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Sunday, January 31, 2016

Brevet Season Approaches: Thank You January.


 "Behind every beautiful thing,
there is some kind of pain." 
Bob Dylan


It is one of those rare, winter days that is a gift from the cycling gods:  blustery, but blessedly warm after a cold start.  Of course that always means that there is gear to take off and carry as the day progresses, but I can't complain about that.  I am thankful that I have friends to ride with, that I have a bicycle to carry me, and that I can get another January century in.  It is not every year that weather allows three January century rides.  And it is nearing brevet season.  These miles and these leg hardening hills will make the brevets much less painful.

Oh, I don't delude myself, I know that the brevets will hurt.  Kentucky courses are always challenging, and due to the rides being early in the year, weather is inevitably an issue.  But brevets, at  least longer brevets, inevitably hurt at some point.  I suppose that is one of the delights of brevet riding, as strange as it may sound, the challenging yourself to tough things out, to work through the pain, mental and physical, to prevail.  If you do, you have the thrill of the victory, knowing that you finished what you started.  If you don't, even if this was the wisest course, and it often is, you deal with the questioning of yourself, your decision, and your ability.  I suppose if it were easy, it would not be so satisfying.

I meet Steve and Bill at McDonald's and we head out on the Lawrenceburg Loop.  As we ride, it is like old times:  I have ridden so many miles with these men.  Things have changed, we have changed, but some things remain the same, and despite the time that has elapsed when we rode regularly together, I have memories with them, ties to them that cannot be denied.  I remind them of the caterpillar who did not make it across the road while we waited for a flat tire to be changed, of Bill's comment to Larry about his camera.  Past moments along this course flood my brain.  And more memories will be made today, like the store clerk grabbing Bill's arm and saying that while he is old, he is sooo strong;-)  As always, Bill takes our teasing with good grace and humor. 

Coming out of the first store stop, layers begin to be shed and it is a treat not to have a cold, wintry blast slap your face making you want to retreat back into the warmth of the store.  The miles pass and I realize how much I have healed since the last time I rode this course.  Time undoubtedly is a balm to all wounds.  And bicycling has  played its role.  Thank you, love, wherever you are for buying me my first bicycle.

The day ends too quickly for my mind, but  not for my legs which are begging for surcease, for rest to heal and strengthen.  Now if only February will cooperate.  Brevets are coming, and despite my moaning, cursing, and complaining, brevets can be beautiful things. 

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Winter Sloth: A deadly Sin but like most sin, quite alluring


"He who conquers himself
is the mightiest warrior."
Confucius

 I think it is time to pick a new goal and move forward.  It is always so very difficult to motivate myself in winter.  I hate the indoor trainer, but it is COLD outside and the wind whistles and howls bragging of what she will do to me once I am at her mercy.  Without a goal, it is too easy to grab a cup of tea, a book, a cat, and vegetate. Yes, conquering myself and my own tendency toward sloth, laziness, and poor eating:  that is the battle. 
I have been internally debating about what I want to do for a few months now.  Do I want to do a long brevet, a triathlon, or turn to bikepacking?  I am unsure if my hip and foot will hold up to the rigors of triathlon training, but I do miss long runs and the solace they bring.  Should I begin and see what happens?  A friend e-mails about possibly riding the Colorado High Country 1200, and the die is cast.  At least, I will register and see how the qualifying brevets go.  I have never been to Colorado and the photographs are beautiful.  Perhaps this will be the goal that is the turning point for a return to myself.

Bill has e-mailed about riding a century today, and it is cold and dreary.  Relief is not predicted.  The high is supposed to remain near the starting temperature of 32 degrees, and the sun is not supposed to bless us.  The winds are not excessive, but it will not be a windless day. 10 mph is predicted, but I also know how winter predictions go having been caught out more times than I can count.  As I struggle with the urge to e-mail and say I have changed my mind, I worry that I am not as tough as I used to be, and I suspect that it is mental, not physical weakness.  I have ridden centuries is much colder, windier weather, and I have done them back to back.  Still, I have not been on a bicycle other than a couple of spin classes since my century two weeks ago.  I talk myself out of being a candy ass and get ready to meet Bill.

