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Sunday, July 30, 2017

A Gravel Excursion to Nowhere

"Summer is the time when on sheds one's
tensions with ones clothes, and the right kind of
day is jeweled balm for the battered spirit.  A few of 
those days and you can become drunk with the belief
that all is right with the world."
Ada Louise Huxtable
July, yet the prediction is for 60's in the morning, low humidity, and a high in the 80's.  It is hard to decide where to ride, but it sure as hell is not hard to decide to ride.  I pick the Surly and set out to find some new roads.  And once I get off the beaten path, I do.  If I happen to remember an intersection or come across a road I am familiar with, I make the decision to go the opposite way.  And of course, if there is a choice between paved and gravel, gravel wins.  I intend to try to do about 40 and to leave the door open for a century tomorrow, either the club century or a solo century depending upon my mood.  I become hopelessly, gloriously lost, however, on roads I have never ridden before, and my 40 miles turns into 60 miles.  

At one point, I cross 135 and an older woman (well I say that but she could have been my age) pulls up in her car and asks if I can help her.  Of course, having absolutely no idea what county or where in that county I might be, I doubt it, but she hands me her phone and she has a smart phone.  She is trying to find Starve Hollow.  I plug it in Google, hit go, and it begins to talk to her about heading west on 135.  The relief on her face is palatable, as it will be on mine once I get out of the back part of Wheeler Holler about a half hour later.  But right now, it feels delicious to be lost. I have asked the GPS to take me home, but for some reason it is persnickety today and does not tell me I am going the wrong way.  I am being perfectly truthful when I tell you that I actually begin to expect to hear "Dueling Banjos," a movie I saw long after it came out and have regretted seeing ever since, about the time I come to a fence and find the road does not go through.  I am really a bit spooked, too spooked to stop and take photos.  The only thing I keep wondering is why there are no packs of snarling pit bulls snapping at my heels.  Not one dog on that section of deserted gravel road.  Go figure.  Does anyone lives in these shacks?  Are they only used during hunting season now or for week-end camping?

I turn onto Ault Saw Mill road, also gravel, thinking that it will tell me where to go, but as I check, the turn becomes further rather than closer, so later I end up retracing my path.  The entire time I am laughing at myself, and I realize I am having fun. God bless July sunshine mixed with coolness and bicycles.  I come across a Butterfly plant covered with butterflies and I think how very beautiful they are.  Queen Anne's lace is scattered delicately throughout the hedgerows.  An abandoned farm house, mysterious and deserted, makes me wonder who lived their life there in that lonely valley.  Was the house once alive with the footsteps and laughter of a passel of children?  Did the dreamer who built the house ever fulfill his or her dreams before moving on to the next plane of existence?  Did the isolation bring them closer or pull them apart, his alcohol filled voice raised in anger and frustration at the weather that occasionally robbed them and left bellies empty and demanding?  
And I end up back on one of my favorite roads, though paved:  Eden/Delaney Park.  Home in time to spend the late afternoon and evening with my daughter.  Already dreaming of the ride tomorrow and already deciding to go to Orleans.  It's been awhile since I have climbed the Devil's Backbone.  Ah,

summertime, and as the George Gershwin song says, the living is easy, particularly on a bicycle.

Sunday, July 23, 2017

One Hot Ride

"God, it was hot.  Forget about frying 
an egg on the sidewalk; this kind of heat
would fry the egg inside the chicken."
Rachel Caine 

Sometimes there is a very fine line being doing something stupid and doing something brave, and today was one of those days.  A club century is scheduled and the "feel like" temperature is predicted to be between 105 and 110 degrees Fahrenheit.   As I prepare, I remember those days I have ridden when sweat has sat on my skin unable to evaporate and where thirst clenched my being with longing for something cold and wet.  Briefly I think of the first day of the Tennessee 1000K.  Along the route, one of the volunteers appeared at the side of the ride with an ice cold Sprite.  Ambrosia.  Reviving.  I could have drank at least five, I feel sure, but I was concerned that I would appear greedy so I had one and moved on.  A mistake, one I recovered from, but nevertheless, a mistake.  I would have ridden better and more safety with more cold fluids in my gut.  

