Bicycling from Home Springs, MO to St. Charles, MO was the most challenging day on tour.
The Readers Digest version has me trying to outrun an approaching storm at 5 a.m. Within 20 minutes I lose badly to Mother Nature, hitch a ride 16 miles to the next city and with rain forecast the entire day I check into a hotel at 6 a.m. Within 20 minutes the rain stops and skies clear and I vow never to stay at Motel 6 again as the night clerk refuses a refund.
Can’t waste the day so I bicycle 37 miles to St. Charles, spend a little time on the Katy Trail before it’s back under a church overhang, waiting out a storm.
That’s where I met Lynne.
She was walking into the church office. “Are you looking for a place, I’ll take you home,” said Lynne eagerly. She was 66-years-old, married for the third time, and a whirl-wind of energy. A former event planner, Lynne was retired and spent the day running errands. Her dog, a Terrier, rode shotgun. “By the time I’m 70 I’ll have made the exact same bike tour as you,” said Lynne. She was confident and a bit wacky. Lynne flitted from flower to flower. “I’m going back to school you know. I never finished the first time because I got married at 18,” she said.
Divorced and married again in her 30s, Lynne said of husband number two, “I fell in love with his British accent.” Years later, Lynne tried her luck again with Rob. “He’s my rock,” she said, taking me home to meet husband number three. “Hon-nee,” she sang as we entered the back door. “Look what I brought home for youuuuuuu… Imagine Rob’s surprise when instead of a little, loose skinned, lop-eared puppy – in walks a big sweaty adult female in bright yellow spandex.
Rob and I had a brief, get-to-know-you moment and then Lynne grabbed my hand and whisked me to their lower level apartment. “My mother used to live with us,” said Lynne. “She died about a year ago, but we can get you settled down here.” We made the bed together and Lynne threw my smelly clothes in the laundry while I cleaned up. “Oh, I so envy your trip,” said Lynne, jumping topics. “I’m writing and illustrating a children’s book you know,” she said, crediting her mother for her artistic flare. “It’s just that I have so much to do with my new business I never get around to it.”
Aside from continuing her education and writing and illustrating a children’s book, Lynne was working on a company called Buttons & Bows. I gathered it had something to do with sewing. “I mean eyelets – those are as common as cotton,” said Lynne, lamenting the downturn in knowledge of mending, material, and being a good homemaker. “If my employees do well, I’ll give them jewelry as an incentive and a cut of the action,” she said. It seemed a Soprano-esque approach to business. We ran a couple errands and conversation came easy.
We were all over the board and when I say “we”, I mean “Lynne”.
She liked jewelry, admitted she was very poor at managing money, and talked extensively about her new-found love of bicycling. “If this company makes it, I’d like to travel,” she said. “Would you go with me – I mean, we’re like best friends.” Lynne had a very relaxed demeanor; a little madcap and somewhat insane – but in a nice way.
Returning home we ate dinner on the back porch – talked about my recent mission trip to Haiti, and Lynne said she wanted to pursue ministering to prisoners. Around 8 p.m. I referenced I would be retiring shortly. That’s when Lynne pulled her chair close to mine, took my hands in hers and looked at me with intent. Everything had been going so well, but I felt the bomb was about to drop. I predicted Lynne was going to tell me about another career path or I was going to have a partner on the rest of my ride.
“Honey, I have to tell you something,” she said with seriousness.
Here came the Hallmark moment.
“We’re putting you up in a hotel tonight,” said Lynne. “Rob just thinks you’re a terrorist and I’m worried about my mother’s jewelry downstairs. You understand,” she said. I felt as welcome as beans on a bus. “You’ll still be my best friend though, right,” said Lynne. The news made my head loll over to the side. We regrouped; Lynne jumped in her vehicle and I followed on my bike, two miles to downtown St. Charles. Rolling into the lobby of the Country Inn, the clerk said they were full for the night. I felt like laying my head on the front counter, only I’d have to shove Lynne over to make space. Loading my bike in her vehicle, we crossed town in 15 minutes, found another hotel and checked me in. I mustered a fatigued thanks, grabbed my room key and turned to head upstairs.
“Oh Judy…..” It was Lynne; she was whispering from across the room and talking through cupped hands. “I’ll be back at 5 a.m. and we’ll go out to breakfast together,” she said with a little wave…. to the thief terrorist. I felt I should get a medal, just for shear effort that day. As promised, Lynne arrived bright and early. “I only need about three hours sleep a night,” she said. Lynne was chipper and carrying on a conversation with me and a group of men at the next table. I was half paying attention and half watching the weather update on TV when Lynne grabbed my hands.
“Let’s pray,” she said, bowing her head.
It was a sermon-length prayer; Lynne thanked God for me, my bike, a safe tour for me, a safe upcoming tour for herself, and she closed by asking Jesus to be her best friend.