nice great success…

“nice great success…”

What wonderful words to see first thing on my trek around the Cooper River. I thought to myself, “Wow! It’s so awesome to see such a positive message coming from today’s graffiti artists!” But then I made the mistake of Googling the words to see what came up…

nice

Borat…I loathe him. He is the most disgustingly foul and negative little man that ever flashed across a movie screen. Choosing to pretend I never looked it up, I’d rather continue believing there are people out there creating random acts of artistic kindness who want to help the world around them feel good about life once in awhile…

Otherwise, the graffiti wall has grown layers of colorful messages over the summer…

…an old dying tree had a few things to say before it goes – tree hieroglyphics, perhaps…

…and my shadow decided to climb the dead tree…

Overall, it was a nice little ride on a beautiful blue-sky day.

Thinking about random acts of kindness, I had a discussion with one of the owners of the local liquor store about truth, honesty and idealism. This particular friend loves to play with my naivete. One of the first conversations I had with him, he told me he was on his fifth wife and had a multitude of children from various different women – and I “believed” him (he’s been married to the same woman for decades and they have three kids together). Over the past eight years, I’ve “learned” to take whatever he says with a grain of salt. Our discussion began with him showing me a “cheap $3.99 a bottle kosher rose wine” he just got in and said was “the best one I’ve ever had.” His greatest gift is that he can bull shit like no other and keep a completely straight face – that’s when he catches me. And, of course, he loves laughing at my gullibility and lets me off the hook (mostly because I’m probably his best customer). I explained to him of my belief that most human beings are decent, honest people, to which he mockingly chuckled and proceeded to show me a video of the guy who tried to rip off the store last night. I was surprised when he told me how often it happens – hence his belief that most people are stupid and dishonest. I get it – as a social worker and a lawyer, I and the hubby worked with some truly horrible human beings, leaving us both very cynical about the world around us. But then he started to tell me about the Hurricane Harvey donation drive he volunteered with until late last night. To the point of tears, he told me how overwhelmingly generous people were in helping the victims in Texas – hundred and thousands of dollars worth of items filling two whole semi-trailer trucks! That’s when I asked him again about how sure he was that most human beings aren’t good…and he conceded…random acts of kindness strikes again!

Reminds me of the time my father gave money to a homeless man outside a local Shop Rite store. Dad decided to play spy when the man went into the store, so he could see what the money would be spent on…a package of Oreos. Dad approached the man, told him he was going to buy him lunch, took him to the diner counter inside the store and bought him whatever he wanted – a full blown turkey dinner. Who knows how much it cost (and who cares). Now, when I see people asking for money on the street, I give them food and water. Dad was that human being I know exists in this world…and I hope to live up to his expectations.

I am gullible because idealism resides in my soul. I know I’m not perfect, but positive vibes feel a helluva lot nicer than the negative ones. Give others the benefit of the doubt – walk in their shoes – think about those times you weren’t at your best and how others perceived you. Remember, although we’re all born “pure,” we’re not perfect, but G-d don’t make junk. And smile more – it takes less muscles and creates less wrinkles…and it just feels good.

“Honesty is such a lonely word
Everyone is so untrue
Honesty is hardly ever heard
And mostly what I need from you”

Honesty – Billy Joel

“I had run for 3 years, 2 months, 14 days, and 16 hours.” – Forrest Gump

Time heals all wounds

 “I believe time wounds all heels.” – John Lennon

In my travels over the past week, the old saying of “time heals all wounds” comes to mind for several reasons. The first stems from a number of properties along my various routes that were once controlled by humans but have since been abandoned. After many years of injury and insult, I discovered that our planet has somehow managed to lick and heal its wounds…

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About three or four years ago, the above property was occupied by a house, a manicured lawn and several human beings, but a raging fire burned the house down to the ground and the owners were forced to evict. Over the years I watched as the property was sold several times from one human to the next, the house razed and the lawn gone wild. In a matter of two years, this “property” grew back to its natural state (except for the occasional mow by its current human owner).