I try to add my extra water bottle carrier to the back of my bicycle seat, but I am unsuccessful.  My husband was always my mechanic, and while I can do some things, I just can't figure this one out.  I think I have it tightly attached, but then find I have too much sideways movement.  I give up and will depend upon my ability to drink little and ride far.  It is very, very rare for me to drink two water bottles in 25 miles, and I know there will be three stops on the ride because that is how the TMD rides are set up.  I also stick some Hammer Gel Enduralytes in my bag, something I rarely use, and eventually even down two. 

I am surprised when I arrive and find that there are lots of riders, even some who are known for being unable to tolerate heat.  Again, stupid or brave?  You and they should be the judge.  I have determined that I will ride, but I will ride my own ride.  I will not let myself be drawn into the mad rush at the start where everyone tries to get as many miles in as possible during the cool of morning, and 80 degree morning on this particular morning.  I do not believe that the result justifies the effort. More effort, even at cooler temperatures, means more sweating.  And when it is that hot, it is nigh impossible to stay hydrated  no matter how conscientious you are. Yet again, I think I am glad I am not the ride captain.  I have captained a ride in high heat over a difficult course and thought I might not get one rider in.  I don't want to repeat that experience.   Yes,  you can take the attitude that they are adults, know what the weather is supposed to be, and make the decision, but still I would feel responsible if they had issues from the heat.   This is one area I am sexist in.  Men, at least most men I have talked to, don't seem to feel the same sense of culpability.  

The ride starts and we head over the bridge into Indiana.  Many of the roads in the first half of the ride are roads I know. Despite the heat, summer has had enough rain that she remains green.  The corn and soybeans look promising for a bumper crop. I ride for a bit with David  D., and I remind him that today would not be a good day to get lost.  For some reason, my GPS is not picking up the route correctly, and eventually I give up reloading it and decide to just trust the cue sheet.  

I ride the first part of the ride with Jason.  It is good to talk with him.  With the work I do, it is always refreshing to hear from him, to know that there are good people in the world, people who have a good sense of right and wrong and what is important and valuable.  But I know I am slowing him way down, and in a short while I tell him I am going to drop back further.  

For some reason, today I do not feel much like company after that.  I want to concentrate on riding smartly, drinking regularly, not overdoing, maintaining a steady pace.  I don't know if it is physical or mental, just that it is how I feel.  I am not down, at least not until we ride past my mother-in-law's home and I see the for sale sign in the yard.  It was little more than a shack, but it was her home, and her love made it beautiful.  She is long gone, but how well I remember the way the coffee smelled when I walked through, the front door.  I remember the kindness of her smile and how there was always the smell of something baking for she ran the kitchen at the sale barn.  I remember the sound of her laughter, and her saying, "Ah swan" over things, a term I had never heard until I met her and one whose meaning I still don't really know.  I loved her, and I hope she knew it. 

I think of how on Christmas Eve, I would send the children there with their father to take presents, and while they were gone Santa would come, because I hated it when we had Christmas in the morning and they had no chance to play with things before leaving to be with my mother.  So I began having it Christmas Eve and allowed them to play until they fell asleep, exhausted, prey to sweet dreams and laughter, smelling sweetly of childhood, and then they could sleep some more on the way to West Chester.

And then I am back on the bike climbing Liberty Knob, the heat making each breath feel futile and meaningless, as if the heat has sucked all the oxygen out of the air.  I slow my pace a bit, my heart rate slows, and the climb is behind me.   Before you know it, I am at the lunch stop.  With the heat, I am satisfied with my pace.  I am not a Subway fan, but I stop there nevertheless because I know I get as many refills on my drink as I want.  When I go to the restroom and see the yellow brightness of my urine, I  know I made the ride choice. 