We head out and soon are climbing Leota Hill.  As we do this first climb, I speculate that I am overdressed, something I never worry about again, even on tougher climbs later in the day.  Indeed, I am cold for quite a bit of the ride, even on climbs. In Pekin, I have a rear flat.  I had not realized my tires were so worn, and I just replace the tire only to find that the tube has a valve problem and won't inflate.  My hands are quickly becoming less and less nimble when a saint emerges from the book store we are stopped in front of and tells us we may come in to fix the tire.  Bicycles and books, some of my two favorite things.  In no time, it is fixed and we are back on our way.  It is so hard, though, to leave the warmth of the book store and face the road.

I can't really say that I enjoyed the ride.  Occasionally I would note the beauty of the winter landscape, but it did not reach my soul as it sometimes does.  I did enjoy Bill's company.  And I enjoyed the taste of the sandwich at the Mennonite Restaurant. But I was glad to see the ride end and I was glad to immerse myself in steaming hot water filled with bubbles to thaw.  Inside, there was a core nugget of self satisfaction that I had conquered myself, at least for today.  A long time ago, before my first PBP,  someone, and I think it was Bill, told me that if I weep in the dojo I will laugh in the battlefield.  May I continue to force myself to weep some more.  Thanks, Bill, for today.  It is good to have a friend that encourages you to push your limitations.

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Christmas Century 2015

"How we need that security.  How we need
another soul to cling to, another body to keep us
warm.  To rest and trust; to give your soul in 
confidence:  I need this. I need someone to pour
myself into."  Sylvia Plath


Yesterday was my Christmas century.  Normally I offer breakfast before hand, and I have enjoyed the decorating, the preparations, even the cooking.  What is there about feeding people that gives such a feeling of satisfaction even if, like me, you are not a great cook and often not even a good one?  But this year is the anniversary of loss.  Can it actually be almost a year since he passed? I was recently told by a friend who lost a child that it gets easier after this, after most of the first times alone are done. 
Originally I contemplated not having the ride, but I know I do not need to sit around and mope. What is done is done and what is past is past.  So I compromise:  I hold the ride without having the breakfast.  I have mixed feelings about this decision, but I think it is the best one.  And so I put the ride on the schedule.

The original prediction was for sunshine and fifties, but of course that changed.  As light filters slowly into the world, I wonder how many, if any, will show for a ride in this fog.  True, Steve Rice and Bill Pustow had both said they were riding, and Tony Darnell had e-mailed, but still I doubt. There is a certain beauty here in this cold, misty, wonderland, but there is also danger but you can't see but a short space ahead and if you can't see, you know you may not be seen.  But six arrive (Roger Bradford, Lynn Roberts, and Thomas Nance) and we head out into the damp cold. 

The earth is lovely, a bride on her wedding night, dressed in white and shy about disrobing.  The branches of trees shimmer, frost so thick it looks as if it snowed.  I think how I love the gentle sound of chatting and laughter from friends that are gathered to ride despite the cold and fog, for it is below freezing.  How I love the sound of pedal strokes and wheels turning and the land unfolding before me, like a present that is constantly being opened.  Even by lunch the fog remains, not quite so thick, yielding in places, but ever present.  

We pass the brick factory at Medora and I am amazed at how much more you can see now that the foliage is denuded.  As always, I wonder why this factory failed when it once was one of the largest in the country.  I am thankful that Steve made me aware of this factory, for most of my rides do not go by it.  And it is the first climb of the day, much needed after the chill of stopping.

After lunch, during the gravel hill, wind begins to sweep the ice off of the tree branches making a delightful sound as it hits the road, other branches, and my helmet.  I am surprised as it appears the hill has been grated.  Last time I was this way it was almost impossible to ride.  Still I get off and walk, enjoying the sounds and a full belly. 

