Follow by Email

Sunday, April 5, 2020

Leota Hill

"Every spring is the only spring,
a perpetual astonishment."
Ellis Peters

I am tired from a night of restless dreams, tossing and turning, and a full day of exercise yesterday, but the sun peeks out and calls to me.  Spring, I have learned, passes all too quickly. And, as Peters notes, it is always a perpetual astonishment.  I head out knowing that I will see something that is new and fresh and not there the previous day.  And so, as I have oft done before, I put my leg over the bike and head out so as not to waste the day. 

I don't feel up to fighting the dog on the way I would like to go, so I head toward Salem up Leota Hill.  As experience has taught, legs that object and say, "You're kidding, right?" the first few miles gradually loosen up and give in and stop complaining.   As I climb, I notice that the red buds have started to bloom.  Some are still buds, but some have burst open treating me to various shades of pink and purple.  My God, they are beautiful.  Soon dogwood will follow, but not yet. Dandelions, bright yellow, emphasize the deepening green in the lawns that I pass.  I am undone by the beauty around me and so glad that I came out to ride.

As I climb, I notice a hiker crossing the road to reach the Leota trail head.  I can't see her head because of the large, black pack she is carrying, but I know it is a women from the curve of her slender hips.  I warn her I am coming up behind and on her right and she looks back.  She is in her thirties or forties, fine featured, medium length hair pulled back.  When I ask, (from an appropriate distance and without dismounting or stopping) she confirms that she is doing a through hike.  She says the hills are starting to get to her.  I tell her she will be fine.  And she will be if she truly wants to finish the entire trail.

When I pass the trail head at the top of the climb, I stop to remove a layer and to take off knee warmers as I have overdressed.  I am at the mouth of the trailhead.  She has climbed the short hill further in and is crossing over to go on to the Elk Creek trail head.  I spend a bit of time thinking that maybe that is something I could do while isolating, then realize that these are not the times to hire a cat sitter. I think for a bit of the through hike I did with Diana and how I enjoyed it though we did not camp. Her husband picked us up at the end of the day and dropped us off where we had left off the following day.

I think about isolating and wonder how long it will last.  The longer it goes on the harder it gets, and I don't delude myself:  for this to be successful it is not going to be for only a week or two. I grieve for my friends.  On a day like today we would be riding together and laughing and joking enjoying the beautiful spring weather.  Sharing.  I truly miss that and I truly miss them.  I miss Paul and Amelia and Lynn and John and Mike and the others.  But I will be a good citizen.  Because I love these people, I would not risk harm to them through my own selfishness.

I fear to go too far from home because if I would have an issue, how would I get home.  I don't think I have the virus, but I did have to go to the store last Tuesday.  So, between that and being tired, I head home getting in about 30 miles.  That is enough.  There is grass to be cut before the next rain comes in later in the week.  I remain grateful for my bicycle and the release and freedom it brings.  Ride, but ride safely.  Perhaps there is something to be learned in solitude that I am meant to learn, even if it is just a greater appreciation of friendship.    




Saturday, March 28, 2020

March 2020: Isolated

"I've found that there is always some
beauty left - in nature, sunshine, freedom,
in yourself; all these can help you."
Anne Frank

I have stayed active since Corona hit.  I do a daily morning Pilates or stability ball workout and then follow it with a walk, hike, or a ride:  sometimes even doing both a ride and walk.  Occasionally I add hand weights for what always has been and remains a weak upper body.  And for two days in a row, I have managed to nab a touch of sunshine on my ride though one day it meant leaving the house quite early and while it was still quite cold.

The world is screaming spring.  Daffodils pirouette in the wind, their brave yellows accentuated by the deepening green around them. Oh, how I love the greens this time of year, so fragrant and deep.  I have longed for green for months.  And the yellow, so fleeting but so yearned for. Other, small flowers thrust upwards. And so life goes on.  Isolation is wearying when one lives alone and I miss having someone to share things with, but as Ms. Frank notes, "there is always some beauty."  Oh, the magnificence of the human spirit in some people.  It shames me.  How, I wonder, did a child come to be so wise?  Circumstances? If so, surely the seed was there ahead of those circumstances.