In January of this year, I stopped at the former (and now abandoned) miniature golf course along the Cooper River and this is what it looked like…

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This is what it looked like this week…

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…and this is what it looked like when we moved here seven years ago…

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It’s moments like this when I truly believe our beloved planet Earth will repair itself long after we’re gone…and cycling is the only way I would have noticed.

Last Sunday we had perfect weather for a bike ride. I left first thing in the morning and didn’t come home until dinner time. First stop, mom’s favorite market:

That peach was the best peach I’ve ever eaten! When I’m at Johnson’s Corner Farm is when I miss mom the most…but not in a sad way – it’s more like a “DAMMIT, mom would love the produce today! And look at those pies!” My second reason for time heals all wounds – teary eyes are created from happy memories, not necessarily sadness. I always stop here on my route through Burlington County and take a look around…for mom…because I know she’s looking with me.

As I was leaving, I ran into a fellow cyclist and shouted, “The perfect stop!” to which he responded, “I love this stop!” Agreed, my man!

Next door to Johnson’s is Roselli’s Italian Market – yup, that Roselli’s, as in the tomato sauce you see on the shelf in the pasta aisle in Shop Rite…

sauce

Mom used to love shopping here as well. If it was kosher, I’d be buying everything off the shelf! On this trip I discovered that they closed their old shop and opened a new one on the same property. Mom would’ve been so excited!

And their property doubles as farmland…Earth repair thyself!

Next stop, the local Wawa where I met a man and his wife from Bucks County Pennsylvania biking the local trails. As we talked, the husband asked me about riding alone, to which I explained to him my preference to ride alone – I go at my own pace and stop wherever I like, I don’t have to hold conversations or entertain my guests and I can be spontaneous depending on how I feel. At first the husband was agreeable, but quickly turned to the dangers of my lone riding…and, of course, this is the first thing I thought of (mostly because I read her story):

http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=5554692

I also thought of Christopher McCandless – the young man who was the subject of Into the Wild. I read the book after seeing the movie for the first time. Funny thing is that after reading the book and after every time I’ve watched the movie, I’m pissed off that he traveled alone and had no experience whatsoever. Every time I think, “What the f**k was he thinking?!” And then I think about my own lone cycling. What the f**k am I thinking?! Rationale says, “Oh, you know where you are and have the experience to know what you’re doing,” which is true. I’ve had those lone traveling moments as a young adult – moved to Arizona at age 18 with no prospects except Michael’s apartment, met and lived with a drug addict who drained my bank account forcing me to live off my co-workers and friends, returning to New Jersey to live with another addicted person until begging mom to take me back. I subsequently attended University College, Galway at age 22 not knowing a single soul there. Reminds me of a favorite hand-me-down tee shirt I had that represented my life over the past years – #igotthis…worn to the last thread – reason #3 – all great challenges can be overcome in time…

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After asking me where I was heading next (and ignoring fatherly advice), I told the husband and wife that I was thinking of heading to Smithville…and this is what I found:

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Umm…how did this make me feel?!

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September 2015 – My Gump Ride beginning

There’s way too many bridges in need of attention in Burlington County. The road may have been closed, but on a bicycle one could ride the trails and reach the intended destination anyway!

I’ve been to this property on several occasions and find different perspectives every time:

http://www.smithvillemansion.org/

Although the main mansion and adjacent houses are on museum display, a once vibrant community has been abandoned for decades…and the Earth repaired itself once again…

After several hours of hugging the planet and feeling groovy about my carbon footprint, I realized that this was one of those days when I forgot about the the trip home – that’s when the Little Voice takes over to tell me how foolish I am and my body decides to listen to the Little Voice and shut down…

Muscles seizing, hands and feet aching, head spinning and lungs refusing to function as expected, thinking I couldn’t make it home, this is what I saw out of the corner of my eye…

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’nuff said…

In sixteen days the kid will be traveling alone to Israel for the next ten months. She’s been there, done that four times without me (albeit, not as long). Contemplating my life at age 18, I’m not too worried…or so my anxiety tells me…