But outside of Brownstown, before the last store stop, I become cold, chilled to the bone for some reason, and I think of home and a warm bath. It strikes me that this year he will not be waiting and I will never be truly warm again because I will never be held in his arms again.  I am undone.  I finish the ride by myself thankful that friends have the insight to know that I need this, this time to say once more goodbye.  And I think how lucky I am to have friends to help me mark my first Christmas Century where I came home to a house now empty of him.  Despite my loss, I have much to be thankful for.  Merry Christmas to those I may not see until after the holiday.  "God bless us every one."  (Charles Dickens)

Monday, October 26, 2015

Timothy's Medora Ride: A Thank You

"I cannot endure to waste anything as precious
as autumn sunshine by staying in the house. So I spend
almost all the daylight hours in the open air."
Nathaniel Hawthorne


 Bicycling can be so many different things.  I think, perhaps, that is one reason I love it so.  You can use it as  a mode of transportation, even a primary mode if you so desire.  You can use it to race like the wind, panting and heaving, feeling your heart feel about to burst from your chest and your lungs explode as you dash to the finish.  You can use it to play or to escape or to make friends.  I could go on and on about all the things you can use a bicycle to do.  And so, there is a need for different bicycles.  There are touring bikes and fitness bikes and road bikes and mountain bikes and so on and so on depending upon your intent.  

Today Timothy is having one of his rides that requires a mountain or similar type bike, and while this is not my norm, the call of the autumn lures me out the door into the car toward Medora, the ride start.  Like Mr. Hawthorne, I cannot bear to waste this day.  If I have learned nothing this past year, I have learned how very precious our time here is and that it should not be wasted.  I have been tempted to do some of his rides in the past, but always something seemed to get in the way.  But not today.

Does my house need a good cleaning?  Yes.  But that can wait until it is rainy or cold and the sun is not shining and calling me to come out and play.  

I am a bit leery of these rides for I rarely ride my mountain bike.  Normally it is the bike I ride when the snow has fallen and I need to get out for a bit.   It is not that I don't think I would like mountain biking, but road biking is more convenient and does not require that I develop new skills.  I suppose I also equate mountain biking with my old boss, who while I really liked him, was always straggling in with a broken hip or other serious injury.  Yes, I have broken a bone or two on a road bike, but not with the frequency that he seemed to do. Still, I do love the gravel I ride, even on my road bike, though I certainly can't tell you why.

I struggle a bit a day or so before the ride switching out pedals, mounting a new seat, getting a spare tire and tube, doing things that I don't worry about when I am just puttering around on my own.  And I apparently am successful because my pedals don't fall off during the ride, my seat stays put though I will need to adjust it, and both I and my bike arrive back home in one piece.  Thank you, Mr. You Tube.  But I am getting ahead of myself.

Arriving at the ride, I pull my bike out, put the front wheel back on, and take a short spin trying to remember how to switch gears on this bike.  Timothy assures me that it is okay if I turn out to be the slowest rider, that on his ride everyone stays together as a group.  I think briefly of the first Tour de Mad Dog rides as they is how they were conducted.  

Five of us eventually head out.  I really do not know any of them, and even by the end of the ride I could not tell you the names of everyone, but what a nice ride it was and how enjoyable it was to spend the day with them as we all savored our love of the bike.  The clouds cleared the sky and shortly after the first big hill  jackets or underlayers came off.  Some of the roads I was familiar with. Some of them are even on some of my centuries.  One bridge I climbed about a month ago with Lynn and Amelia, but there is one unknown bridge and some unknown gravel roads and even a paved road or two that I have not found on my solitary rambles on my road bike.  Briefly I wonder why it is so nice to ride unknown roads.  I suppose it is the feeling of being unsure what you will see or what might happen next.


A young German Shepherd playfully follows us for mile after mile on one gravel road that borders the river enjoying the company and the beautiful weather.   One of the riders is finally able to convince him to turn around.  This makes me feel better as I was beginning to worry that he would not find his way.  A huge pig glares at us.  At first I think she is loose, but I then see the thin wire restraining her.  Leaves are scattered on the ground, floating in the water we pass,  and dancing lazily through the air and the world is filled with color.  It is particularly beautiful knowing that there may be, at most, another week of it.  Already a few trees stand stark and bare, silhouetted against the blue sky, a cold reminder of what is to come.  The sun shines, but his heat is mellow and not the fiery, burning flame of late summer.  Nobody is in a hurry.  People climb hills at their own pace and patiently wait at each crossroad for the others to arrive.   

Thank you, Timothy, for the wonderful ride and for your patience.  I enjoyed the company, the day, and the route.  How glad I am that I did not waste a beautiful autumn day doing anything as mundane as completing household chores.  I even had time to finish out the beautiful day planting the last of my flowers in their new bed to sleep through the winter until next year squeezing every last bit of sunshine out of the day. 

