(half-installment—more to come)
ANOTHER WORD WE use is randonnée.
It’s basically the same thing as “brevet,”
a self-supported ride over long distance,
which means we can’t get personal assistance
except at checkpoints, which we call controles.
In France, they use the circumflex: contrôles.
Americans delete the e: controls.
I guess in 1337 it would be spelled <0И72Ω135,
which is a forcéd rhyme, but irregardless:
Don’t ever ride away from controles cardless
(your brevet card is what bears the initials
of volunteers, employees, or officials
who verify that you were there, and when),
or—not that I’ve done this one time or ten—
you’ll have to turn around when realizing
you didn’t get it signed: Quelle surprising!
Most often, randonnée means one refers
to a “Grand Randonnée,” the ride that lures
the toughest or the craziest, or both,
who, ravenlike, will tend, after, to quoth
a steely Nevermore, but like that bird,
are also known to overuse the word.
What’s in it for the raven? No one knows.
All that rapping tapping tapping, then it goes
repeating its one oath: Never again!
which sounds as though this really is the end—
but then it won’t shut up! So “nevermore?”
Uh huh…you know, I’ve seen this bird before,
and I’d say it’s a safe bet to ignore
whatever it declares. (If you’re Lenore,
STOP SENDING BIRDS! He misses you, okay?)
Grand Randonnées: They run 1200K.
The famous one is PBP, brevet
of lunatics, la crème de la très wack,
which runs from Paris, out to Brest, and back.
So my little 200’s a lark
(speaking of birds), a ramble in the park,
about as worthy of mostly-iambic
mostly-pentameter as the Atlantic
is full of porcupines. But stick around—
Antagonist must outmatch, pound for pound,
the hero, which means Hero can be scaled
way down to match some small test he’ll have failed
spectacularly, prior to the curtain,
unless endowed by Creator with certain
innate convenient traits as he narrates—
plus simple and complex carbohydrates.
Will that be the case here? Stay tuned and see!
When last we left me, I’d begun Leg 3:
BR @ SS & BL TL.
The stripe was somewhere up ahead—not swell,
but neither was it fatal. While I’d sat
and eaten, it had slid ahead with that
inevitable movement towards the end
that perfect stories have, seemingly penned
to lie along magnetic lines of force.
As riders move along a brevet course,
their reasons for continuing may shift.
The bodies pedal; minds will often drift
to songs and nemeses, or emptiness,
mistakes, regrets, and failures to impress,
and lovely moments, things somebody said,
family, friends, and lovers, living, dead,
and otherwise; the mind ranges much wider
than can the truest bike and strongest rider
until something recalls it—in this case
a mileage. On each course, there is a place,
a physical location, not a time,
where ridden and to ride exactly rhyme:
A half-inch farther, and the fastest way
to get home is to finish the brevet.
Now, in most cases, this won’t quite be true:
one half may have more climbing, or too few
paved roads (or too much gravel or chipseal),
which makes the midway-point conceit not real—
but when there’s nothing left to gain by quitting,
a useful fiction helps in recommitting.
And recommitting to one’s fiction’s useful.
I hadn’t meant to stop here (to be truthful,
my favorite moment starts right at this point),
but though I really hate to disappoint
you three weirdos who think bike poems are cool,
I need to PAUSE for now and hope that you’ll
forgive me, but I have to spend this time
on quite a different bike story in rhyme.
RIDE 2 needs to be out in late November
so you can buy twelve copies in December,
and that means I must put this one aside—
but only for a while. For now, I RIDE…