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Are you open or are you closed?! The kid’s plans change daily at this point. I get why, but by her age I was graduated, working full time, living on my own and facing life’s circumstances head on – paying rent and bills, getting ripped off, living with addiction. And while I was living that life, in a far away land the hubby was in the army…I need to believe she’ll be okay…

I know she’ll figure it out – we all did…which leads me to reason #4 and the purpose of this blog – as I ride Old Bessie, taking photos of my exploits on my crappy smartphone and blogging about my travels, I find that time (and writing) has been helping to heal my wounds…and that cycling has been wounding my heel…

A sense of humor – that’s what it takes to get through the day. Last week a community member’s sister passed from lung cancer. I spoke with him at length about his sister’s ordeal and how difficult it is to watch a human life literally waste away. Calling to ask about providing shiva meals, I asked my friend if anyone eating had any kind of allergies, to which he replied, “Oh, yeah, pork…” I chuckled hesitantly, not sure if he was serious…”and shellfish.” I thanked my friend for breaking the tension and applauded him for his ability to look death in the eye with mocking laughter. Michael would’ve done the same.

“Imagine there’s no countries
It isn’t hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion too
Imagine all the people living life in peace”

Imagine – John Lennon

“I had run for 3 years, 2 months, 14 days, and 16 hours.” – Forrest Gump

“I am Groot!”

The heat has finally subsided and Ole Bessie was begging to go for a ride. I’ve enjoyed looping the river lately and stopping along the way to explore…

First loop: flood trails, parasitic silly string, colorful wildflowers, multitudes of bindweed and skies not quite sure they’re finished with the rain.

Second loop: kids sailing camp, a shoreline that didn’t exist after last week’s flooding, sailboats waiting for their owners to return, the Philly skyline, wild blueberries, bikes owned and bikes for sale.

Out of all these finds, I was fascinated by the “parasitic silly string.” After Googling images for some time, I come to learn that this strange looking organism is known as dodder:

“Dodder is a true parasite that lacks the ability to make its own chlorophyll, so it attaches itself to other plants to steal theirs. It begins life normally, as a seed that germinates in the soil. The brightly neon-colored stem that emerges will die quickly if it can’t reach another plant. But if it does find a victim, it attaches itself to the poor plant, breaks away from its original root system, and digs into the host with tiny root-like structures called haustoria. Then it flourishes as it sucks moisture and nutrients from the host.”

http://www.gardensalive.com/product/dodder-the-parasitic-silly-string-weed/you_bet_your_garden

After reading this, I immediately thought, “That’s what anxiety feels like!” The Bully (as we so fondly refer to it in our household) slowly incubates in the brain waiting for that perfect moment of vulnerability. If ignored properly, The Bully slowly “dies” – at least until it finds the next accessible opportunity. But if allowed to attach itself, The Bully burrows into your brain and absorbs all rational thought. Anxiety is a parasite.

And then there’s Groot…

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On my third and last loop around the river, I caught something in my peripheral vision – a word bubble that appeared to say, “I am groovy.” On close inspection, I recognized it as an old Camden County Park sign, faded and worn, it’s presentation of a tree now leafless and barely recognizable. Sprouting from the leafless tree, the word bubble stated, “I am Groot!” I definitely needed to look this one up!

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Groot

FYI – I’m really out of the whole movie/t.v. loop…I mean really out of it. Not only did I not know about Guardians of the Galaxy, I am absolutely clueless to its cast. For those of you who are as clueless as me, in a nutshell, created by Marvel Comics in 1960, Groot is a strange tree-looking alien who used to abduct humans for experimentation. However, after five decades of earthling research, Groot was reintroduced as a superhero in 2006. According to legend, he is very resilient, having the power to regenerate himself when “killed.” It was believed that Groot had no form of communication because all he ever says is, “I am Groot.” But it was later divulged that his was actually a highly intelligent language that could only be understand as “I am Groot” to those who could not translate (i.e., us dummies). I like this concept – a creature who previously allowed his Bully to take over his entire being to the point that he became The Bully, but through reclamation he managed to overcome and fight back. Groot is you!

So the next time you feel The Bully taking over, just shout out loud, “I AM GROOT!”