Friday, October 16, 2015

Riding in the Fall: Can't Get Enough

"Fall colors are funny.  They're so
bright and intense and beautiful.  It's like
nature is trying to fill you up with color, to 
saturate you so you can stockpile it before winter
turns everything muted and dreary."
Siobhan Vivian
I am home and I am physically tired, but despite back to back centuries this week-end, I am not sated.  I do not know if it is possible for me to get enough of these beautiful, sunshiny fall days, days that start cool but that warm near or into the seventies and winds that do not yet chill me to the bone.  Siobhan Vivian is right.  I am trying to stockpile this weather and all the little details for I know it cannot last.  Soon the world will turn gray and dreary and life sounds will fade away until the spring. Already the insect sounds grow fainter and sound frail rather than brazen and robust as they do in the spring of the year when the world is awakening and mates are being sought.

Morning is as crisp as a cracker calling for arm warmers, knee warmers, vest, and long fingered gloves, painting my cheeks red to match the changing maple leaves, but morning also breathes the promise that you eventually will pay the price for your morning comfort by carrying all those extras for part of the day: perfect if I am riding my Lynskey with the carradice attached, but not so nice on the Cannondale where I end up stuffing pockets until I look stuffed to the point of pregnancy.  Either way it is extra weight and bulk, but this time of year it does not matter.  Fall is not a time for speed despite summer mileage hardened legs.  And frankly, the older I get the less I care about what people think of my looks. 
Near the end of my ride today, I think that I am lucky that vacation is almost over since rain is not predicted or I might ride myself to death or back into some semblance of fitness, whichever happened first.  Even when I reach home a part of me wishes I were just heading out, that the sun was not heading west toward bedtime,  but that it was in the east just rising and that the day could go on and on.  I think about how riding the first century with company gave me things to think about and digest, smiles to relive and tears to shed, during the second century when by myself even though earlier this morning when I started out my legs said, "You've got to be kidding me. Again? One is not enough?   "

Yesterday was the Medora Century, and I shared the day with club members and friends, including two new century riders.  The pace was relaxingly slow, the day languid, and the scenery spectacular in places.  There is something about the sunshine this time of year that makes even the harvested fields, already brown and dry, scenic.  It was not the kind of pace where you wonder if you will ever sweep people in or if you will be out shepherding riders until midnight, but a pace that allowed conversation to flow and laughter to float through the air, and it was not the pace where you gasp and your sides heave as you attempt to  hold on to the wheel in front of you as some sadist presses the pace, but  the kind of pace that allows you to savor the day and hold it close for those times when you feel alone and if there is no joy in the world.   It is the type of day you will remember when you are home snow, wind, and ice bound longing to be on a bicycle without wearing layer upon layer and to see color in the world and hear something besides the man made sounds of automobiles.

The town of Medora was having their "Medora Goes Pink" festival to support breast cancer research.  Kirk R. came up with the idea of having riders wear bras for the bra judging contest thus starting the day  with giggles and laughter at the elaborately decorated bras worn, of course, outside of jerseys.  One couple on a tandem  had a bra with ghosts on one said saying boo and honey bees on the other cup saying bees....  boo bees....get it:-).  The other on the tandem had owls on his brassiere. Bras had lights in the middle, tassles in the centers, writing, and were colorful.  Regardless of the color, style, or the sex of those who wore them, they brought a smile to everyone's faces.  I wished I had taken the time to participate as I intended and had made a bra that said, "Grow a Pair," but things seemed to get in the way.

Riders rode the children's barrel train at the festival and posed with cartoon characters getting their pictures taken.  It just was the type of day that makes you feel almost inebriated, perhaps because it is a closure:  the last of the tour stages for the year and for some, indeed most, the last of the club centuries until 2016 as many do not ride distance throughout the winter.

On the way back, we pass the mobile home Lloyd and I lived in until the children were older and we had saved enough to buy a house.  So much love in that place that it had to have seeped into the soil and permeated the atmosphere. Surely it can not be entirely gone.  Deep sobs racked my body shaking my bike for just a moment as we passed.  I remain amazed at how quickly this can happen and how quickly it can pass, but then this has been a new world for me the past few months and a new me is emerging.  Sometimes it is hard to tell what is temporary and what will be permanent.

