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Sunday, August 2, 2015

PBP: to Dave King, Steve Royse, Steve Rice, Mark Rougeux

"It is such a secret place,
the land of tears."
Antoine de Saint-Exupery

I read an article not too long ago that said the chemical composition of tears changes according to what is causing them.  I should have known that a tear is not necessarily a tear because their origins are often so different.  
Today has been a wonderful day for a century ride and I have thoroughly enjoyed myself and the pace:  not too fast and not too slow.  The greenery still has not yet yielded to the dryer weather and heat and has maintained its verdant lushness.  Animals cavort in fields.  The company is superb.  There is laughter and I find I can speak of him now, I can laugh at memories,  and while there is still and may always be that deep longing for him, I does not always make me cry.  So why, at the end, do I find a few tears seeping from my eyes?  And why am I glad, for I have shed enough tears in the past seven months to float a battleship?

This was the last prep ride for Paris-Brest-Paris, and at the end I weep that I am not going this time.  I am jealous of the adventures my friends will surely have without me, and even though we do not ride PBP together, I have felt a part of it. My eyes long for the sights of the French countryside and the music of that language, a language I have no understanding of but that goes through me like a song.  I will miss the smiles of strangers, their kindness and wishes for my success somehow translated despite a language barrier.  Some languages are  harsh and strident to my ears, but the French language is soothing to me, like a lullaby.  I will miss the pre-ride bicyles trip to Paris, the tempting foods and pastries, and the delicious feeling of belonging.  

I will miss the pre-ride nervousness when you worry about your equipment and your fitness level and the weather and the route.  And I will miss that moment when you settle into the rhythm of pedaling from control to control.  I will even miss the weariness.  And I will miss that moment when you realize that you are going to be successful in your quest to finish.

Yes, I made the right decision not to go this year.  I am not prepared and remain unstable, emotionally, financially, and physically.  But I wish that were not so.  And despite the fact that I weep the loss, I am elated to find that I am jealous, that I do wish I could go, that somewhere inside me is the desire to ride more brevets, because I had thought that perhaps that part of me had died during my metamorphosis.  And thus my tears, perhaps, are also tears of joy because I find that desire lives and has not died.  Indeed, for a time during the darkest of my days, I contemplated giving up my bicycling.  And while I know that eventually that day will come for me, as it will for all of us, it is not today.

And so, my friends, I will miss this adventure.  But I will be thinking of you. And I will be there in spirit.  I wish you good weather and a wind that aids you rather than slapping you in the face.  But even if it is like 2007 where the wind and rain seemed determined to stop us, I know you will stare it in the face bravely and persevere. I will be thinking of you and expecting no less, sending my energy and my thoughts and well wishes in your direction.  

Ride smartly.  Go out slower than you think you can knowing that you can pick the pace up those last three hundred miles.  Remember to eat and drink more often than you might think you need to.  Mostly, remember to savor the journey and to take the time to find adventure because if you concentrate merely on riding quickly, you might miss the memories that are hidden there waiting to be found. 

And I will be here patiently waiting to hear of your adventure, and perhaps, planning my own.  Bonne route.  Allez.....allez!

Monday, July 20, 2015

Century Interruptus

"Promise me you'll always remember;
you're braver than you believe, stronger 
than you seen, and smarter than you think."
Christopher Robin to Pooh  (Milne)

It is Saturday and Sunday is all mine.  I took care of my mother and sister last week-end.  While I didn't finish, I worked on the shed and housework yesterday and will continue today.  Sunday will be a play day. There are no club rides that interest me. And I actually want to ride:  I want to ride in a way that I have not wanted to ride for many a month.  I want to do a new route, to explore new roads, but there is so much flooding and a prediction for possibly more rain and a heat alert with feel like temperatures of possibly 107 that I waiver.  I decide to play it safe and stick with roads that I know.  But I will ride.   I will ride as far and as long as I would like.  I am filled with anticipation. It feels good.

I want to ride.  I want to shout it to the world, "I am alive and I want to ride by bicycle."  I thought I might never feel this again, and it was not like when you say you don't want to ride again at the end of a long, difficult brevet that has stretched your limits.  Yes, I want to ride.  I want to feel the pedals yield to leg muscles and core muscles.  I want to feel those muscles strain and quiver forcing my bike up the hills and to feel my lungs gasp for air to feed those muscles.   I want to feel the sun make me sweat, burning my eyes and my skin,  but drink enough so that it cannot not break me.  I want to savor the feel of the wind in my hair and nuzzling my cheek, and I want my eyes to absorb all the beauty that I come across during my rambling.  I want to cramp and work my way through those cramps, victorious.  I will find a path, somehow, through all this flooding.   I Want to ride my bike and I Want to be happy and I Want to feel alive.

