A tribute to Randy Norquist's transcontinental bike ride.
Rancho Alamitos High School Class of 1965 45th Reunion (October 9, 2010)
The Ballad of Rawhide Randy
Starting out in Newport Beach
Randy Norquist thought he’d reach
(Traveling eastward till he reached the other sea)
Mountains, deserts, plains and more
That he’d never seen before,
On a sort-of two-wheel mid-life Odyssey.
So in California’s heat
He began to move his feet
Up and down and up and down and up and down,
Round in circles, round and round,
Till he’d covered miles of ground
Getting all the way to Baker – what a town!
On the road again next day,
Spokes and tires so far OK,
And the blisters on his butt have almost healed.
Stopped in Vegas for the night;
Hit the Strip and saw the light.
What he did there, though, must never be revealed.
North to Utah Randy went
Packing sleeping bag and tent,
Though he mostly camped each night in some hotel.
There he drank his beer from mugs,
Served by chicks with giant jugs,
Then – alone – into his comfy bed he fell.
Up and ready with the dawn
Randy hardly paused to yawn
As he pedaled off, the Rockies to defeat.
Climbing slowly up the grade;
Low on water, short on shade,
He would chant his cycler’s mantra, then repeat:
“Oh legs, go up and down some more.
I know you’re tired; I know you’re sore.
And throat, I know you’re feeling parched and dried.
But if you’ll kindly persevere
We’ll cross the Great Divide from here
And then just coast on down the other side.”
And yet in spite of his designs
He failed to heed the trucker signs
That say: “You’re not down yet, so check your brakes!”
Thus Randy crashed a time or twice,
But passing friends supplied the ice
And bandages and love which soothed his aches.
On his way again, once healed,
Randy crossed a giant field
From Nebraska clear on through to Illinois.
What with Iowa between
And no stalk of corn unseen ...
Not a word. What could have happened to our boy?
With its battery run low
Randy’s cell phone ceased to glow
Leaving incommunicado our old friend.
But with Facebook posting notes,
Pictures, links, and random quotes,
Here and there we see some progress towards his end.
Now with five more states to go
Can he make it? Will we know
What demented impulse forced him to obey?
Did he do it on a dare
Or because New York was there
Just a piece-of-cake three thousand miles away?
Judging from the folks he’s met
Randy hasn’t one regret
Since he claimed he’d gone to find them -- which he did.
Still a few must have escaped
Like the female ones, undraped,
That us guys back home wished hadn’t run and hid.
See, we sixty-twos and threes
Have some lurid fantasies
That our old pal Randy somehow must fulfill.
Otherwise we’ll have to face
That we’ve lost the aging race
And just cannot get it up that little hill.
So let’s give sincerest thanks
As we fill in all the blanks,
Hoping, as we do, that Randy hasn’t slowed.
‘Cause we need some new details
Of the ladies, bars, and ales
That await our hero not far down the road.
Sixty miles from Davenport
(Nothing major to report)
Princeton, Illinois, saw Randy passing through.
Then a hundred fifteen miles
And he plans to rest his piles
In Chicago, for at least a day or two
There, with leisure on his hands,
He’ll respond our demands
(So he promises) with news of his ordeal
At the hands of women strange
Whom he met out on the range
At their church where they provided him a meal.
Reading from his “bucket list”
Randy pondered what he’d missed
Since he wished to leave this life with conscience clear.
Randy figured: What’s the harm
(Turning on the Norquist charm)
Chasing anything in panties and brassiere?
So the Playboy Club he saw
And the Cubs (win, lose, or draw)
Then the last third of his journey Randy faced.
Off adventuring again
Rooster looking for a hen
Vowing not to let a moment go to waste.
Just a thousand miles to go:
Pennsylvania, then New Jersey and the shore.
Would he reach the eastern seas
Just in time to heal his knees,
Injured elbow, aching back, and pains galore?
Will Jack Daniels prove enough?
Randy’s sidekick, cheap and tough,
Hasn’t failed for some two thousand miles and more.
What with small-town girls and beer
And an ever-ready leer,
Who knows what this trip for Randy has in store?
South to Cleveland next he went
(Progress rain could not prevent)
Where the Hall of Fame of Rock and Roll he toured,
Then a house by Frank Lloyd Wright,
Endless miles through day and night,
Ever eastward, by his nameless Siren lured.
As he pedaled, boredom seemed
Like a drug that Randy dreamed
So he thought up “Rodent Roadkill Recognition”:
Guessing what the varmint was;
Time of death; It died because ...
Passing time through little more than brute attrition.
After Gettysburg, his quest
Left him little time for rest;
Pennsylvania past, New Jersey loomed ahead.
As he crossed the Garden State,
Starting early, stopping late,
Our intrepid classmate saw where time had fled.
With his goal at last in view
Randy stopped, as if on cue
Bringing to a halt his months of forward motion.
Slipping from his saddle seat
To commemorate his feat
Randy dipped his bike in the Atlantic Ocean.
Here this evening, as we meet
After decades, what a treat
To applaud together one of us who chose
Such a distance to traverse
Far the better, none the worse.
In the annals of our class: both poem and prose.
Michael Murry, "The Misfortune Teller," Copyright © 2010