I am far enough behind the other riders that nobody can hear, and I am determined that nobody will.  I do  not want my temporary longing and sadness to taint anyone on this glorious day, but I cannot help how I feel.  Would anyone understand that part of us is still there, that ghosts linger in the shed that he built, the trees that he planted, the memories?  The ghosts of children flit  through the yard, a tangle of giggles and silliness, and I think of a  poem my mother-in-law once gave to us, a rare gift for she was always struggling just to make ends meet and gifts were a luxury:

Are All the Children In?

I think oftimes as night draws nigh,
Of an old house on the hill,
And of a yard all wide
And blossom-starred
Where the children played at will.
And when the night at last came down
Hushing the merry din,
Mother would look around and ask,
"Are all the children in?"

Oh, it's many and many a year since then,
And the old house on the hill
No longer echoes to childish feet,
And the yard is still, so still.
But I see it all as the shadows creep,
And though many the years have been since then,
I can hear mother ask,
"Are all the children in?"

I wonder if when the shadows fall
On the last short earthly day;
When we say goodbye to the world outside
All tired with our childish play;
When we step out into the other land
Where mother so long has been,
Will we hear her ask,
Just as of old,
"Are all the children in?"
by Florence Hadley

My sadness passed quickly and I chatted with others as we neared the end.  The ride ended at the forestry and I finished my century up there alone after stopping to chat for a bit more before the others take off for home, for the route is a bit shy mileage wise.

Today I decide to head toward Story, Indiana to continue to savor the colors and feel of incredible fall weather.  Story is located in Brown County, a county known for its fall colors, artists, and quaint shops.  But to get to that color (I am not interested in shopping), I first have to pass miles of farm land.  Most of the fields have been neatly stripped and are bare of all but stubble.  I pass a home that has a circle of ghosts dancing in the yard. I then reach the covered bridge that I came across during previous ramblings, but there is a surprise:  it is being repaired.  It is bare bones, the lovely support arches showing, and I celebrate that it will be restored and not demolished.  So much of our history bows before the pressures of progress or is destroyed through maliciousness, but perhaps this piece will remain.

 

Birds are beginning to flock together and gather in the gleaned corn fields. Disturbed by my passing, they swing into flight, wings graceful against the blueness of the autumn sky, bowing to the wind and landing in another field a bit further away.  Leaves fall and swirl as the wind is a bit stronger than yesterday.  While I miss having company, I also relish having the chance to concentrate on the scenery.  I am desolate when I come to one of my favorite roads and find it pillaged and raped by the lumber industry.  Yes, like most people, I love wood and know it is necessary, but like any red blooded cyclist, I wish they would get their lumber from places other than the roads I ride on.

I think about going back to work and how I wish I could retire.  Just a week at home has convinced me that I would never fade from being bored.   I know, however, that while I could retire and live even more conservatively than I do presently, I need to work if I want to enjoy more activities when I retire.  And of course, I do have need of another bike.  At least I don't detest what I do, I think.  I am not unhappy working, but I look forward to having my time as my own. And I enjoy the extras the working brings.

I think about certain conversations yesterday and I think how difficult it can be to have a spouse or mate that does not understand the lure of cycling.  It interests me that while many of these people met their spouse through cycling, what was an acceptable activity becomes not acceptable and a point of contention.  My husband always told me that marriage changes people, and I think he was right.  Even he had his moments when my excessive cycling caused a squabble even though he bought me my first bike, but somehow he knew it filled a need and that without it, I would no longer be quite the same me.  Mostly he encouraged me, and I was grateful for that.  Not everyone is so giving or thinks of the other person's needs rather than just his or her own.  Maybe, I think, it takes years of marriage to make that happen. 

A few miles outside of Story, I impulsively decide to stop and try an eating establishment I have passed numerous times but never stopped at before.  When she brings the sandwich: it is huge. She even brings  a fork. Oh, well, a girl has to ride to eat.  It tastes so exquisitely good that it is not hard to eat all of it. The potato chips get stuck in my pocket to be eaten later and I am off.

