Wednesday, April 25, 2007

El Toro Negro, April 23/24

Two days ago I knocked out 32 miles at about 14 mph, which I thought was pretty good. For an old fat man.

Yesterday I drove to the Gettysburg National Military Park and rode 11 or 12 miles around the place. Averaged about 8, but that's just the lollygagging. All those plaques to read.

I must say, it was a perfect biking experience. You're far more likely to stop and read just any old thing if you are on two wheels than if you are on (or in) four. And, coming back down from Little Round Top, I managed to hit about 35 mph, which is pretty fast if you are on a bicycle.

I think the fastest I've ever gone on a bicycle is just over 40 miles an hour. My thinking this time, coming down the hill at a stern clip, was that if I died here, at least my blood would fall on hallowed ground, mingling with that of my Virginia and New York brothers.

It was a comforting thought. Glad it didn't happen.

And of course, the thing that hits you the hardest when you visit Gettysburg is the unbelievable distance of flat open ground between where Pickett's men left the trees on Seminary Ridge and the Copse of Trees on Cemetary Ridge--the target of their assault. In retrospect, it seems like a bad idea. Turns out it was.

All of which makes all the more amazing the fact that some of my Virginia brothers actually made it. General Lewis Armistead (actually a Tarheel) died there, at what is often called the high water mark for the Confederacy. His charges were then repulsed and the Union, as we now know it, was preserved.

In addition to the urn containing my father's ashes I just received from the funeral home, they also handed me a small velvet pouch containing a baggie filled with perhaps two ounces of ash. Funeral home jargon for this auxiliary package is a "hold-back." The things you learn...

Anyway, by sprinkling some of them into the Plum Creek (the creek that runs through much of the battlefield), I've begun what I fondly call the Allen Raymond Memorial Sprinkling Tour. Next up is the Peter McManus Cafe, then somewhere in Barnegat Bay, likely the Atlantic Ocean, Central Park, and pretty much wherever else I figure he'd have gotten a kick out of getting sprinkled. The Catskills, perhaps.

In about two weeks, as part of the 5-Boro Bike Tour team sponsored by the now defunct Mammoth Group, I'll be at the top of the Verrazanno Bridge staring out at New York Harbor. Usually I just hock a loogy. This time, I think I'll toss some of Dad into the abyss.

One of the good things about spending so much time with a man who knew he was dying was that we discussed a number of items one might not ordinarly touch on. My sprinkling tour was one of them. He said, essentially, that I should spread him about liberally (him being a life-long Democrat); that he liked the idea of covering a wide area. He was also amused by the Keith Richards incident although specifically requested that I spare him that indignity.

So that's the plan.

Here, by the way, is a photograph of George Pickett. His eyes share their extravagantly sad lines with my boy, Richard Grasso.



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