(P.S. Ignore the strange looks you may get…keep ’em guessing!)

“I had run for 3 years, 2 months, 14 days, and 16 hours.” – Forrest Gump

 

 

A little local history

Nothing too exciting going on these days. Between the rain, the heat and preparing the kid for her year in Israel, not much bike riding has been happening lately. However, last Sunday the hubby took the kid to Brooklyn and I took Ole Bessie out for a spin.

I decided to stay local and explore some of the parks along the Cooper River, one of which I’ve been hearing about but never visited – Jake’s Place.

https://www.buildjakesplace.org/#ourmission

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Jake died at the age of two as the result of a rare cardiac condition. In honor to his memory, Jake’s family created a specially designed all-inclusive playground that allows children of all abilities to play, regardless of physical limitations. The playground and its surrounding area was jam packed with parents and their kids enjoying the beautiful day.

Jake’s Place is situated within Wallworth Park, named after Joseph Wallworth, a local politician during the early part of the 20th century.

http://www.dvrbs.com/People/CamdenPeople-JosephWallworth.htm

The park also houses Croft Farm, its surrounding buildings, including the Croft Farm Arts Center, Wallworth Pond, Evans Lake, a nature trail and the Kay-Evans House, an 18th-century dwelling situated along the Underground Railroad.

Colorful wildflowers, geese wading on the dam and a sustainable garden with whimsical artwork – I was truly enjoying myself!

The Kay-Evans House is named for the original and subsequent owners, Isaac Kay and Thomas Evans, both of whom farmed the area and ran a mill on the river.

https://www.americantrails.org/nationalrecreationtrails/trailNRT/Croft-Farm-Cherry-Hill-NJ.html

Taking advantage of the perfect weather, I headed to my go-to place…

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There are a number of sculptures dotted along the shoreline that I have often photographed but never researched – a dog pig headed stick figure and the floating shark fins. After some Googling, I soon discovered the local artist who created them, John Giannotti:

http://www.southjerseymagazine.com/articles/?articleid=395

Another building I’ve ridden by numerous times is the Hopkins House, built and owned by a man named Ebenezer Hopkins. Although the Hopkins family is a well-known name in the Haddonfield, New Jersey area, not much is known about the man who lived in this house, but it’s believed to have been his retirement home. More recently, local historians were capable of stopping developers from altering the building, thereby maintaining its antiquity.

Meanwhile, back at the yacht club, the river returned to normal and I got to poke around a few…until I noticed the sign that said, “Members Only!” Oops…

I found a lone wheelchair on one dock and a pair of sneakers on the other outside the boathouse. I’ve always wanted to try kayaking, but my fear of the unknown (or feeling embarrassed due to my sporting ignorance or thinking I’m too fat to fit inside or tipping it over and drowning myself because I can’t turn right-side up or just plain trepidation that has no rational thought whatsoever) always holds me back. Watching the sneakerless kayaker floating down the river as a blue heron glided not 10 feet from her vessel, seeing that wheelchair told me it was time to get over it…

I had a wonderful time alone, just slowly looping around the river for two hours and stopping whenever something caught my eye. Thankfully, the hubby and the kid had a nice day too.

Today was just as beautiful as last Sunday, but we were heading north for my father-in-law’s unveiling. Waking up with the sunrise to get ready, I crept outside to water my flowers in the quiet stillness of the morning air – and then…

Dammit! That sound to me is loudest when I can’t go for a bike ride. I can hear it a mile away. It stops me dead in my tracks, staring enviously at the rider as he passes by. It’s like hearing the ice cream truck caroling up the block but you have no cash or hearing your friends playing joyfully outside your window but you’ve got the flu. Needless to say, this was a day we had planned for almost a year and Ole Bessie would just have to wait until tomorrow…and, of course, it’s supposed to rain…

“So forget all your duties oh yeah
Fat bottomed girls they’ll be riding today
So look out for those beauties oh yeah”

Bicycle Race – Queen

“I had run for 3 years, 2 months, 14 days, and 16 hours.” – Forrest Gump