“This year we’ll be married 68 years,” says Bill. Maxine looks at him – hardly a look Bill hasn’t seen before -- and says, “I thought it was 66.”
About 15 minutes earlier, Maxine answered the doorbell. She allowed two strangers into her little home. It was an older house boxed in between two newer, much bigger houses in Susanville, California.
About 15 minutes before that, two bicyclists asked a local thirtyish woman if she knew anywhere in town where there was a piano they might use. She said she took lessons for ten years growing up, and indicated that her former piano teacher owned a Bed & Breakfast a mile away.
A man on a ladder at the Bed & Breakfast said that he bought the place from the people who live a half block down the street. (He thought she used to be a piano teacher.)
The older bicyclist explained to the somewhat suspicious woman who answered the doorbell about a former student of hers who pointed to her as a possibility. Having met from 600 miles apart to bike and hike and camp, the 25-year-old bicyclist was also hankering to share his long developed musicianship, and the 63-year-old partner in adventure was delighted about such a bonus before their week together ended.
Maxine rummaged music books from a closet. She rarely played anymore and had not taught or played at church for years. She sat, rapt by the treat of listening to her piano being played by someone who could read pages of Chopin and DeBussy and others, delivering fluidity and texture much like he had the last time he played them several years earlier.
Bill perked especially when the informal concert performer touched a book of Irish songs and played a soulful “Oh, Danny Boy” without opening the cover. Beyond the blessing of such sounds warming their hearth, former pastor Bill and his wife felt appreciated as one last piece filtered through the serendipity – “Amazing Grace.”
Shaking hands and bidding thanks and goodbyes, Maxine stepped into a stranger’s hug, standing straight with her head on his chest. She appeared lifted from the pains and strictures dragging the end of her ninth decade of life.
Two bicyclists pedaled through the neighborhood, chattering in gleeful satisfaction about the perfect nesting of music meant to have happened.
Also in Susanville, CA, bicycling their "Rails to Trails" bike path
Where the railroad used to run between Westwood and Susanville now runs some 24 miles of bike path (and not along a road). The 6.5 miles at the Susanville end includes a nice little canyon through which the Susan River flows.
For time reasons on our last day together we only bicycled this section and back. It isn't paved but is kept well enough even for thin tires. Since trains couldn't handle grades more than two, maybe three percent, the substantial climb out of town spreads modestly across two thirds of the path -- no biggy uphill, easy downhill.
Cool (literally and figuratively) and creepy, one of the two tunnels is just long enough that you can't see what you're riding on for about 100 feet.