly and deliberately.  They devote their social energies to close friends, colleagues, and family.  They tend to dislike conflict.

Cain is not suggesting you are either one or the other.  We all fall somewhere on the introversion/ extroversion spectrum.   She does not hold up introversion as the ideal.  Introverts and extroverts can learn from each other and can each modify their own behavior.

What she suggests is that an introvert can play the role of the extrovert as necessary, the Pretend Extrovert.  If we have personal projects or work that is important to us, or really anything that we value highly, we can step out of our comfort zone to be successful in the extrovert’s world.  For example, if you as an introvert want to influence the environmental policy of your town or state, take all the opportunities you can to speak in public to prepare yourself for sharing your passion with a wider audience.

As one on the introvert side of the continuum, I have some thoughts for extroverts:

  1. Be yourself.  We introverts are inspired by your energy, passion, and less cautious approach to life.   We marry you.  Opposites do attract.
  2. “Read” the group you are in and consciously include everyone in the conversation.  We have more to contribute than you know.

By the way

I listened to the CD of Quiet on a driving trip back and forth from Maine to New Jersey.  Kathe Mazur, the reader of Quiet, is amazing and I hung on her every word.  She’s pleasing to the ear.  In Maine, you can borrow the CD through inter-library loan.

Check out this 20 minute lecture for TED that Susan Cain gave to catch a snapshot of Quiet.

Teachers:  Check out Chapter 11 to have you rethink your approach in the classroom.  Is there enough individual time as well as small and large group time in your class?  Does one type of discourse dominate your classroom?

Cain’s book blew me away and encouraged me to be proactive so as to be heard in a world that just can’t stop talking.  Check out her website.

Quiet intro and extro