In the parking lot of the EconoLodge in Oconto, WI, on Wednesday, the day of my rescue, I received a phone call from a lifelong friend, who told me of the four mosquito bites he got on his back and how because they he is allergic, they had each swelled to “the size of quarters” and the agony broke him down to a point, he admitted, with great embarrassment, that he decided to whimper. He made a conscious decision to whimper and then, he whimpered. My friend is a mensch. It was quite a confession. Understanding that only puppies can whimper without a precipitous loss of dignity, we laughed our heads off.
Next I found I had shared the Econo Lodge with a man and a woman couple, both hard-core adventure cyclists. The only reason they had lowered their standards to slum it in a motel instead of sleeping in a tent or under the stars was that the woman had suffered over 100 mosquito bites—these were the kind of people who count—leaving the impression that, with only 97 mosquito bites, they would have stuck to their camping.
I mentioned something vaguely about fires on the Santa Fe Trail (which is bike-able) and they pulled out their catalog of “fires on the trail” stories. They described one in Eureka, MT, another narrowly avoided escapade when fires ravaged Napa Valley in Northern California a few years back as they tooled down Highway 1, a third in Arizona where they were surrounded by fire and smoke and the only other traffic on the road was due to firefighters advancing to a blaze ahead. Did I mention they were hard core?
They had a daunting amount of luggage (no trailer). I really, really wanted to count the spokes on their wheels. I demurred. It seemed indelicate. Recalling an old expression, I said they were “packed for bear.”
“Oh, no! We don’t want any bears,” they said.
Around 11:00 AM, my daughter, Allison, arrived in her Honda Fit. When she opened the back lid of the hatchback, I saw immediately what she had tried to explain. Honda didn’t put a cargo area in the back of the Fit. The built in a cavern. There were no further questions about capacity.
Allison drove to and fro, almost 500 miles, without complaint even while suffering her father’s newly minted war stories. Talk about a trooper! Her only sign of weakness was breaking down and buying a can of Starbucks cold-brew nitro coffee on her non coffee day though in truth she can’t be faulted. I goaded her into it.
She made me promise several times over to seek treatment. She paid for the gas. She bought the Subway sandwiches. She wouldn’t let me do anything but convalesce. At one point, she allowed we were rippling along the highway at 80 miles an hour. I thought, “that’s fine”. Already I knew, she’d pay for the ticket.