Nancy says that the conditions are better than expected, and she is right.  While it is hot, it has been overcast and there has been a head wind that will become a tail wind but has served to evaporate some of the sweat, cooling the skin.  Still, I dread the climb I know is coming.  It is not steep, but it is long, and the hill is completely exposed.  Again, I ride at a steady pace, not pushing or fighting, just putting one foot in front of the other, and before you know it the climb is behind me.  My imagination had made it much worse than what it actually was.  I feel badly for a moment that I did not wait for John.  We rode this route together last year.  But I stick to my plan to ride at my own pace. 

I run into Steve Rice and Dave King at the last store stop.  Steve always struggles in the heat, particularly when it first gets hot, but Dave looks bad as well, his shorts almost white with salt deposits.  Dave and I end up finishing the ride together, along with someone named Chris who I just met on this ride. Somewhere along the way we have lost Steve.  Dave stops under the bridge and obviously is feeling unwell.  After a few minutes, we head onward toward the end.  Both Chris and I offer to transport him  home because he rode to the ride, and I know he is feeling really badly when he accepts.  I give him a bottle of water I have in my car in a cooler, and Chris takes him home. 
I feel better seeing Steve on his bike on River Road as I leave.  I was not overly worried, but I felt better knowing for sure he was basically alright.  The temperature gage on my Garmin showed it as being over 107 degrees. 

Again, fools or brave riders?  I don't know the answer to that.  I am glad that I rode, but I can't say that it was a "fun" ride.  But any day on the bike, is I suppose, a good day, if for no other reason that it means you are healthy enough to be there.  Hopefully everyone else got in safe.  But my, it was hot. 

Sunday, July 16, 2017

No Orleans today

Winning isn't about finishing in first place.  It
isn't about beating the others.  It is about overcoming
yourself.  Overcoming your  body, your limitations,  and 
your fears. Winning means surpassing yourself
and turning your dreams into reality."
Kilian Jornet

After deciding last night to ride a century rather than search for gravel, I head toward Orleans.  Nearing Medora, however, my way is blocked.  While I have waded these waters before, I decide to change my route and go to Story instead.  I know it is open on Sundays.  So many stores and restaurants in little towns don't open on Sundays. And so many small stores have closed. This definitely influences my decision as I was at Story recently and would rather have gone elsewhere today.

 I do end up wading the flood waters in Brownstown on my way to Freetown, but they were not as deep or as wide as the Medora waters.  Briefly I think of Steve Rice, Steve Meredith, and I wading the waters of Medora.  Neither was too happy with me that day, but they survived.  I remind myself to think of what roads might be flooded as I plan my return trip, but I have until 9:00 with day light.  I have not yet stuck my winter light on the bike, so I do need to be in before then.

I think of yesterday's sixty miler, particularly Paul's comment about brevets and why anyone would want to do them.  He reminds me of my husband in this.  Lloyd never understood it and often asked why I do that to myself.  He supported me, but he never understood.  So today I spent some time thinking about it as next  year will be the time to begin to decide about the next PBP, 2019.  

I am just starting to feel a bit like myself.  Those who have never suffered a significant loss will not understand this.  And those that have that are different than me will not understand it. Many think I am weak, and perhaps I am.  But it is just how it has been for me.  Recently I turned while mowing and thought I caught a glimpse of him, and I was undone for the evening, unscabbed and bleeding.  A friend who lost a child told me that our loved ones check on us.  But as I said, other than the odd moment or two, I am almost back to being myself.  I sing and joke and laugh.  I am interested in things again.  I ride my bike not because I made myself to retain any semblance of sanity, but because I want to, the way I used to want to.  