The squirrels seem to be unusually busy and plentiful.  Important squirrel business, I suppose, as yet another crosses the road uncomfortably close to my front wheel.  Five deer cross in front of me.  Robins squabble over territory and mates.  Peepers call out in longing lonely following a long winter hiatus.  Life moves forward.  Nature seems unaware of the heavy cloud hanging over humanity at the present time.







For some reason, I think of something my daughter once told me during a time of great sorrow and great regret:  "Animals forgive us and don't hold grudges.  It is one of the things we are supposed to learn from them."  I hope it is true for we have not been kind to them or to their world. While at times the cats I live with are a nuisance, isolation, like loss, has made me aware of how much I treasure them.  It is nice to have something to hold on to, something to be responsible for besides myself.

Who knew the world could change so drastically so quickly?  I have canceled one trip in May where I was to meet with friends and ride bicycles and will likely be canceling my much anticipated Alaska trip.  But while I grieve the loss, I realize how lucky I am that thus far my family has not contracted the virus.  I am lucky I have a home and food and think about the poor people in Tennessee who recently lost so much in a tornado.  And I still have my bicycle and still can ride outside, something I have read has been restricted in other countries in an attempt to contain or slow a virus that is determined not to be contained.  The words of my mother whisper through my thoughts as I reach home:  "This, too, shall pass."

Saturday, March 14, 2020

At The Start of Corona: 2020

"Alone, condemned, deserted, 
as those who are about to die are
alone, there was a luxury in it, an
isolation full of sublimity; a
freedom which the attached can 
never know."
Virginia Woolf 

Today as I ride my bike, I realize how very odd it is that one can go to bed and wake up and the world has entirely changed around you to the point where it seems a virtual stranger. I am not entirely clueless.  I know that people have woken up to no home through fire or tornado or hurricane, that war devastates people and communities.  And having lost loved ones, I thought I had accepted change.  But alas, I remain me.  And like all humans, somehow I expect it will never set foot in my doorstep.  But it does. Of course, it does.

I used to wonder why, when I was a child, my mother told me stories of the Great Depression and of hardships she had lived through.  Since my imagination already tends to run wild, her stories influenced some deep seated fears within  because, well, mom's don't lie, do they?  And now here we are in the midst of what has been declared a pandemic. Perhaps she did it to strengthen me?   To prepare me for a life that she knew would have roses, but would also have thorns?  As always, I miss my husband most during troubling times, miss how he would hold me and assure me that everything would be fine.  What a home those arms were, a shelter from the storm.

Yet still, as I ride, I notice the beauty of the first daffodils, bravely facing the chill wind today, best petal forward.  I notice the deepening of the greenness around me, and I feel almost guilty that I still take pleasure in these sights. As I ride,  I make the decision that I will mostly do as is recommended and isolate myself.   The question is how thoroughly?  And how long can I stand it? The trick will be to find that medium spot that works for me.




I read about schools canceled, church services canceled, festivities shut down, sporting events canceled or postponed and I read those that pooh pooh these measures, but I think of the differences in the outcomes in St. Louis and Philadelphia is 1918 and realize that it is wise.  Death, you see, is never a do over. And it is certainly best to err on the side of caution.  Oh, I don't really think this virus will kill me. Again a human reaction.  It could, but while I am over 60 I am overall quite healthy. We never seem to think something will happen to us, and I am not different.

I think of a  conversation with a friend that I once thought was quite smart, and I suppose he is, but like many smart people he gets so caught up in little facts that he is unable to view the larger picture.  I think that part of this is his inability to ever admit he is wrong about anything.  Luckily for him, he is unmarried.  Or perhaps I am the one who is wrong.  I never claimed to be the smartest knife in the drawer.   But like all of us, I believe what I believe. 

 I get the theory that we need to flatten the curve, to prevent as best we can all of us getting it at the same time.  I certainly don't want to die or to lose lung function, and I want no part in being part of the reason that someone loses their mother or their father or another loved one.  I have enough on my conscience.

Briefly I pray for those doctors in Italy having to decide who will be given treatment and the possibility of life and who will be left to most likely die.  I remember how hard it was to make the decision to let me husband go despite knowing he would never walk or talk again.  I don't envy them their dreams when this thing ends.  I know all too well what it means to question decisions that you make.

