There is a 100-mile linked-trail system in central Iowa: long stretches and loops of trails by rivers, through corn fields, soybean fields, prairie, parks, woods, small towns, and Des Moines, the capital. The scenery is undramatic but gently green after a solid week of rain. My spirit is decidedly damp.
There are even touristy things to do by bicycling standards. You can eat disgusting fried food, delicious ice cream, or pie a la mode at diners in Adel, Redfield, and Panora. You can stop at Angie’s Tea Room in Jefferson or lie down on a bench in a picnic shelter in Linden. You can go wild in Des Moines or Madrid (pronounced Mad-rid) at pubs on the trail. You can, under duress from your husband, bike to Yale (not the university) and camp in a park not far from that tiny town.
Well, today I did none of the above. I whizzed down hills, rode past lakes and rivers, and took a reading break by the river.
The countryside is ungroomed, but I found a pleasant place to contemplate the river. I took the thermos out of my pannier and drank tea while I read a bit of my latest e-book, Miranda K. Pennington’s A Girl Walks into a Book: What the Brontës Taught Me about Life, Love, and Women’s Work.
This is the Year of the Bronte bibliomemoir: earlier I read and was disappointed by Samantha Ellis’s Take Courage: Anne Bronte and the Art of Life, but I’m not far enough into Pennington’s light book to make a judgment. I will say this: combining Bronte biography, criticism, and memoir is a challenge for Ellis and Pennington.
Pennington has a light touch and has read Jane Eyre over and over since childhood. She informs us:
These days I reread Jane Eyre once a year, and take doses of the others as necessary. Sometimes I consult them like an oracle or a Magic 8 Ball—I open to a random page and see what they have to say; it’s an idiosyncratic art of bibliomancy, a kind of sortes brontënae.
Eventually I put away my book and rode on. I’m always in the zone when the trail is flat.
And then I came to the underpass. Flooded, of course. I should have known.
I ignored the Trail Closed sign. So many Trail Closed signs, and so often there is no need. I walked my bike past the sign and looked in dismay. Well, it was flooded, but the water didn’t look TOO deep. Surely I’d ridden through worse?
I had not.
It was shallow for a turn of the wheel and then SPLASH! I was almost swimming.
But a second later, before I had to abandon my bike, I was through. My stretch pants were soaked four inches above my ankles, but I kept riding, riding, riding. Once home I jumped into the bathtub and washed off all the pollutants (I hope).
And I’ll never bike through a river again. Don’t do it!
And now I’m going to read my book!
NOTE TO SELF: Write nothing about the Brontes in bibliomemoir-in-progress because the Bronte market is saturated. In fact, scrap the bibliomemoir, because the bibliomemoir market is saturated. Turn the whole thing into an (a) novel, or (b) imitation of Horace’s Ars Poetica. Publish it in a spiral at Kinkos and distribute to relatives. This is how my family published The Kinfolk Cookbook and many other strange family books.