As I roll out into the world, light sleepily seeps into the world and  I find the clouds have come down to embrace the earth:  knee high fog mists across the fields.  The air is rather thick with the humidity, but still pleasant. Everything is green and lush from the constant precipitation we have been getting despite the heat, and I find my eyes, mind, and mouth smiling with delight.  I have decided to head toward Salem on Eden/Delaney Park Road and see if I can get through.  I have my doubts, but I love this road so.  It is worth taking a chance on.  And so what if I have to turn around and head elsewhere.  I am playing.  For today I will be childlike.  Screw responsibility. The green lushness, siren-like, leads me onward.

 A flock of crows raucously greet me, shouting their warnings to each other that I am on the road, cheering me on as if they have missed me, my totem. A bit further down the road I hear a chorus of frogs so loud and so numerous that at first I do not know what I am hearing.  Who other than a crazy bicycle lady would be out here in the woods at this time of the day, and what would they be doing?  Hunting season has not yet arrived. A gaggle of  young turkeys take flight to the low tree limbs lining the road  causing branches and leaves to rustle. I notice the roots of trees, valiantly lacing themselves together in a vain attempt to hold the earth in place.  Like all of us, they win a few skirmishes, but never the war.  Despite the ultimate futility of their efforts, they are beautiful, these trees, and so are their efforts, and I tell them so.  And I think that perhaps today, instead of being a plain Jane, I am beautiful too as I win this skirmish.

The wind has brought down the first of the walnuts and persimmons, immature, but still a portent of what is to come.  "Not  yet, not yet," I think.  "I am just coming back to life, and I am not yet prepared for the dark, cold, silence that is winter.  Riding in the winter is just so much harder, harder even than these ninety degree days, demanding a discipline that I have not yet redeveloped.  I need to be stronger, more ready."  But despite my protestations, I know that time will move on unremittingly, deaf to my pleas,  just as this seemingly ceaseless rain continues.

Rounding a corner, I notice a corn field off to the right completely submerged in the flood waters, but I plunge onward. Other than the tops of a few of the corn plants, you would think it was a lake. I have ridden over an hour and have not yet seen an automobile or a person.   It is as if I am alone in the world other than the inhabitants of this forest.  The flooding makes it seem as if I have been magically transported to a new land with unfamiliar roads and all sorts of discoveries just waiting to be made.

I begin to think of Paris and how jealous I am of the adventures the Kentucky crew had the other evening with their preparation ride.  I think this is a splendid feeling, a sign that perhaps I will make it through and out the other side, something that I had begun to doubt.  But I must be patient with myself. Did I make the right decision in not going this year?  Absolutely.  But it is good to feel a tinge of regret at the adventures they will surely have without me.  And there are other brevets and other types of rides that beckon. 

All too soon, as I feared, I hit a moat of water covering the road.  I toy with the idea of wading across, but I decide the distance is too great and it is impossible to know for sure how deep it will become and if any current remains. It brings to mind the many times my husband scolded me for crossing flooded areas, bike hoisted on my shoulder, and I think he would be proud of my decision. It is odd to see the soybeans submerged under the water, looking up longingly through the water, desperately desiring air, dancing in the little water current.

I decide to head toward Pekin and enter Salem from the south rather than the north.  My store stop will be my own house, and my cereal with blueberries tastes like a feast.  I think how riding, running, or other exercise enhances the pleasure of eating.  Things just taste better when you are truly  hungry and your body is depending on food for fuel to perform.  How many times do I just eat because I am supposed to or because the food is there rather than because I truly am hungry and have need of sustenance.

This part of my journey is completely different terrain and scenery wise.  Forest gives way to farm land, unflooded farmland with crops as lush and green as I ever remember them being. Black-eyed Susan and Queen Ann's Lace decorate the borders.  Briefly, I smile at the thought of how when the children were small we would cut the Queen Ann's Lace and place it in jars of colored water delighting as the water gradually colored the white flower petals.  I pass a few cars, particularly around Salem, but the road today seems to belong to the Amish.  It seems I pass wagon after wagon of horse drawn vehicles.  Two are hitched at the final store stop while the Amish pick up odds and ends that they need.