As I ride, I wonder if I will recall my route that bypasses 135 because I am heartily sick of riding on 135.  It is not that it is extremely busy.  It is not.  But it has more cars than I like and while scenic, it lacks the beauty of the side roads.  There is a dearth of side roads to the north, I think due to Lake Monroe being built many years ago, but there are roads to the south that parallel the main road.  I know I will have to be on 58 for awhile and I remember reading it was closed in places.  It closes right at my turn.  I do find the roads, somehow, because I am quite directionally challenged.

I return my wandering thoughts yet again to brevets and whether I have any desire to ride any longer brevets.  And I don't have the answer.  What I decide is not to decide yet, either way.  See how my knees do, how my mind does.  There truly is no rush to make a decision.  And it is a big decision, because brevets require commitment and desire, and they require mental and physical discipline as well as the ability to endure pain.  But I am glad that I have done brevets,  no matter how crazy they may seem, because Mr. Jornet is right.  It is about overcoming yourself.  You are your own greatest asset and your own greatest liability.  And only  you can decide if conquering yourself, your pains, your fears,  your tiredness, is worth it.  

The day is hot and I end up with 107 miles and moderate hills.  I am tired. But I am glad that I rode.  Yep, I am getting back to being me.

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Doing Nothing

"There's never enough time to do
all the nothing you want."
Bill Watterson
There could never be enough to these mornings, mornings when the sun in shining and the sky is a brilliant blue.  The few clouds are white and puffy without the grayish bottoms that have clothed them recently.  And the day is mine.  Last night I got the weeks clothing and sheets washed and I have hung them to dry.  By the time I return, they will be ready to be brought inside, smelling sweetly of the fresh air. 

I decide on the Surly again because I really am not sure what I am going to do or where I will end up riding.  The Surly gives me the freedom to pick gravel if it presents itself, and while it is heavier and slower than my Lynsky, it will also serve quite well for a century ride if that is my decision. 

Yesterday I rode with an old friend, Dick Rauh, who is (yeah) starting to ride again.  It seems years since I have seen him, and it probably has been well over a year, but he still looks the same to me.  I grin as we both wore our red LBC captain jerseys.

We ride and laugh about past rides:  the time he brought a heavy, beater bike to my Christmas Century and had to be dragged in, the time he sat in a fire ant nest at Mountain Home, and that followed by a broken seat post during a brevet with Steve, Dave, and I telling him he was strong enough to stand the whole way.  (and he did until it was fixed).  And while the distance is hard on him, particularly with the climb out of Bethlehem, he does well, and I know it will be no time before he can ride centuries again if he decides to do so.  It is good to catch up, to hear that he and his wife and his daughters are doing well. 

And so, because of riding yesterday and chores around the house that need doing, I am not sure how far I will ride but will just decide as I go.  It is a lovely ride, a mix of gravel roads and of paved roads.  When I can, I pick a road I am not very familiar with or have never ridden.  The Surly gives me more freedom to do that.  I hit a closed road sign and smile.  It is Sunday so they won't be working.  I am able to cross the newly paved bridge and wind my way past the bull dozer they have blocking the way. 

At one point, I become a bit frightened when a red truck, rusted and dented, slows, turns and comes back, then turns again.  The truck pulls ahead and stops and I stop my bike.  A man gets out and walks to the side of the road, and I spend a moment deciding whether to turn around or ride past.  The recent story about the couple who broke into a home and tortured the couple has me spooked.  I decide to go forward as there are no houses behind me for miles and I am on rather rough gravel.   Perhaps there are people who live just beyond the next bend. Regardless, there will be no sprinting on this pavement. I pull to the wrong side of the road as I pass and the man smiles and waves as he stands next to a creek.  I wave back, relieved that he seems harmless, just stopping to look at the creek that rushes by.

I come across a rafter of wild turkeys, probably 15 to 20, but they are gone before I can pull out my camera.  A shadow appears on the pavement in front of me, a buzzard flying overhead.  I smile thinking of my husband telling me about a buzzard who nested in a chimney at the plant.  He said they vomit to protect themselves and their nests, and the vomit is particularly pungent with their diet of decaying road kill. 

