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Sunday, September 4, 2016

A Solo Century

"If we never experience the chill of a dark winter,
it is very unlikely that we will ever cherish the warmth
of a bright summer's day.  Nothing stimulates our 
appetite for the simple joys of life more than the starvation
caused by sadness or desperation.  In order to complete
our amazing life journey successfully, it is vital that we turn
each and every dark tear into a pearl of wisdom, and 
find the blessing in every curse."
Anthon St. Maarten


I am excited.  I have been positively giddy with anticipation of the holiday week-end with an added bonus of a vacation day all week.  I have a date:  a date with my bicycle and the open road.  Originally the question was not whether to ride or not, but whether to ride the club ride or head off on my own.  In the end, I find I do not want the four to five hour drive to and from the club century.  It just is too far for one ride. I debated getting a room and staying all night and riding by myself the next day, but it is too late to arrange a cat sitter. I decide to ride from home.  I have a century route that needs some finishing touches before being presented, and it is always best to do this alone.  With company, I get distracted.  Don't get me wrong, the distraction is nice sometimes, but to appreciate the company of other riders I find I am often better having some solo miles in the saddle. 

The weather is perfect.  Not so chilly in the morning as to require a jacket or an uncomfortable half hour or so of riding, but crisp.  I know that fall promises to stealthily make her appearance all too soon, that golden time when the world lights with color before slipping into a cold, drear silence.  The inexorable high humidity that has haunted this summer has broken and the dew point has dropped.  I have nothing to that "has" to be done, and I feel a need to nurse at nature's verdant bosom before the green fades.  Experience has taught me how very much I will need it, this green world, when the weather turns and I am imprisoned indoors. And today I have no need to leave at a certain time or to return at a certain time.

While it feels a bit sacrilegious, I am beginning to have some appreciation for the single life, and later during the ride I spend part of my time contemplating how very fortunate I am to not "need" to have a partner for financial reasons.    I will never be fabulously wealthy, but then I don't need to be, though I must admit that already I have a yearning for yet another new bike.  All I need is to be able to care for myself, and I don't have to have fancy things.  Even another bike:  it is not a need, merely a want.  There is a huge difference.  I briefly think of the time my husband threatened to buy everything on my Amazon wish list for me.  I finally got him to understand that it is more fun to get something when you have wanted it for a bit. 

I drink my coffee and play a few word games before readying myself and my bike.  I have not restocked tubes, tire, and cartridges since Raney's six flat day though she has repaid me the items.  Since I would have to enlist a friend for help if I should have trouble, I try to take everything that I would need for minor repairs.

  One nice thing about summer riding:  the preparation is normally minimal and the days are long.  I don't hit the road until about 8:30, and that is fine.  There is more than enough day light for the 104 miles.  Soon, though, I will need to put my emergency light on my bike for while it still stays light fairly late, each day is shorter.

The day is filled with dodging farm machinery.  I am not quite sure what the scurrying is all about because the corn and soybeans are not yet ready for harvesting, but I assume they need to make sure everything is in order.  I pass a truck loaded with hay bales, square bales, not the round ones you normally see anymore.  Three young men sit in the back of the truck, legs dangling, as the truck heads to the barn.  For a moment, I am with them for I remember putting up hay, the sweet smell of alfalfa and timothy, cut and warming in the sun, the scratches that I did not realize I had until the end of the day when I washed the sweat from my body and examined my aches and pains.  The prayers that it would not rain and that the hay was dry enough that it would not mold when baled. Those were good days, days I would not have had without my husband.

And the day is filled with memories of him.  I pass the church we visited when my father-in-law  preached one Sunday.  I pass Reed's orchard where we picked so many peaches, the drone of the wasps on the fallen fruit, the juice that only comes from a fresh peach, not the green imitations sold in supermarkets. I pass the area where we went to dance and drink when we first met and where the waitress said she did not have to card him, only me, because she had seen his identification the night before.  (I always told him he was lucky he was with me the night before.)  And while the memories are tinged with sadness, they also bring a smile as I realize how very fortunate I have been.

I notice that purple flowers are starting to bloom, that the corn is starting to brown and wither, starting at the outer edges and moving inward.  I notice the first of the wooly worms and think of what I overheard an elderly man telling another during a lunch time walk:  "It is going to be a bad winter this year, a hard winter," he said."The almanac says so and I saw a wooly worm that was completely black."  I hope he is wrong, but regardless, I will survive.  I pass a house that is beautiful on the outside, old bicycles, wagons, and I think how the people living there have created a home.  Looking at it, it feels cozy.  I wonder if that translates to the inside, but of course you cannot knock on the door of a strange home and ask for a showing.



As I descend into Bethlehem, I notice how technical the descent is on this road where we normally climb and don't descend.  Odd how when you are climbing, you don't notice as many switch backs.  And then there is the river.  A tug boat pushes a load of coal as tug boats have for years. As I climb out I notice that despite the lack of humidity, it has gotten hot, but it feels good to sweat.  It feels good to feel my muscles strain and challenge themselves and grow stronger.  And it feels good to be alive and on a bicycle.




 Yes, winter will come, but first there is fall.  And all the seasons, all the feelings, all the experiences, are what gives life its very richness.  And through it all, until my legs are no longer able to push the pedals, there are bicycles. 

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