Tired, but happy, I arrive home, hoping that I will sleep tonight.  I have held the words that Christopher Robin said near to my heart.  I had forgotten them, but before my nickname was Puddle, I had friends that called me Pooh.  Perhaps I am braver than I believe, and I will make it through this after all.  And perhaps I will continue to love cycling with a passion that is something to behold.  I certainly did today.  The century was interrupted, but it was completed, and I loved every minute of it despite the heat and humidity. 

Sunday, June 28, 2015

The Last Dog Standing: A GOAL

"It sucks that we miss people like that. You think you've
accepted that someone is out of your life, that you've grieved 
and its over, and then bam.   One little thing, and you feel like
you've lost that person all over again."  Rachel Hawkins

It has been a difficult week, Father's Day with my birthday following on its heels.  I thought I was doing well, that I was doing better, that I had accepted that he is gone and was ready to move on, and then here come the special days we used to share.  Memories cluster around those days,  and then on top of it all I dream of him. It is SO good to see him and to be whole yet again I think over and over again, and then with consciousness and the daylight he is gone and my heart shatters and cries, "alone.....alone."

  The weather has not helped, hot, windy, muggy, and often filled with jagged streaks of lightening and loud cracks of thunder, threatening, keeping me penned in from my bicycle or requiring a bravery I no longer seem to find within myself.    I think of the exhilaration I used to find in facing the elements. Now I cower indoors. Even in the little fine weather we have been blessed with,  it is more difficult to drag myself out the door, but when the wind is howling and lightening flashing, I do not even consider it.  I find my bike is not bringing me the pleasure and solace it once did, and on the way to the ride today, I consider whether it is time to quit riding. 

I do not want to ride today. I did not want to ride the last century, and at the end was not glad that I rode, merely glad that I forced myself out the door. Rain mists the air during the drive and the heat has been broken, but there is nothing in me that wants to move, that desires company or exercise.  I accept that I am weak and wonder if my strength and bravery was entirely linked to his being.  I am not sure that I like this sniveling, pity filled, coward, this me that has emerged.  I like to think of myself as stronger, more self sufficient, but then it is the trials we face that show us what we are made of, and I appear to be made of mush. My movements are forced and puppet like.  I have lost my smile.

 I can no longer keep up with friends.  You can't put on weight as I have done and not ride and expect to do so, and you cannot expect people to slow down for you. Many of the friends I have made bicycling through the years no longer ride.  And meeting new people can be just so hard.  Seems like I always say or do something stupid.   How I miss having someone I can share thoughts and words with, that helps me sift through those thoughts and words to find what what is meaningful.  How I miss being totally at ease with someone.

But I suppose that as long as I can force myself, I will continue to ride, at least to the rides that have courses I like.  Since I don't really ride for training purposes, I have no interest in courses that have lots of traffic and not much in the way of scenery.  I don't begrudge those who ride only for training purposes, but I do pity them. Yet in the past, I have done some of the same myself.

Today I must ride as fast as I can because my son and his wife are coming for a visit to go through some of his father's things and there are linens to be changed and housework to be done.  I remember how Lloyd once told me that I like things to be perfect for holidays and special occasions, and I realize it is true.  I will have the house clean and small treats:  new magazines on the bed, toiletries, small treats, those things that tell them both that I treasure them and want them to be comfortable during their stay.

Soon Kirk has given the pre-ride speech and we are on our way.  It is a larger group than I expected, so very many of them new and unknown.  The majority of the roads we will ride today are familiar to me, like old friends.  This is a comfort since I have no GPS file and I have no idea if I will end up riding alone or with a group. 

We pass a pond where white water lilies are starting to bloom, and the beauty gives me pause. Were I alone, I would stop and take a picture. I briefly catch up on some gossip with an old friend, but I know I cannot continue to keep this pace.  He is going slower than he would like and needs to go for training purposes, and I am going faster than I should be going if I hope to finish without significant discomfort and possibly bonking.  I remember the last time I rode this course with Mark and how I dragged in behind his wheel, the hills having taken their toll.  It is not that there are really any significant climbs, none of those climbs where you wonder if your legs and strength will betray you and you will stop and walk or fall over and melt into the pavement, but they are fairly constant. And hills are where weight gain plagues  you the most. Pace, pace, pace....all  important in distance riding. 