I decide to head home and not do an entire century today, to clean and have my house ready for another week of getting up and going to work.  Will I still treasure these days as much when they are all mine?  My cousin said that since he retired, he has come to begrudge anything or anyone that demands his time, and I remember my husband being much the same.  So much time spent in doctor's offices.  If there is a reason to be glad that he passed when he did, it is the new law where he would have had to go back two to three times weekly for his pain medication, unless the law provides an exception for those who are chronically ill. I know we need rules, but sometimes it seems we are trying to play God and deny free will. I know he hated sitting in those offices, the waiting, the futility of his hope to feel well again, if only for a day.  There is just so much that I don't understand, but then I have never been the sharpest  knife in the drawer.  But I do understand that I am happy here on a warm summer day on my bike, and I will miss the green and the warmth when winter knocks at the door so I soak it  up as much as I can.

Yeah, today I was doing nothing, and as Mr. Watts noted, there is never enough time to do all the nothing I want. 

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

A Day on the Surly

"There's more to getting where you're
going then just knowing there is a road."
Joan Nixon 

Bicycling can fill many purposes as a friend, Amelia, reminded me of this week-end.  She said that sometimes there are "destination" rides, those rides where you are going somewhere and the ride is less about the beauty of the route than the utility of the route.  In a sense, like a brevet, though I have found those who design brevets to be, for the most part, interested in providing a scenic ride.  Or like a ride to work. Variation is not really tolerated well on destination rides or brevets or on the way to work.  There are places to be and times you are expected to be there.

Then there are company rides, those rides where the distance, pace, and roads do not matter nearly so much as who you are riding with.  Each of us have riding companions that delight us for whatever reason:  their sense of humor, their compassion, their ability to challenge us and to bring out the best in us, their ability to listen, their ability to tell stories, etc.  I am ever so fond of many of my riding companions, and for different reasons.  Some no longer ride, some do.  I hold them all dear to my heart regardless.

There are also the "mystery" rides, those rides where you pack enough to get by for awhile without any particular store stops, turn right or left as you please, do whatever the hell you want to do when you want to do it at whatever pace you want to do until you want to turn around and try to find your way back to your home or your car or to wherever you intend to bed down and rest for the night.  These are the rides where you stop and take pictures without worrying that you are slowing others down or having to hammer to catch back up.  These are also the rides that I normally find myself riding by myself, maybe because they are unplanned. These are the rides that are all about the scenery.

Today I decide to take the Surly and to search for new roads and gravel after a week-end destination ride.  Don't get me wrong. I thoroughly enjoyed the ride, visiting with friends, making new friends,  and I even found myself unexpectedly playing, singing, and laughing on the second day of the two day century overnight because I have been missing Lloyd more than normal recently for some reason.  Playing made me feel vibrant and alive in a way I have not felt in a long while.  No back/neck pain like the last century.  No dreariness.  Just fun, pressing on hills until my thighs hurt, short bursts of speed, unsustainable, but still strength building.  Teasing Dave when he got a flat which allowed the two females in the group to get to lunch and eat first.   And my bike:  my bike shifts like a dream for the first time in what seems like a long time.  It really is nice to have the use of my big chain ring back and to have it reliable throughout the ride.

It is humid out today, but for once this summer the wind is light.  It has been an odd summer that way, wind almost daily, and not light winds.  The forest and fields have had enough rain that they remain green and  lush. The wildflowers of earlier in the season are fading or faded, but there are still flowers in places.  Everywhere there is beauty.  As I reach my first gravel road, there are two county road workers at the side laying what seems to be a pipe.  One waves and grins at me.  The other, the one operating the digging machine, grimaces as if angry that I dare to be there.  I feel sure the pipe must be to control flooding, but the way that area floods, I can't image a pipe big enough to keep the water out of the fields so perhaps it has another purpose.  Sometimes when it floods, the waters come almost up to the bottom of the stop sign.  It looks so peculiar when that happens, as if there is a stop sign in the midst of a big lake.