All too soon, I am home.  As I said previously, I am spent but not sated.  And perhaps that is a good way to end a ride or to end many activities, wanting more.  I know what is coming and I am glad that I did not waste the sunshine and the color and the sounds that filled the ride, for Sibohan is right:  soon the days will become "muted" and "dreary" it will become harder to drag myself out the door and onto the bike.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

NOT ABOUT BICYCLING: The International Story Telling Festival Ghost

"It was evenings like then, when beneath dim
light and relaxing in a sultry bath that she missed
him the most.  A flicker of candlelight, snow against
the window and the soothing scent of creme caramel....
all were a comfort to her as she closed her eyes, 
summoned memories and many a tender thought.  She 
didn't feel deserving of the devotion bestowed upon her, but
she had finally learned to accept its wondrous gift, knowing 
that love was the source of existence and its only end."
Donna Lynn Hope

Dear Lloyd,

I was not sure how to write this as there are no words to express the ravenous yearning that surged through me at the International Story Telling Festival when he sat down.  I could not see his eyes or his face, but his hair was cut just like yours, a few gray wisps intertwined with the silvery whiteness of age.  It was the same length, lay the same.  

His ears held the same curve and thickness, the same skin coloration, and I could see the ear piece of his glasses.  He was dressed in your style of plaid shirt, and it was neatly tucked into his jeans, bound by a thin, tan leather belt as yours always was.  His neck, perhaps a bit thicker, and his waist as well.  But it could have been you sitting there.  

Tears began to stream down my face, for while I knew it could not be you, it was you, and my loss returned as sharply and deeply as it was when first you left me.  I watched you die: I was with you when your soul departed, but somehow here you are.  I wonder what this strange man, so like you, would do if I tapped his shoulder and ask him to hold me, to let me bury deeply into his shoulder as I did yours so often when I was hurt or in need.  For this was what I wanted to do, to fill this need that plagues my nights and days, this endless aching that eases but does not ever truly abate.  The loss that I thought I had dealt with and was behind me instead is in front of me, yet again stretching endlessly,  never dealt with at all.  

And suddenly I notice that the man on stage is talking about the loss of his mother.  While I regret his loss, that he had to go through this, I realize that loss is universal, love, and that we must continue living, and living hard.  To do otherwise would be to dishonor you.  But, oh, how I miss you, my love.  And oh, how I dread the loss of others dear to me without your love to steady me.  My daughter worriedly pats my shoulder, her touch a balm for my wounds.  How I hate having her see this on her yearly girls' birthday trip.

But then I realize your love is not gone:  it surrounds me in these things you left behind, odd things like the labeled shut off valves for the water, the labeled fuse box.  It lives in this house that I asked God to bless before we moved in, this house where we raised our children, where we loved, where we argued and made up,  and  yes, where you died.  I will not dishonor those gifts, my love, and I will not dishonor your life and those gifts by not living mine.

The man stands up and turns to leave and of course he is not you.  That must wait for another world and another time.  Oh, the stories that I will have to tell you and to get your thoughts on.  Until then, rest easy.  I will be alright.  

Love, Me

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Jiggs and the Start of Fall

"This day will never come again and anyone
who fails to eat and drink and taste and smell it
will never have it offered to him again in all eternity. 
The sun will never shine as it does today..."
Hermann Hesse


With the cooler weather and the prediction for possible rain showers, I really do not think anyone will show for my century ride to Norman today.  Sometimes friends do drive this far to experience new routes and new roads or for my company, and occasionally even a stranger will show up  having seen my ride on the club ride schedule, but just as often, particularly now Bill and Grasshopper no longer ride and Steve rides much less frequently, nobody shows.  This is particularly true now that I am slower.  It does not upset me.  It does not hurt my feelings or give me pause as to whether anybody actually likes me. I suppose I grow used to being alone, and not just on the bike.  Sometimes that aloneness translates into loneliness, and sometimes it does not.  I don't know it until it happens.  Usually I am fine being alone, but sometimes I find I am incredibly lonely now Lloyd has moved on to the next world.  Sometimes I wonder if I will ever again feel whole.

 Frankly, there are those times I prefer it as it is much easier to dream and think while alone and unshackled by the demands of conversation.  And there are still times when I am not much fun to be around, when memories bring sadness rather than appreciation.  I suspect that this deep well of sadness will not grow more shallow, but I know I will not sink in as often.  I still think of him every day, but it is not so pervasively.

When nobody shows for a scheduled ride, it does lead to decision making that is otherwise taken from me:  to ride or not to ride, that is the question?  You HAVE to ride if people show up, but if you are alone you can ride or you can stay home.