And soon I am on my own, only to be picked back up by a group behind me.  I enjoy hearing Tony's tale of finishing his first 600K.  Another of the riders is one of the last four dogs standing having completed each year of the Tour de Mad Dog since its beginning in 2004.    I briefly tease him telling him my goal is to be the last dog standing, despite the fact I am the oldest of the four by quite a few years.  And I realize that this may be a goal to hold onto, obtainable or not:  "Ah, but a man's reach should exceed his grasp, or whats a heaven for."  (Robert Browning).  So long as I can keep that goal, perhaps I can continue forcing myself out the door, and perhaps one day the beauty that is all around us will seep into my soul again, and I will once again fall in love with bicycling that for now is merely a means of staying afloat.

Friday, June 12, 2015

An Ordinary Bicycle Ride

"It was a very ordinary day, the day I realized that
my becoming is my life and my home and that I 
don't have to do anything but trust the process, trust my
story, and enjoy the journey."
Charlotte Eriksson

After making sure that all the cats are where they should be, bellies full and content, quite anticipating their morning nap, I grab my bicycle and slip out the door into the arms of the burgeoning dawn and his cool embrace. There is a bit of a chill in his caress, but it is unlike the chill of fall and winter that plagues you whenever you are lolling or not pedaling rapidly or climbing a hill. It is a welcome chill that brushes my skin and raises small goose bumps.  I relish it knowing that by this afternoon it will be but a memory, a half forgotten dream, even something longed for. By this afternoon, the air will be sticky, thick, and hot. The summer months are male months, hot, lusty, desiring, and demanding, sometimes wanting more than I can give.  But as of yet, summer has not claimed the mornings:  they remain fresh and spring-like.  Even the afternoons have not yet reached the intensity that is August. 

I have my backpack on for my 16 mile ride to work.  It is a backpack my son used to tote to school many years ago, but still serviceable.  As I have told the cats many times when they look at me like a traitor when I leave, somebody has to go to work to make money to buy cat food. I have offered to stay home and nap and let one of them fill in for me, but so far no takers;-)  (And we call them dumb animals.)  I don't really get to see the magnificent transformation that is dawn other than in my rear view mirror for on my rides to work as with my life I am heading west, but I know it is there, just as I know I was once young. 

Yet again, to be on the safe side I have slapped on a light and I think about the obsession that randonneurs have with lighting for their bicycles.  I have a box full of different tail lights and head lights, some useful and some not so useful, but each bought with great hope that they would help me find my way.  The eternal quest for the perfect light!  A light bright enough to be seen by all, but not so bright as to annoy or even endanger a rider behind  you.  A light bright enough to guide your way and not be outrun on the downhills but that has enough staying power to make it worth taking your bike out the door.

I have different ways of attaching lights, particularly since my handlebars are narrow and any extra room is taken up by my handle bag bar.    The lights have different power sources:  batteries that have to be charged at an outlet, regular batteries, and hub generators.  And I seem to never get rid of them, but become attached to them, to prefer each for different rides and circumstances.  Indeed, I still have my first hub generator that I used at PBP in 2007, the kind where the light dims or goes out on hills because you are not pedaling hard enough.  It also has bulbs that must be replaced and cannot be touched directly with your fingers or the oil causes them to quit working.

But with lights you can find your way.  I remember the comfort that came with finally knowing that even if I got lost on a ride, I was strong enough to continue riding for a long, long time.  As I once told Grasshopper on a ride where we lost our way, much to his amusement, "If you ride long enough, you come out somewhere."  And I guess somewhere is usually okay.  Mark Twain advised us to "Enjoy life.  There is plenty of time to be dead." And with lights you can ride at night.  Sometimes I think people ride brevets merely because it is so very pleasant to ride at night.  There is almost something magical about it.  Yet for some reason, I seldom do it unless there is the excuse of a brevet, and I know many like me in that area.

I miss Lloyd dreadfully and I fear I always will:  my life remains in darkness and the beginning efforts of friends to "fix me up" with someone falls on deaf ears,  but I guess I must just trust God and the process.   Just as important, I need to start learning to enjoy the journey, even if this part of the ride is alone.  After I, I will come out somewhere. And whether I want to or not, I will become.....?

Sunday, May 31, 2015

Riding to Work

"Strange, what brings these past things
so vividly back to us, sometimes."
Harriet Beecher Stowe

It is my first commute since Lloyd left me. I have to plan my commutes to work as I often need my car for my job, but there have been numerous opportunities.  I just have not taken advantage of them. I know he would have been disappointed in me, but I also know he would have understood. All things in their time and place.

