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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. 





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