Symphony Bicicleta – July 2023

First Movement

La Familia
To the edge of town we ride along this winding river, through gnat-filled forests, over bridges that dodge the morning commutes. Breakfast at a familiar diner busy with ribbon-wearing war vets and regulars, then farewells to a buddy who navigates me each year to the start of this tale. Past cows, horses, pigs and more cows, fields of corn, by mailboxes with clever designs. Silos of corn. Roadkill large and small plastered to the asphalt in various stages of morbid decay. American flags abound tell me the wind.
Nighttime thunderstorms cool the air as hungry mosquitoes buzz outside my simple tent. The morning is clear as I pedal over the Chippewa and streams too many to name. By the evening I arrive at the timeless Trempealeau Hotel on the Mississippi as locals with guitars gather for songs, laughs and beers.

I rise with the sun to venture over wetlands forgotten save for the cranes, robins, yellow finches, redwing blackbirds and blue herons. A hundred miles of trail to ride with tunnels, old bridges and rail stations from long ago. Nervous rabbits endlessly scamper across the trail. Through quiet small towns where even the bars seem asleep I pedal.

Camping in Elroy with my sis and her pooches as we eat, drink and marvel at our rain-free luck. One more day on farm roads, climbing then flying down these rolling hills and glens dodging more rain to then but roll into my brother’s crib, not far from where I was born.

Second Movement

Continental Divide
I hear trombones and french horns.
Stacked fifths.
Parallel motion like a moose crossing the road.
Earth tilted so that streams can sing and dance.
Strings on a unison line with leaps unknown.
A solo trumpet hands off to a flute.
Timpani rolls.
Octaves call out a forgotten
Blackfoot melody to an open unending sky.

Third Movement

I see Meriwether Lewis in the rear view mirror driving a big rig, horn a blastin’ down Interstate 84. His sidekick Clark riding shotgun. Eyes bloodshot, he pulls a long draw on the flask. Back to the scene, two hundred years in the future as a bird of prey unknown soars high above.

The Columbia Gorge once sang a fine tune. Now it is the never-ending hum of the Interstate and the trains that clamber up and down this geological miracle, shaped by glaciers, volcanos and spastic floods building bridges to the gods.

Fires now burn the hairs that grow like fur on the ranges leaving only gray pointy sticks from once verdant pine. Hike up the canyons, the blackberries now just ripe while the timeless waterfalls wash the modern madness away like cymbals crashing persistent.


Paul Lyons - Adventure Cyclist

July I spent traveling around three regions of the United States primarily by bicycle. The Midwest and the 300 mile ride from Minneapolis to Madison, much on rail-to-trail paths. Glacier Mountain Park and East Glacier to West Glacier. Portland to the Columbia River Gorge. I traveled between regions with an Amtrak Rail Pass ($499) which worked great. You can get your bike on the train ride for $20. Just remember when you get off the train, you get your bike directly from the baggage car not at the baggage terminal!

The writing above is my summary of these travels. I saw some amazing country and met some truly remarkable people.

A Stitch In Time

A Stitch In Time is now playing at the Pelican Cafe.

It is a song about the 6th Mass extinction otherwise known as the Holocene extinction. Oceans did sing to the sunsets. And once a whale did swim by.  That’s all you get. Just a stitch in time.

A Stitch In Time

There was a day
Not so long ago
The sun did rise
To the East

That’s all you get
Just a stitch in time
Dilly dally
And it does fly

And then the sun
Kissed the Mission
And found a friend
In the fog

That’s all you get
Just a stitch in time
Dilly dally
And it does fly

Oceans did sing
To the sunsets
And once the whales
Did swim by

That’s all you get
Just a stitch in time
Dilly dally
And it does fly

Don’t feel so bad
It’s happened before
Haven’t you heard
There’s bees.

Paul Lyons 8/2022

Johnnie Gibbson’s Hammer

Johnnie Gibbson’s Hammer

Who are you?
One who’s house I resurrect
From this unbelievable grime.
Only an optimist would be fool enough.
“The roof is leaking,” you must have said.
Up a ladder you went with carpet and 5 gallon buckets of tar
Many times I know, the roofers covered in that black tar,
With blank stares of disbelief.
Hatchets swinging down on the black gooey bed.
That tar that ended up everywhere.
In the drain in the back yard.
Excavated with a metal rod,
Blows to the concrete and iron pipes,
To the handiwork of the 1940’s,
When this structure came into being.
Repaired with credit at “Home Depot.”
Plastic pipes and tools for scraping.
I think I see floors.
A few steps an hour under the
Knee pads covered in the red dust that was a carpet pad.
I see the fog out on the ocean and mindlessly listen to baseball games,
Hoping for extra innings to prolong the company.

“The roof is leaking.”
The ceilings are dripping.
The floor is getting wet.
“More Black Jack and carpet tommorow.”
A great sense of humor you must have had.
The carpet wet to your ankles,
You made your way to the basement,
Holding firm to the bannister on the right,
Then the railing’s end at the bottom,
To the sanctuary in the basement.

Rebuilding cars.
Engines in the downstairs study
One surely under the stairs.
Oil on the concrete – like a birthmark.
The spiders down here I battle with newspapers rolled.
In their stubborn retreats they seem too wise for this simple execution.
These hundreds must go.
They pay not the mortgage but only watch the shadows.
Nuts and bolts in every crevice.
A radiator hose.
A rusted pully.
Endless useless parts.

The sanctuary overflowed to the thickets in the backyard.
Car doors.
Auto glass that grew like clover.
A gas tank like a torpedo.
Huge rusted grates, for rabbits we suppose.

“The roof is leaking.”
Johnnie you were not alone.
A rat holed up behind the tools.
His nest was dry.
He left when you did – I hope.
The mice in the kitchen had free reign too.
They left their trail.
Remedied with toxicity – bleach and trisodium phospate.

A latch on every door.
You were careful in your later years.
The family must have visited often.
You distrusted them no doubt.
I wonder who it was that came
On that day to find you after your last breath.
Perhaps an automotive project on the floor.
Dishes in that nasty sink.
I’m certain you passed away here.
Self-sufficient to the end,
Your truck parked down the street for weeks after.
The tickets came in the mail.

I ‘ve thrown out most of the 50 years.
The old sports cards from the 40’s, a vacuum away under the study,
shed light on earlier days and occupents.
I have kept those as mementos.
Most everthing was hauled off by Marcos, the amazing roofer, to the dump.

Your hammer is still here.
I saved that for the jobs to be done.
Top quality,
It is broken in perfectly.
After days of pulling out 3 inch nails from the walls,
Swearing under my breath, I find it in the basement, in the rubble I know not where.
In a stupor I was.
Time oblivious.
Yet a more perfect weight hammer I have not known.
Wrapped in leather lace.
Solid steel both head and handle.
Weighted like a clock
Weathered the years it tells of a right handed owner.
Slight bend to the left.
It falls with even blows.
With each swing
I shake your hand.

Paul Lyons
June 2004

Kitaro Nishida Quote from McLaren Park

Thinking has its own laws. It functions of its own accord and does not follow our will. To merge with the act of thought – that is, to direct one’s attention to it – is voluntary, but I think perception is the same in this respect: we are able to see what we want to see by freely turning our attention towards it.

Kitaro Nishida