Despite leaving so early, I had not thought I would need a head light, but the sky is cloudy and the fog is as thick as a blanket so I quickly slap one on.  As I leave, there is nobody to tell me to be careful, and I again felt the immensity of my loss.  Yes, I still have people who love and care for me, but not in the same all encompassing way he did.   Everything changes.  I have always struggled with that.  Mary Wollstonecraft wrote, "To have in this uncertain world some stay which cannot be undermined is of the utmost importance."  You, love, were my stay.  And I flounder in these new waters. But I move forward and still you sustain me.  I realize you will always be with me because you became a part of me.

I am surprised when I notice the  yellow sweet clover is in bloom daintily lining the edge of the road.  It just seems too early.  Time has a way of slipping past us wasted if not noticed and appreciated.  I do not recall seeing sweet clover on last week-ends century ride, but perhaps I was busy talking. How very peculiar it is that I notice so many things on a bicycle that I do not notice when in my car. 

I smile thinking of how I would have told Lloyd about what was in bloom when I got home and how he would have bemoaned the fact that there is so little sweet clover now due to the highway department mowing the roadsides.  Like him,  I see little sense in all that mowing unless it is near an intersection.  But for me it is not merely because of the killing of the bee pasture, but because it pleases my eye.  There is a certain beauty in the unkempt, gypsy roadways of the countryside. Grass does not really take well to taming.  There is inevitably the errant rebel blade that is higher than the rest and will not bow to the will of the mower.

The daisies also are also in bloom, and I remember how when we first started our lives together I would gather them from the horse pasture and put them in a vase to bring their cheery brightness into our small mobile home.  I remember the velvety softness of B.J.'s soft horse lips nuzzling me as I walked the field, the moist warmth of his breath tickling my ear, his earthy, horsy smell a tonic. I laugh out loud remembering the look on Lloyd's face the day he unexpectedly came home and I was cleaning sans clothing because I had so little clothing and did not want to soil what little I did have.  We did not yet have our fifteen dollar sale barn washing machine, and dirty clothes also needed to be hauled the the laundromat.  And I always bathe after cleaning. That look was priceless and is still with me. The feel and smell of him.  Every sense engaged. The mattress on the floor because we could not yet afford a bed to put it on.  Youth and love sustained us, a love we were fortunate enough to grow against all  odds. 

I become thankful for the time we had and regret those times we wasted on petty, silly, little fights or disagreements.  As with child rearing, couples should pick battles carefully and be grateful to have a stay in this world. How few have any real meaning down the road. But even in the disagreements, there are memories to be treasured and growth to be had as we find our paths.  I particularly remember telling him one time that it was rather silly, fighting, when each of us knew the other was going nowhere. We made each other a promise.  The lines from a forgotten movie come to mind, " I made a promise.  You're old enough to remember when that meant something."  And it did. Oddly enough, even with him gone it still does.

Rather than lessening, the fog thickens as I crest the big climb that lies between me and my place of employment.  I am surprised at the relative sparseness of cars.  What a difference an hour makes in morning traffic. For just a few moments, it is as if it is just me and my bicycle in this world: no cars, no lights, no people.  The fog conceals whatever animal is making the rustling sound in the woods that side the climb, and I hope that nothing runs in front of my front wheel.  At this speed, unless I fall over the side of the guard rail, I will likely not get hurt.  But I still don't want to fall.  I cannot tell you how much enjoy being able to sleep on my shoulders much of the night without waking up with them aching. Not enough, perhaps, to quit this nonsense that is riding a bicycle and its potential dangers, but enough that I appreciate what I have. 

Traffic picks up as I near the construction area.  I take the middle of the lane to discourage people carelessly passing and not leaving me room.  At least the fog has lessened in this area so the danger lessens. The smell of exhaust begins to claim the air, taking away the morning freshness.  But I realize that I am singing, that I have been singing for quite a while, memories spilling from my mouth into the air and up to heaven, a kind of prayer.   And if you are up there, if there is indeed a heaven, I know you are listening and smiling. I  miss you, love, but I am happy today.  I know you would not begrudge me that, but will rejoice in my happiness.   I am trying to find the woman you once said was "as tough as a hickory nut." Perhaps my bicycle will  help me find her. And there is something about commuting by bicycle that just makes a work day more bearable, particularly on a warm, muggy morning with summer right around the corner. 