Shortly thereafter, right at an intersection,  I pass a farm house.  Outside is a young man with a black and white cow on a halter and a lead.  The cow is drinking from a trough.  There is no fence between this cow and freedom, merely a woven plastic lead rope and red halter.  The cows rear quarter is manure stained, yellow and matted.  The young man just stares at me, no smile lights his face, but he does respond with a mumbled greeting when I say hello.  I want to ask him why he has his cow on a leash.  He is of that age where he might still be eligible for 4-H or he might have graduated.  I find as I age that it is harder to tell.  The young look so much younger than they used to. I suspect that he wants to ask me what an old woman is doing on a gravel road on a bicycle in the middle of nowhere.  But neither of us asks the other anything.  I ride on and he continues watering his cow.

As I ride I make choices on which roads to take. After passing the cow, I decide to climb rather than pick the flat roads to the side.  I am still getting used to climbing on the Surly.  For some reason, I thought the knobby, wider tires would give them much greater purchase in the gravel, but my wheel still slips and I am beginning to believe slippage is more dependent upon body position.  But I am green in this area and only just figuring it out. Despite tire slippage, I have no trouble with the climb. One or two of these roads I have traveled before, but many I have not or I have forgotten them. There are fields of corn and soy beans, but there are also some tree shaded lanes and bridges. Surprisingly, there are very few dogs, and those I do run into are well mannered.  They are curious about me, but they are

not aggressive, a good thing as I only brought one water bottle today.  Occasionally I pass a farm house, like the one with the cow, and I think for a bit what it must be like to live out here with no neighbors and no other houses anywhere nearby.  Does that type of living situation make people closer?  Or does the continuous isolation push them apart?  Or perhaps I am deluding myself.  With cars, it is not so very difficult to get places.

I think of so many things while I ride including what retirement will be like when I can get up and ride almost every day if I desire, but eventually I decide I had better begin to find my way back home as I have things that need to be completed before resuming the work week that was interrupted by the 4th of July.  And what better way to end new roads than with an old road that I have passed many times yet never ridden: Old Babe.  I think of Mike Kammenish and how he laughed when he first noticed the Old Babe street sign many years ago.  What would he think if he knew there was an Old Babe Village?  I think of the next PBP and how I enjoyed talking about past PBPs with Dave over the week-end.

Ms. Nixon is right.  There are roads to all sort of places, but there is more to getting there than just a road.  And I hope with retirement there will be more rides with no particular destination in mind and friends to ride with.  New friends and old friends.  New roads and old roads.  All have their charm.  But may there always be bicycles and roads and time to explore them. 

Thursday, June 22, 2017

The Donut Ride

"I got nothing to do but today...."
Steven Stills

Two days off work,  though it will really only count as one extra day as I have to work Sunday for the Foster Parent Appreciation event.  My daughter and I were supposed to go the water park, but the distance combined with the prediction for thunderstorms caused us to  reschedule.  I have an entire day to myself a day, an unplanned day with no expectations or obligations.  "Why," I ask myself, "are these so rare." And so, as I debate what I should do with an entire unplanned day, I decide to ride to Salem for a donut and let the day unfold from there.  I love donuts, and a fifty mile ride will certainly give me the justification to eat one, if I even need a justification.  

The weather is a bit cooler than it has been, though it is still humid.  No jacket or vest is necessary. Shorts and a light jersey.  Everything is green.  I pass fields of corn and soybeans, hay and wheat, before getting to Eden Road and the forest.  I am thankful for those people that still work the land, mostly male in this area. 