And end it will.  Just as this bike ride will end.  I think how lucky I am that I do love to ride because it is something where there is generally no close contact.  I then smile a bit sadly thinking of how, at the end of a ride yesterday, rather than hugging as we normally do at the end of a ride, a friend and I bumped forearms in farewell. I will miss that touching until it is safe to hug in greeting and farewell again.  Perhaps I can discover new things about my world and myself as I spend more time alone.  I grin thinking of how I often thought that randoneurring can be, at times, a lonely place, but even a 1200 only takes 90 hours. Still, maybe it played a role in preparing for this moment.

And then I am home.  While I enjoyed the ride, the wind was demanding and chilly.  But my home is warm. I have books and food and the things I need to care for myself.  I don't have to decide who lives and who dies.  I just need to do my small part. I am blessed.

Tuesday, March 3, 2020

March 3, 2020: Falling in Love Again

"We all remember the ones who
touched our heart so deeply that our
heartbeats began to dance and reminded
us to live once again." 
Mimi Novic



I have already been to Pilates and the weight room, but the day calls to me speaking of sunshine and warmth.  It is in the low 50's, and while quite windy, still seductive.  And it does not take long after I swing my leg over the bike and settle in the saddle to realize that I am in love again:  in love with bicycling and the way it allows me to watch the world yawn and awaken in a way that driving cannot.

I pass Helen Trueblood's and stop to admire the deep, dark purple crocuses and the first of the Easter flowers, bright and yellow, braving the season, daring it to nip her.  As I pause for a photo, wishing I had brought me other camera, a hawk flies overhead and whistles.  "Is that you, Helen?" I think.  "Are you glad that someone still enjoys your magnificent yard?"  For Helen left us not so very long ago.  Last year as I cycled past the heirs were tearing down her house, but the beautiful daffodil garden she created remains and will repeatedly draw me in that direction during the spring.  

I can't say that we really knew each other, but her daffodil show was on my 9 mile running loop when I used to be able to run long distances, and we chatted a few times briefly.  Daffodils were her passion and she was known for this, and not just locally.

I move onward.  Frogs are beginning to stir and their song rises to a crescendo in certain areas, screaming of spring.  I pass a ground hog who sees me and scurries frantically away.  I grin thinking of the commercial and so I say, "Hey, you wood chucks, quit chucking that wood."  For some reason, that commercial made me grin.  

I am pleased with me legs.  The pace is slow, particularly going westward into the wind, but they have a strength I did not think they would have after this morning.  Now tomorrow, that may be a different story, but for today they are fine so long as I can meander, and I can.

Yes, today I am fully and whole-heartedly back in love with my bicycle and I dream of the rides to come.  My heart dances at the thought of seeing friends that I have not seen for awhile, and I glory in being alive. 

Sunday, February 23, 2020

The Medora Store Closing: AKA "Another one bite the Dust"

"To say good-bye is
 to die a little."
Raymond Chandler

It is still cold out and despite the sun, the world looks defeated and used up.  I hope to see a little green, but I am disappointed.  Water pools beside or in the roadways.  Mud spots my pants and even on my GPS.  I can't decide where I want to go.  I only know that I want to go.  And so go I do.  I take the Surly thinking that I will seek gravel.

I do find gravel, and I ride on it for a bit, but since they graveled Story Road with the larger gravel, it is bumpy and takes all my concentration.  Originally, I decided just to head west and north and plan on ending up in Salem, but that is not to be. 

As I ride, I lose track of where I am, taking turns randomly and using only direction.  I don't have time for a century since I did allow it to warm some prior to heading out, but I have plenty of time for a longer ride. Eventually, I come out on a road I know, and I know I am near Medora.

While I definitely prefer my Wahoo to my old Garmin for programmed rides, there are some areas where it lacks.  Roaming is one of them.  I miss the comfort of knowing I can search for cities or addresses or food.  I miss the comfort of knowing that not only can I retrace my route (something my Wahoo will do), but knowing I can ask for the shortest route back.  So I decide to go to Medora.  I heard a rumor that the store there was closing and I will see if it is true today rather than waiting for a day when I need to refuel and go and find that there is no longer an oasis available. 

When I arrive, the store is still open yet a shadow of its former self.  There is one rack of edible products, mostly junk foods, and some drinks.  The girls manning the cash register confirm that it is closing.  They tell me there is a dollar store of some type that will be opening, but it will not be open until the following year.  I commiserate with them on the loss of their jobs and after a short sit down, wish them luck in finding employment. 