After work I head home and really take the long way home.  The ride back does not haunt me with memories the way the ride in did, but it is pleasant.  When you were alive and waiting, I never did this.  There were thoughts to share. I took a back way, but not the long back way.  But you are not there waiting, and while I regret that with all my heart there is a certain freedom now that I don't know that I have ever possessed before.  It is going to take some getting used to, but it may bring joy, this unexplored path.  The only way I know to find out is to ride it and see what happens. Not that I would not change things back if I could, but I can't.  And I am alive and may have years of being alive ahead of me, years that are a gift so long as I have my health, my memories,  my children, my friends, and my bicycle.  Hopefully I can hold on to that so I don't wake up one day and realize it is gone because you can't get those moments back.  You can only remember them. 

Saturday, May 23, 2015

"It is good to have friends who understand that there is a time
for crying and a time for laughing, and that sometimes the two
are very close together."
Lois Lowry

Today was the my Story Century, a century to a quaint spot that is kind of in the middle of nowhere with no really good way to get there.  I adore the middle of the century, but the first and last have too much flat farm land for my taste.  I endure the flat fields for the middle of the ride which has some rolling hills,  low traffic, and tree lined roads with new scenery.  

When I scheduled the century, I did not realize I scheduled it on a holiday, and I thoroughly expect Story to be overflowing with horses, riders, motorcycles,  and tourists  when we arrive.   People can deal with it.  I warned people prior to the ride, prior their arriving, as well as warning them of gravel roads and possible detours.  Perhaps this was not the wisest thing, as when I get to the start there are only three others who have come to ride, all of whom are normally faster than me but are really faster than me at the present moment:  Jason Willis, Matt Tinal, and Steve Rice.  I also find that for some weird reason, I scheduled the start time at 7:00 a.m.  I never start rides at 7:00 a.m. unless there is a really good reason to start them that early like extra distance.  But oh well, they are nice about my lateness and it gave Steve Rice time to get there before we start as he had e-mailed to leave a cue sheet as he was running late.  There was a time when making this mistake would have mortified me and I would have been very embarrassed, but today I take it in stride.  I am determined to be kind to myself this year.  I am glad they are following suit.  I still am not up to par, but I am moving forward out of the rut I have existed in for what seems like forever.

My husband, my love, is gone.  There is nothing I can do to change that fact. Perhaps the greatest gift I can give him is to become more compassionate and more understanding, not only of others, but of myself. Perhaps the greatest gift I can give him is to live what is left of my own life well because we never know what life will hand us. There are no do overs.  One friend told me shortly after my love's death that he was glad I  posted Lloyd's picture from when we were younger on Facebook because he had only known him after the constant pain and illness had sucked so much life out of him making him old way before his time.  And there was that, but he was a very private person, difficult to know.  And in the end, looks are transient.  What is important is the inside of a person. I decide to learn from this, or as my mother used to say, "Make hay while the sun shines."  Rain comes, sometimes unexpectedly. 

At the start of the ride, the clouds lightly scatter the sky, but the weather person has said they will clear for a lovely afternoon.  And they do trail away, almost without my noticing, leaving a pale blue sky and brilliant sunshine in their wake.  While we are not burning the roads up, we are doing a decent pace and nobody seems to be miserable.  It is not long before I am cursing my jacket wishing I had been bolder about the morning chill.  I tell all of them to feel free to ride off, that I do not expect them to wait for me.  I have my camera and I know the way.  But we do most of the ride together.  I even make  it through most of the hills in the middle of the ride with them though I feel quite certain they are modifying their pace to accommodate mine.  One thing about riding a bicycle:  you can always slow your pace some, though for many it is difficult and they do not enjoy a ride if they have to do this, but you can only increase your pace so much unless you want to bonk mid-ride.  It is inevitably hardest on the slower person.

We reach the first store stop only to find that like so many small country stores, it has gone out of business.  Luckily, because I am thirsty and have not been drinking,  a few miles up the road is a second store that was a control during the Indiana 300K last year.   We stop briefly, and head on.  While I had thought that perhaps the holiday week-end would bring traffic, thus far the traffic has been light.  It actually remains that way the entire ride other than a short stretch when we near Brownstown.