I think about retirement.  I don't want to wait until I retire to think about retirement and the life I want to have. I have gradually been trying to decide what type of things I want to do with my time, and I decide that during nine months of the year, this might become a once weekly activity.  Fifty miles is enough to stretch the legs and to make you feel as if you have exercised, without leaving you with the residual tiredness that sometimes comes with longer distances. I know I will want to ride with one of the bicycle clubs at least a few days weekly, but I also know my proclivity toward solitude, quiet time with just me and my bike and the road.  The thought of a new beginning, a new life, excites me, and I wonder how and if I will change.  Oh, I know my basic personality is not going to change, but interests and activities do change.  I think how disappointed I was looking into adult education to see that this has been ended at  our local university.  Going back to school, but without the tests and tensions, was alluring to me.  I keep a list of things that I might want to do, and despite the fact the non-stressful option is gone, school remains on the list as a possibility.

I am startled from my thoughts by a deer as startled by me as I am by her, powerful haunches moving her deeply into the woods and into safety.  I notice a multitude of road kill, and it saddens me.  I think of something my husband said about aging and how he grew to feel more empathy for others, including animals, as he aged.  So much wisdom he passed along. I think about how I miss my husband, and as I pass the sweet clover think as I often do of how after a ride I would tell him what bee pasture was in bloom.  I don't talk about him much to others anymore, people are uncomfortable with it, the depth of my emotions even after all this time, and I no longer grieve him so, but I suppose I will always miss him.

 I miss the whisper of his hands as they caressed me, as light as butterfly wings,  and I think of how before we moved and our work schedules changed, he would kneel beside the bed and gently kiss me before leaving for work each day, even if he thought I was sleeping.  I miss being cared for.  I came to treasure him more and more because he treasured me.  Love is different as the years pass: deeper, more accepting.  I would not give up the passion of those early days for anything, but what came afterward was something I did not even know could exist, and I am glad our love had time to mature.  Would that we could have grown even older together, but twas not to be.  And yet again I am thankful that he gave me a bicycle and encouraged my riding, as if he knew the solace and happiness I would find here.

I see three dogs laying in the road ahead, stretched out, enjoying the summer weather, and I sing to warn them of my approach. They jump up barking. They are the most aggressive of all the dogs I see today, but never really a threat.  I dismount and walk a short space keeping my bike between me and them. One dog, solid black, obviously with lab in him,  has ticks hanging all over him,bulging tan with blood there are two right near his eye.  He obviously has been hit or had some problem, one hind leg is held up to avoid touch with the ground.  Another has some eye problem, the whites of his eyes are blood red and make me hurt to look at them.  The third only appears a bit malnourished.  As I often do, I ask myself why people get animals if they are not going to take care of them.  It does not surprise me.  I work with children who people have but don't always treasure, but it still saddens me.  Retirement again comes to mind and how happy I will be to leave that behind me.  I will miss the children, but I will not miss how their eyes sometimes haunt me, and I will not miss my inability to make things better.  Sometimes things are broken that can't be fixed, merely mended, and sometimes they are broken even past mending.

I reach the donut shop and buy a donut and some cookies to take to a friend and a drink, and I sit on the store step of the closed store next door and enjoy every bite of my favorite carmel iced roll.  I decide to take another route home.  I pass Amish wagon after Amish wagon on that route, many with young couples or a woman with children, and of course green manure scatters the road, its scent filtering in the morning breeze and reminding me of my days working in the stables.  I laugh as I wonder if there is any other animal whose excrement I would think of as smelling good.  If I were wealthy, this would be one thing I would like to have in retirement, a horse of my own, but I fear it is way beyond my means. I wish these young families all the best and hope they appreciate what a special time it is when families are young. There is a comfort when your children grow and you reach the point where you know they will miss you if something happens to you but that they will be fine, that they can care for themselves.  Still, there is a closeness when they are little that recedes so gradually that it is as you wake up from a dream and it is gone.  Can you treasure something you are not even aware that you have?

I ride to Sharon's house and knock, but there is nobody home.  I leave the cookies on a bag on her front porch chair and leave a voice mail for her that she has a present when she gets home.  And then I ride the few miles home.  I have decided the rest of the day, other than mowing the lawn and weed-eating, will be devoted to reading and perhaps a movie.  As Steve Stills says, "I've got nothing to do but today." 