Before I ever go over to the parking lot to check, I have decided that despite the prediction for possible rain, I will ride.  I still have my carradice attached from my Montgomery trip and it will hold more than what I need. It is not so cold that chilling will be an issue, and the prediction is for showers, not a heavy pounding rain that makes seeing difficult and increases the dangers of a two wheel adventure.  I will not waste the day for it will never come again.  I hope to eat, drink, taste, and smell it as Hesse urges me to do, realizing it is unique and time is limited.

I am surprised but happy when Amelia pulls in. Amelia is funny and makes me laugh. She is bold and brave and strong in a way that I am not.  But she rarely comes to my rides.  Briefly I worry that my pace will be too slow for her, but I force myself to release that thought and not worry.  I made it quite plain in my pre-ride summary that I did not intend to press the pace.  Unless she did not believe me, she knows what to expect.

 Then Lynn arrives and I know it will be perfect.  Lynn also makes me smile, though often his wit is subtle and hidden, the kind that subtly hits you  making you snort and grin as you realize how easily it might have slipped by you unnoticed.  And, oh, how I admire his strength through the adversities he has faced and faces.  He is a caregiver, and while there are parts of the caregiving responsibilities that I don't miss, I would do almost anything to set the clock back, to see something Lloyd liked at the grocery and to pick it up and bring it home hoping to find his smile.  But for me, those days are gone.  And I know that being the caregiver is not always easy and not always a happy place to be.

I wish Paul were coming, but I know he is far from healed and that it will only be next spring before there will be any chance of sharing a ride and a conversation.  I remember confiding in him on our last ride my fear of this coming winter and my uncertainty if I have the backbone to get through it.  Like so many people, he told me I am strong, but I don't really know what that means anymore. I almost ask, but I don't.  It is too personal.

Neither Amelia nor Lynn take a cue sheet for it will be just the three of us sharing this day and this route and nobody intends to ride off and leave the others.  It is one of those days when you just feel that the day will be special, if only because you realize that there will likely not be many more of these days this calendar year.  Temperatures will trend downward rather than upward in the near future, wind will increase, and riding will become progressively more difficult mentally and physically.  It is just so much harder to get out the door on cold winter days.  Even when the sun shines brightly, it is a shadow on Plato's wall, its heat meager and pallid. Some friends will garage their bikes and head to the gym or to spin classes, others will only do shorter rides or run, and the world will change as it always does.  Bird begin to gather in flocks. Sound leaves the world as creatures prepare to sleep.  I accept it, but I don't  like it.

Despite my recognition that it is that time of year, I am startled at the subtle changes in the foliage.  It just seems too early for leaves to be changing. In some places they litter the ground, nature's confetti to celebrate that it is almost time to take her rest. There is a dream like quality as they dance and twirl to the ground, bowing to the slight wind that partners them. I like to hear them crunch under the wheels of my bicycle, or when I am walking I like how they swirl around my legs and feet.  They are not thick on the ground yet, but it will not be long now.  They bring memories of childhood leaf forts and acorn fights.  The fall smell is not here yet though, that earthy smell, damp, sensual, and somehow wholesome, that wafts throughout wooded areas in the late fall.

The day passes at an easy pace.  Conversation ebbs and flows.  When I walk in Jiggs, the proprietor recognizes me.  As predicted, the food is edible, but nothing special.  Still it will fuel the return miles.  Amelia and I tease Lynn when the waitress brings his Coke but does not bring or diet drinks.  After we leave, we stop to look at a building that interests up.  We walk up the steep, long gravel hill.  And we stop at Dairy Queen for a treat before the final leg back to the start. Amelia has a flat and we stop to fix it.  A kind lady stops to see if we need help. 

I think how grateful I am to have friends and that it is nice to share the day with two people whose company I truly enjoy.  There is just something pleasurable about taking it easy on a ride occasionally,  about not pressing the pace and being able to look at scenery rather than worrying about staying on a wheel in front of you without touching it.  I can't say that there are not times when I have enjoyed a pace line, but not today.  And though we do pick up the pace when we hit 39, tongues are not hanging out and breath coming in ragged gasps.

We say our farewells and the day is over.  But I will remember it, and I think that perhaps they will remember it as well.  Not the whole day, certainly, but snippets and pieces, and they will warm us in the days that are to come.  For this day will never come again.