It is during this middle part of the ride, my favorite part due to the green lushness, that I ask about lunch.  I like to eat in Story, but I don't want to hold everyone up.  The food there has always been superb, but  the service is normally slow.  Matt tells me that Jason does not normally eat lunch on a ride, and Jason tells me that because of this Matt has brought "pocket chicken."  We briefly puzzle about what this is thinking that it almost sounds like something "dirty" when suddenly, Steve suggests that Matt has found, intentionally or unintentionally, his Mad Dog name, and I realize that I am laughing, really laughing, and it feels splendid.  And I laugh even harder when he stops for a bathroom break and says he is going to drain his pocket chicken. "She suddenly found herself laughing without bitterness."  (L.M Montgomery).  I think briefly of how Lloyd made me laugh with those crazy sayings of his and I think that was a big part of why I fell in love with him.  His humor was so similar to my own, a rather odd type of humor per my children.  And I am not bitter at the memory.  Yes, there is still longing, regret that we only had thirty five years together,  but this laughter is good and filling and somehow healing.  And perhaps I am no kinder than I was before, because Matt does not like his new nickname, but still the laughter peals from me making it  hard to breath as I pedal up the hill.  And I realize it has been quite some time since I have laughed like this.  And I am thankful for friends that bring brightness into what had become a dark world.  And I am thankful for friends that do not make me feel that I should not laugh as it has only been five months since my husband passed, but laugh with me.

When we reach Story, the line is short outside, and we actually get our food more quickly than we normally do on rides.  The barbecue looks good and Jason decides to eat.  And it IS good, though a tad sloppy: all my food there has been delicious. Matt does not get a sandwich, and I refrain from asking if has has eaten his pocket chicken;-)  But he patiently sits with us while we eat.  Briefly I think that I would probably ride much faster if I watched my diet as closely as Jason and Matt watch theirs, and not just because I would be skinnier.  Perhaps another day.

And. as rides do, the ride ends and people leave.  I begin to suffer leg cramps about ten miles out from the end, but I am pleased to have made it that far without cramping up as I just have not been riding as I normally do and I have ridden as hard as I could most of the day.  I laugh as I clean up after the ride because both legs cramp in the thighs when I try to get out of the bath tub.  What if I can't get out?  I no longer have Lloyd to save me from the silly things I do to myself. And for a moment, I am on the verge of crying, because laughing and crying are, as Lois notes, close together. And I am worn out.  But I manage.  And each time I manage an obstacle without his help or advice, I become a bit more confident.

I am lonely, something I have only really realized or admitted to myself in the past few weeks, and I wish I could share the days happenings with someone as I did with Lloyd when he was alive, and so I share them with you if you are interested.  If you are not, you quit reading this or never started.  And I hope your day was as pleasant as mine has been, despite the leg cramps and exhaustion. 

Sunday, May 17, 2015

"Grief is like an ocean; it comes on
waves ebbing and flowing.  Sometimes
the water is calm and sometimes it is overwhelming.
All we can do is learn to swim."
Vicki Harrison
It is time to move along and finally I feel that I can do this.  Yes, there will be future times of despair, when I think of giving up my cycling, sitting on the couch, and doing nothing.  But life is too precious and too short:  to remain anchored by grief is almost sacrilegious, a rejection of this most precious gift, almost a slap in the face to the creator.  It is easier said than done, this letting go, but it is a necessity.  And it is not a rejection of what we were and what we had but an affirmation.  Life awaits with all her twists, turns, and surprises, and perhaps there are still some good things in store for me.  And I do have memories. 

These are the thoughts that run through my brain during a solitary after work ride that I forced myself out on.  No, I still don't have the eagerness back, that longing for work to end so I can explore and dream, but I am better able to make myself go out.  I am walking during work breaks again and even at times during my lunch hour. Inevitably, I sleep better and feel better even if my bike sometimes still must hold me as I cry.  But while I still cry  I also am learning to grin again, as shaky as the first steps of a child. Like a child, I will fall on my rear, but I will learn and that is what our journey here is about. 

The petals of tulip poplars confetti the earth on Eden Road, telling the story of the big winds that swept through the area recently.  Spring flowers still show in places, shyly announcing that winter has relinquished her cold reign.  And while it will not happen this year,  my strokes are still tentative and floundering at times, laced with regret, guilt, and longing, they are becoming stronger and more sure. There are other years and other brevets and new people to meet and ride with.  Yes, I have some regrets of missing PBP this year, but I am weaker on the bike and internally than I have been in years and so, for me, I believe it was the best decision.  But there are other years and other rides and I am not so very old.  I will learn to swim.