"Those who contemplate the beauty of the earth
find reserves of strength that will endure as long as
life lasts. ...There is something infinitely healing
in the repeated refrains of nature - the assurance
that dawn comes after night, and the spring after winter."
Murphy's law of bicycling: if the club ride you want to do is scheduled on Saturday, the weather on Sunday will be more inviting and vice versa. And this week-end is not different. It does sometimes seem that way anyway. But I set my alarm and prepare as much as possible the night before the ride so as to give myself a bit more time in the morning.
I know this ride and I know that it will be demanding. But summer approaches and it is time to pull myself up and out of the melancholy and the winter doldrums. It would be easy to sit at home on the couch and dwell on past misfortunes and losses, but that is not the way forward. Sometimes I think you need to reach for happiness to grab it. Past experience has taught me that, but despite having had the lesson, it is not always easy to apply. I know there is beauty on this ride, though until I am on the bike and on the route I forget how much. I also know, greedy gut that I am, that there will be a delicious lunch. Ride to eat or eat to ride or a combination of the two.
It is a small group of people that show, but I did not expect a large crowd. It is early in the season, and this route has lots of climbing. The weather is deceptively mild and windless and later I am so glad that I listened to the forecast before leaving for the ride because the temperature does not rise, maybe even drops a few degrees, and the winds pick up and become quite boisterous. In fact, there are times I wish I had left on the additional layer that I shed prior to the ride start.
The four of us head out, chatting, joking, and laughing the way old friends do when they have not seen each other for awhile. I have overwintered without seeing Dave, and have seen Steve only once. Tony I have seen more frequently, but there are lots of topics to be covered and lots of miles to cover them in.
The sun that graces the morning hides behind the clouds early in the day, mocking us as the winds rise. But there is beauty everywhere on these back roads. Stones show in the fields in a way that they will not once the grass greens and rises. On hills, the water has carved various paths. A few brave daffodils remain and I think it is the in-between time. The daffodils, at least the early bloomers, are finished, but other flowers are not yet showing themselves and the red buds and dogwoods do not yet appear to be blooming. I love the places we pass that have old, deserted dwellings but are surrounded by daffodils. A thing of beauty left behind, a reminder that people lived here, loved here, fought here, and perhaps died here.
Midway in the ride, we pass two riders going the opposite direction and Steve recognizes them. We turn around and find it is indeed Johnny Betrand and Steve Wyatt. A brief hug, a short bit of a chat, and we are back on our way. They are on their way to Lexington for lunch and we are going to Midway for lunch at Wallace Station. It seems forever before we arrive, and the line is out the door, but there is really no place else to eat and who would want to forego the delicious food. There is a reason that the line is out the door. Still, I find myself shivering until we are able to enter the building, and I find myself dreading heading back out into the cold. At first I am so chilled that I put my gloves back on to hold my water. Steve manages to nab one of the scarce tables, and the food and company warm me.
Hill after hill assaults our legs and my thighs begin to warn me that they really do not appreciate the demands that are being made on them. And then it happens. My bike shifts itself into my granny gear and will not shift out of it. This has been an on-going problem for me since last fall. I try to remember how many times I have taken it in to the shop to be fixed. At least three, possibly four. I have even explained how important it is that I have a dependable bike as I really do not have much of a rescue squad. I can limp home in the small ring, but it will be slow going. Steve is able to loosen the cable, manually place it in the middle ring, and tightened the cable back. He issues a strong warning not to shift and I pray that I remember. I also hope I remember the fix because I no longer feel confident that my bike will be reliable even after I take it to be repaired again. I hate not being able to trust my bicycle.
I need to learn to do this for myself, to figure things out and fix them, but it does not come naturally to me. This mechanical has sapped the joy from the day until I determine that I will not let it. Sometimes all the things I have had to learn to do since Lloyd died seem overwhelming. A few tears seep out as I hate being a burden, but it is just the way it is, at least for today. The ride has become grim, however, as much from the cold and the wind and being tired as it is from my issue that was quickly resolved. Chatter lessens. There is no more laughter. I force myself to remember the beauty that surrounds me, to listen for sound, the sign that spring nears, but rather than birds or frogs I hear wind in the leaves. Still, there is a melody here and once again I begin to sing softly to myself. Wheels hum. On hills, the sound of our breathing, so symbolic of life, is clearly audible as none of us are in prime riding condition.
I can't say that I am sad to see the parking lot as I am after some rides, and I am tired, but I feel better than I thought I might with the physical demands of this course. And that is a comfort. Spring IS coming. There will be warm rides, maybe even some of those slow, intimate rides with close friends that I treasure so, the ones where you talk about anything and everything without being judged, the ones where you laugh and stop to take a photograph of something that draws your fancy. The ones where speed isn't an issue and there is no hurry to finish what is a lovely day. And rides like this will make me ready. And the beauty of the day, despite a few snags. has left me oddly refreshed and temporarily sated. Spring WILL come after winter.