by Ed Chasteen
Steve leads us out. Twenty-five miles of hills rise and fall between our start here at Biscari Brothers Bicycles in Liberty and our waiting tables at Lowman’s Café in Smithville. By happy coincidence on this best day of this young year, we also have 25 riders, our best numbers to date in 2010. I’ll ride the route another day. This day my sole ambition is to arrive quickly at Lowman’s to secure the appointed tables. They are expecting us and will try to hold the tables. But this is a popular breakfast place. Tables most mornings don’t sit empty for long.
When I drive up, the parking lot in front is full. I find a place in back and hurry inside. It’s 8:20. I’d told them to expect us at 9:30. The round table far to my right is our prize; the smaller square tables nearby, also ours. All are occupied. I take a seat just inside the door. “You’re early,” the woman-who-will-be-our-waitress says. I order coffee and pull out Newjack, the book I’ve brought to read as I surreptitiously survey the tables. When one across from me and closer to the round table comes vacant I pick up my coffee cup and move to it.
Newjack is the name given by inmates to new prison guards and the title given by Ted Conover to his book about the year he spent as a prison guard at Sing Sing Prison in New York My first teaching job was teaching illiterates to read and write in the Texas State Prison in Huntsville. I grew up in that town. The warden’s son was my classmate. I studied criminology in college. But I don’t get many pages read as I move from table to table, drawing closer to the round table. At 9:10 the two women at the round table stand to leave. They walk past me. I make my move. The table is mine. I leave my cup on the table I’ve just abandoned, marking my territory. Our waitress puts a reserved sign on another table as folks leave.
Diana and David also drive today and are the first to arrive. Diana’s recent knee surgery keeps them both off their bikes. Not much longer though. But to sit around the table and see old friends any knee will do. The round table and three nearby squares soon overflow with hungry bikers and excited conversations. Eighteen of us have made it. Lyle had a flat and was called home. Some had to beat it back for other duties. Anne, Bill and Mark have come for the first time to ride with us.
I pass the sign up sheet among us as we talk. This was the order of signing today: Craig Welk, Steve Hanson, Rodger Suchman, David Vansickle, Diana Vansickle, Rob Sloan, Tony Weil, Bill Clark, Nichole Ahlers, Edward Robb, Mark Heit, Anne Altorfer, David Eaton, Kevin Tyler, Greg Snodgrass, Bill Hessel, Ed Chasteen, Sharon Hanson. Sharon drove here to take back one of us who recently had some heart work done.
Next Saturday we begin our ride at the Christian Church in Ferellview and ride to Harmer’s Café in Edgerton, a 35 mile round trip on mostly flat Interurban Road. We start at 8 AM. Hope you can come.