I think of how when I first started riding in that area, there were two stores and an ice cream store.  Now there will be none.  As always, I grieve at the loss of another small store in a small town that is dead or dying.  I think of the many times I have stopped there, of the rides I have that depend upon a stop there or carrying extra, and I am saddened.  Mostly I think of what we have all lost in the quest for efficiency and cheapness.  What makes one town thrive and another flounder?  People, location, a combination of the two?  I am not smart enough to answer this question.  Perhaps it is just our lack of caring.

Briefly I contemplate riding on to Leesburg to see if that store is still operational, but I decide it is too far.  I am weak from the winter and got a late start and have nobody to pick me up if I falter.  And so I head home.

 On my way, I think about the many times I have stopped at Medora.  The first time I found the store on a solo ride and how grateful I was. That special winter ride with Grasshopper when the snow started while we sat and ate our sandwiches in the older store, the one that closed first, the one that was an old hardware store and had the lovely aged oak inside.  The flakes were so lovely, as large as a baby's fist, and I worried about our trip back if it covered the roadway. I think of arriving there with Steve Rice and Steve Meredith and finding our way home blocked by flood waters, how we waded those waters, bikes held high, knowing they were probably both cursing me.  I think of riding there with large groups for Medora Goes Pink and remember some of the riders riding the small train made of metal barrels.  In my mind, I see Paul and Lynn sitting on the curb with me as we eat and drink, preparing for the next 50 miles. I think of taking Greg Z. there last fall as I wanted him to see the covered bridge. How we had to ride gravel to get there as the main road was closed and not walk- able. At least, I think, we can still ride the century there when they have their festival in the fall.  And I say my good-bye to the store knowing barring something unforeseen, I have walked through those doors for the last time.  Another good-bye. And I grieve at the loss of another piece of my past, another death, but remain grateful that I knew it when. 


Tuesday, February 4, 2020

Pope Lick Park Ride to the Ride

"Our creator would never have
made such lovely days, and given us
the deep hearts to enjoy them, above
and beyond all thought, unless we were
meant to be immortal." 
Nathaniel Hawthorne 


Yesterday was a beautiful day for February, warm and sunny, but I spent it hiking, so I was very glad to see a ride, or rides I suppose I should say, on the club schedule for Monday.  Even stepping out the door, it is unseasonably warm, and I think how nice it will be, despite our moderate winter, to have a break.  On a day like today, I can dream of spring and believe it will be here soon.  With days like today, I don't mourn the loss of Texas Hell Week in March quite so deeply.
I do contemplate just riding from home knowing it will save time and I will cover more ground, but I decide that today is not a solitary day.  Today is the kind of day where you want to be with people who love bicycling as much as you do, who share the passion.  

On the drive I worry about my ability to keep up.  I have become so accustomed to having a GPS file to guide me that I have become rather dependent upon it, but I know that if I get dropped, despite not having a route, I can use my GPS to find my way back to the car.  I just decide not to overly stress about it.  Despite being off all that time with a pulled abdominal muscle, I seem to be healing and rebounding fine.  

As I suspect, there are quite a few people gathered to "ride to the ride."  Many of them I don't know or only know superficially, but there are a few closer friends.  In the end, we are all happy to be there and happy to have this warmth to ride in.  There is the camaraderie that seems to happen when you have an unusually warm day in the midst of winter and people are going to be able to ride without being weighted down by winter clothing.  Even I, despite my propensity to overdress, have only knee warmers on with my shorts and no leggings.  Some are in shorts.  When in doubt or the weather is on the edge, I always chose to keep my knees warm.

As usual, I am not the fastest and not the slowest rider here today.  I struggle on the hills as I expect to, but it feels good, the way my thighs strain and burn and the way my lungs draw oxygen in and out searching for relief. A good friend recently told me that he notices aging mostly on the hills.  I would like to kid myself that this is not happening to him and won't happen to me, but since growing old is not optional and we do wear out, I become more determined to enjoy my current strength and age, to appreciate that I am out on a bicycle in early February and that I am climbing a hill.  I am so thankful that I have the health to be out here, and that while it hurts, to put one foot in front of the other until the task is completed and the hill is conquered. As I have told others, hills are our friends.  Like our true friends, they sometimes make us stretch outside of our comfort zones. 