Sunday, June 18, 2017

The Bonk

"We don't have a choice in how or when
our bad days will blindside us.  But what we
do choose is how we allow them to leave us 
once they're gone.  You can use those moments
as a catalyst to spur you on to greater things
or you can let it be the event that breaks you and 
leaves you shattered and forever lost in darkness."
Sherrilyn Kenyon

The day promises to be hot, but there is no foreshadowing that it will be a "bad," or at least a "hard" day on the bike.  True it is supposed to be unseasonably hot and I slept restlessly the night before, but when I left for the ride there was no indication that I would have the dreaded "bonk."  Sometimes on the bike, things just happen.

The century is a tad over one hundred miles, and while we have not ridden it for a few years, I do remember that it has often left me worn out.  This, combined with the weather, should have made me more cautious, but instead I start out like I am ten years younger, legs pumping, heart racing.  True, I do tell the group I am with I am going to drop back, but then everyone dropped back, and while the pace slowed for a bit, I should have known it was too fast for my condition combined with the weather conditions and the course.  Rookie mistakes.  I still make so many mistakes, but I have learned to forgive myself and hopefully use those mistakes for growth rather then letting them stunt me or curb my ambitions.

Salt River Century, a route designed by Dave Runge, no longer a club member.  And there are some beautiful roads on this route, isolated, scenic.  The problem is that I am pressing myself too hard to enjoy them except for occasionally when something striking catches my eye:  the silhouette of the trees against a blue sky, a flower, a heron gracefully winging his way to the next body of water.  Even the river crossing, normally a time for laughter, is hurried.  Interestingly, while I wait to cross, carefully putting on hospital socks left from my husband so as not to slip,  a stream of antique cars ford the stream.  And I do enjoy the companionship. 

 The difference in age and gender is beginning to become more evident, but I still enjoy being with Dave and with Steve.  I think of Bill and how I miss his company on the bike.  The three of us have so many shared memories and experiences from hours and hours spent together upon the bike.  And I love them.  But where before our paces were similar, mine is beginning to lag, and keeping up means I press myself more than I used to have to do.   I can see myself riding centuries for many, many more years, but I also see my riding more and more by myself or with different companions.  Still, the ride today will make me stronger and will help me adapt to the growing heat that is summer.   The hard rides are what give you growth to make other hard rides seem easier.  And the hard rides are normally the scenic rides.  Hills are much less tameable or cultivatable than flat lands.  

It does not help that once again, I am not able to easily or reliably shift into the big ring.  Having had a new shifter installed and having been to the shop two times for adjustment, I figure it must be the derailleur.  For now, it will have to wait and I will make do with the gears I have with my middle chain ring, for I try only to use the triple on rare occasions, and today is not one of those.  Then my neck and back begin to ache until at one point I am almost crying, partially because I am afraid this will begin to haunt all my rides as it did last summer.  The heat begins to play with me, sweat seeming not to evaporate and to sit on my skin.  

At the third store stop, I tell everyone I am heading out alone as my legs are toast.  Nancy kindly reminds me that it is okay.  I grin as I tell her it has to be okay because it is how things are.  I have no doubt that I will make it back to the start, but I also know it will be slower than the group is wanting to go.  Could I press myself and keep up?  I really don't know.  I have before,  What I do know is that I don't want to.  My body will strengthen from what I have done without having to totally deplete it.  

On my way in, I realize that I have finally ridden long enough to know that a bonk does not mean I am totally hopeless as a cyclist.  It is just something that happens sometimes regardless of conditions.  It is not a nice feeling, that feeling that every pedal stroke is a painful act of will, but it just is.  There will be good days on the bike, and this is just part of it.  And still I sing.  

At the end Dave is waiting and his arms enfold me into a great big hug.  Once again I realize how blessed I am with the friends that I have and with bicycles.  Ride on.  And don't let a bonk get you down.