Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Of Mice And Men And Zucchini, or, “A Bike Ride to the Book Barn in Deep Summer” - by Guest Blogger Bill

Beth is in the Rain Forests of Costa Rica this week, and has asked our very own Mistah Schleckah to fill in as Guest Blogger.

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Preparing for my bike ride to the Book Barn is more exhausting than the ride. I’ve got my helmet and riding gloves and I’m unlocking my bike from the deck, but I forget my sunglasses. I run back inside, grab the glasses, run back out to the bike. I’m ready! Except I forget to fill my water bottle. I run back inside, fill the bottle, run back outside and now I’m really ready – except that I left the sunglasses next to the sink while filling the bottle. I run back in and retrieve the glasses from the sink and return to the bike. Wait! Where’s my wallet? I go inside again and spend the next 10 minutes rummaging through my clothes. Finally, bike and backpack are set.

When Beth asked me to be a guest blogger, many ideas came to mind, but today is one of the hottest days of the summer, with sticky humidity, so what better thing to do than take a cruise along the water. My book-collecting passion is keeping me in shape this summer. One of the greatest used book stores in the country (with an incredible combination of quality, quantity and price) is about seven miles from our house, so in an effort to save gas, keep the beer gut down to size, and never miss a deal, I ride to the Book Barn at least several times a week. Today I’m bringing the camera so you can come along. I dedicate this blog to my friend Jan Rueb who lives in Alpine, Texas. Jan and I have gone on several rides together in the Davis Mountains of Far West Texas, marveling at the stark beauty of the Chihuahuan desert.

But Jan has never seen the Connecticut Ellie and I grew up with – the Connecticut we’ve now reconnected with thanks to our little house in New London. So, here we go. A few twists and turns through the neighborhood...

I love the homes around here.

I love the dappled summer sunshine and the alternate patches of shade along my route.

I’m taking these pictures while I ride so I hope I don’t crash into anything.

OK, I’ve got to stop here for a self-portrait.

And here – can’t pass up a veggie stand….

A giant zucchini for a buck? On the coffee-can honor system. Gotta love it.

And Jan, look at this New England stone wall…

I hug the shore and the water comes into view…

The route zig-zags inland just a bit and look at this little pond with baby catfish…

Onward…This is the Babe Ruth baseball field that I played on as a teen-ager. I made the All-Star team. I also struck out to end the game that eliminated Waterford from the tournament, so let’s ride on.

God that zucchini is weighing me down.
I should have noted that we’ve already crossed from New London into Waterford (where I grew up). Now we’re riding over the Niantic River into the town of East Lyme….

This is the village of Niantic.

And check out the Mermaid on the package store sign….

Only one mile to go. Yep, there it is. The Book Barn…

This is the entrance area at the “Barn,” where, on busy weekends, literally hundreds of people come with boxes and boxes of books. A store employ evaluates the books, accepts some, rejects others, and then the customer gets a choice of cash or store credit for the books the Barn wants to keep.

Here’s the owner, Randi White, doing what he does best…

I used to work here, so I know everyone. After a few hellos, I make my usual rounds through the buildings, looking to see what new treasures I can find. All the new arrivals pass through this shed at the front of the store. It’s part of “Ellis Island.” Get it?

Eventually Randi’s crack staff moves the books to their appropriate sections. I tend to wander into the building called the Annex where most of the hardcover fiction is found. The store has something like 300,000 books in many different buildings and two locations, so it’s impossible to see everything.

Hey, look at this….

OK, I pay for the book and stuff Steinbeck in with the zucchini.

My friend “T” at the Barn suggests I make zucchini canoes – cut the vegetable the long way, scoop out the seeds, fill each piece with spicy rice, sprinkle cheese on top, then bake it. I take this under advisement, but right now my legs are stiffening up and I’m not drinking enough water. We better get going if I’m going to make the ride home.
Back over the Niantic River and look – the railroad draw bridge is up.

Looking straight down from the bridge I can see the lobster boats.

This is classic summer weather. I’m drenched in sweat. We’ll take a different shore route back to the house. We’ll follow Shore Road in Waterford. Great beach houses down this way. These people have a grass tennis court in their back yard.

I’ve seen wild turkey and deer along this stretch. Today I spy these guys…

Watch out kids – zucchini-toting guest blogger on wheels with camera, coming through….

Back into New London and the final cruise to home along Pequot Avenue….Gotta love the lighthouse….

Must be close to home now – there’s our friendly crane at the submarine factory on the Groton side of the Thames River….

The last few turns through the neighborhood . . .

. . . and that’s it: back at the house.

I’m totally over-heated and tired but what a great ride. You can’t take these days for granted. They’re almost too hot and almost too sticky, but they’ll be gone before we know it. Sometime late next month someone will notice the first leaves starting to turn. But we don’t need to worry about that now. We just rode to the Book Barn. We’ve got Steinbeck and Zucchini …

And a garden hose…..Ahh!! Here’s to summer!


Anonymous said...

Well helloooo Mistah! Thanks for the great guest blog, what a lovely photo tour through the hood. I cracked up at your first paragraph, and how you ran in so many times. I can clearly see it.

Cant wait to see you guys next week!

Anonymous said...

Mistah, I love this! Great job. I felt like I was right on that bikeride with you. If *I* had taken photos while biking to the Book Barn, the photos would have been of my legs up in the air, my elbows bent at odd angles, and my skin with a serious case of road rash. So, well done blogging and taking photos whilst riding. You're a superstar.

Anonymous said...

Greetings from Michigan! Loved your guest spot Bill and can't wait to read the rest. I'd sure like to spend a day at that book store... right up my alley. Hope we can make it over to visit you at the new place one of these days. Just a hop, skip and a few jumps from Gregory.

Anonymous said...

You are a superstar,Mistah! Thanks for the great guest blog. Great fun to read! I would write more, but I gotta tell you all, the beers from today combined with this central american keyboard is more than I can handle!

Miss you guys!

JS said...

Bill, you are one lucky som'bitch! You're living the life that all good people who share my views on life want to live. Somehow, you managed not only to want to live that life, you're in the midst of doing it. Write a how-to book about it and you'll be a happy pauper with a small but fanatical following.

Anonymous said...

Billy, (oh, sorry, did y'all know that at one time Mistah Schleckah was known as Billy?) Great blog - glad to see that you still have that doo-dah in your step... We need to come visit to see the 'hood first hand.

Anonymous said...

Interesting to know.