There is just something about a good climb on a bicycle that you don't get riding on the flats.  Riding the flats at a fast pace can be very challenging.  It can hurt.  But it is a different hurt.  And the hills bring scenery that the flats never could.  I have heard people say that the club is leaning more and more toward flat city rides, and I believe that is probably true.  Do they, I wonder, know the loss that is inherent in that choice?  But of course each of us is different and one of the lovely things about cycling is that it is a very wide umbrella with myriad choices. 

At the last stop where we all regroup, the sun is shining and those of us who do not have short sleeved jerseys on are cursing our poor decision making skills, but still there is laughter and joking before we finish the last few miles back to Pope Lick park which I still think of as Floyd's Fork Park. John makes me laugh with his funny story about seeing bear scat in Alaska and how when they asked his daughter if it was scat, she replied that it was either bear scat or scat from someone who saw a bear.  The rain is supposed to begin tonight and the temperature to drop the following day, so I will hold close to this day until spring finally puts winter to bed.  I am glad the creator gave me the heart to enjoy this day and the ability to share it with others.  On a day like today, while I know I am not, at least in this earthly body, I feel immortal and thankful.  I believe God would approve.  



Sunday, January 19, 2020

Lake Salinda: January 2020

"To appreciate the beauty of
a snowflake, it is necessary to stand
outside in the cold."
Aristotle

 
We have been spoiled by an unusually warm winter thus far, except for a couple of frigid days in November.  So the change from soaking rains and near 60 to 17 overnight, well, it was not really something I was looking forward to.   Still, when morning came, I wanted to do something.  Diana had bowed out on hiking, so I decided to grab my mountain bike and head to Salem and Lake Salinda to try the new mountain bike trail there.  I expected the cold and wind, I did not expect the snow.
Now I lay no claim to being a mountain biker.  Yes, I have done quite a bit of gravel.  At times I have even ridden my road bike on dirt roads or light gravel.  But I have never really ridden through forests and over roots and on terribly uneven ground.  I got a mountain bike to ride on the roads when it was snowy out.
As it rained the night before and was so warm, I am not even sure if the trail will be frozen enough to ride, but if not I will just ride the roads.  I am meeting my daughter for a movie and an early dinner, so I head out early as I need to get home in time to change and drive to our meeting spot.  The predicted sun has not yet arrived, and as I drive, the most beautiful snow begins.  It is not a snow that will stick.  It is not a wet snow that melts.  It is a dry snow that the wind immediately blows from the road so that the snow forms patterns that change and swirl along the roadside and in the road.
I arrive and find the beginning of the trail.  It is only after I have gone a bit in that I remember that this bike does not shift like my road bike.  Indeed, I find that I do not quite remember how it shifts.  It is no help having bar mitts on the handlebars as it hides the shifters.  After almost falling struggling to remember how everything works, I decide that perhaps some riding on the road is in order.  
And so I ride up and down the road on my mountain bike.  A few cars drive by and I smile to myself wondering what they think of a lone cyclist out on the road on a mountain bike when there is a trail nearby.  It is definitely more windy as I head north, but the wind is not as strong as I feared. The shifting begins to come more naturally.  And I am dressed warmly.  Despite the cold, I am not uncomfortable.  As my time to ride is limited, I decide to head back to the trail again.  My desire to ride on it wars with my concern that if I fall and can't walk or ride out, I will freeze to death rather quickly, so I proceed rather cautiously.  
I am much more comfortable this time round, but not comfortable enough to ride too far in.  At times I still feel hemmed in by the narrowness of the trail.  I admire how the trail has been made so that in one place, you can make a jump if you are advanced enough skill wise or you can ride a path if you are not.   And I find I am enjoying myself and the beauty here. I begin to worry less and concentrate more.  Relax more and tighten less. Handle the bike rather than fighting it.

I run out of time altogether too quickly and it is only when I get in the car to head home that I realize I have even been lightly sweating.  As I have said before, the hardest part about riding in the cold, at least once you have the clothing, can be talking yourself into walking out the door.  While I don't anticipate ever truly being a mountain biker, I enjoyed myself and I will go back.  Never hurts to work on a new skill set.  And when you are not dead, you are still alive.  The snowflakes God sent were just the icing on the blessings in my life.  Despite my longing for green and warmth, there is still beauty in the world.