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Thursday, December 31, 2020

New Years Eve 2020: Not Bicycling Related (random thoughts from a slightly inebriated brain;-)

"In the New Year, never forget to

thank your past years because they 

enabled you to reach today!

Without the stairs of the past you 

cannot arrive at the future."

Mehmet Murat Ildan

Another New Year, and I find that age has changed me.  Yes, I still look forward and anticipate  new and delightful experiences, but I pay tribute to the past and those that I held dear but who are no longer here with me.  I pay tribute to my failures and my successes. I struggle to understand the role that each played in my becoming who I am today. Sometimes I think that given the state of the world today, 1 lost in every 1,000 here in America so far and over a million worldwide, that it may be good they are not here to see this and for me to worry about; but I am glad to be here so perhaps, probably even, they would be too.  Regardless, many of the people who molded and who shaped me, the animals who comforted and taught me, are gone. Yet I am grateful to them.  They not only did but continue to influence me, to chastise me, to comfort me, to guide me. 


I miss my husband.  People think it odd when I try to explain that one of the things that I miss about him is the smell of him.  For months after he passed I would pick up his hat and cover my nose with it while inhaling as deeply as possible, feeling my body relax and luxuriate in that beloved scent.  I have never had an overly sensitive nose and before him, I don't know that I realized that each of us has a unique aroma.  And maybe we don't.  But he did.  And to me, combined with his arms, it spoke of home. I miss his touch and the shivers it would send up and down my spine.  I miss the sound of his footsteps, unique in all the world. I miss his laughter and the funny things he would say.  I miss how he cared if someone hurt me or I was upset about something, his advice that I often didn't listen to but still needed to hear.  My world is emptier without him but paradoxically richer because of him. My future would undoubtedly have been quite different had he not been in my past.

I miss my mother: not so much the tired shadow that gradually replaced the mother I knew though she too had her role, but the mother of my youth, the one who held me and rocked me, the one that took me to Cincinnati shopping and to have an ice cream clown.  I remember falling one year as I ran down the street, skinning my knee.  It was a rather nasty fall taking lots of skin with it and blood poured.  But I did not cry until I reached home and my mother's arms because she would care and somehow, her very caring so much, would make it better.  Such a strong woman, certainly not a perfect woman, molded and shackled by a childhood of deprivation and hardship and unkindness, condemned to growing blindness as she aged,  but a strong woman.  Sometimes I feel shame in my own weaknesses, particularly in the light of comparison.  But I miss her.  I miss her wry humor.  I miss her hands.  My mother had the most beautiful hands, capable of being so gentle, a trait she did not pass on.  And I owe what strength I do have, if indeed I have any, partially to her and the example she set.

I miss my big brother.  In my mind's eye, I have a picture of him near the time when I realized he really was going to die, that there was no cure and God was not going to perform a miracle but was calling him home.  I worry that I will lose the image as my mind and memory weaken with age.  Verizon would not help me, but my son helped me find a program to preserve the sound of his voice.  During my lunch on a recent solitary 13 mile hike on the Knobstone, I listened to it remembering how he loved the woods while growing up.  I remember snuggling in his arms while we watched "Bonanza" on television or listened to Bob Dylan, "West Side Story," Simon and Garfunkel, and the Beatles on his record player.  I remember how he could pick on me, but let anyone else pick on me and they would answer to him.  I loved Chris.  I will always love Chris.  And I miss him.  But I am who I am partially due to his being in my life.

I miss Becky Moore, her life cut short despite her beauty and her vivaciousness.  I was, perhaps, one of the few that knew the difficulties that she smiled through, that knew that her searching probably played a role in her demise.  Despite that and being a friend, I can't say I was never jealous.  Being a plain Jane, it was not easy having a friend  who had that certain something that drew every man within her radius toward the flame.  But I loved her and the friendship that bloomed between us.   Despite the years, I keep a gift she made me all those years ago and hold it close.  It makes me smile.   And I learned from her, from her life and from her death. There have been times when I have tried to live my life more fruitfully since hers was taken from her.

I miss my pets.  I miss Kitti and Pupik and Pooh and all the rest of them.  I hope they forgive me for the times I failed them, when my patience grew short or my knowledge was limited or flawed.  So many pets throughout the years for I love animals much as I love small children.  Unlike dealing with adults, with children and animals you don't have to wonder so much what they are feeling, if they have some hidden agenda.  What you see is generally pretty much what you get. Somewhere along the line, children grow and learn subterfuge, but that comes later.  Animals never or rarely do.  What you see if what you get. Kindness lights their day.  A harsh word breaks their hearts. Always giving more than they take. Yet each had an effect.  Each played a role in making me who I am today.  And I am grateful for their love and guidance.

And this leads me to my biggest blessings: my children and grandchildren.  I had hoped my daughter would find someone special, fall in love, marry, and have children.  I still hope she finds someone, but she is reaching the age where there would most likely be no children.  This does not seem important to her and I accept that, but I can't help but to think what a wonderful mother she would have been. My daughter has given me far more than she has taken, and I am thankful.  She also played a huge role in shaping the person that is now me.



 My son and his wife gave me two, beautiful granddaughters and in them I see my youth and my children's youth and their own precious youth.  Since COVID, I have not had much contact.  As something I read by someone I can't remember pointed out, in this new world NOT seeing family and friends has become the true act of love, but we did have a Christmas visit, the first physical contact I have had with them since last January.  Ivy and I had a dance party, the other adults looking on as if we were quite unhinged as we danced and smiled together, sharing a moment, a moment it is unlikely that she will remember due to her age and the insignificance of the dance,  but quite likely that I will.  It always has interested me how moments that may be of primary importance to one person are not recalled at all by the other, as if their world was not the same one and if that moment in time was not shared. I briefly held my newborn granddaughter, searching her face for a hint of who she is to become, looking for my husband in her, knowing that I would love this tiny, little person no matter who or what she is.

I have been blessed with all of these wonderful people and animals now gone, waiting for me when my time arrives. What a joyous reunion it will be. I am blessed with new pets who comfort me in times of sadness and make me laugh.  I am blessed with friends, old and new,  who accept me for who I am and who like to spend time with me, who accept my bad traits and cherish my good traits.  Friends who I can call upon to join me on a hike, or a walk, or a bike ride.

I am blessed with good health.  I am blessed with enough income to meet my needs, to keep a roof over my head and food on the table, a car in the driveway, and a bike in the garage. (Okay, kitchen or basement.  I don't have a garage;-)  I am blessed with eyes that while dimming, are not yet giving way to blindness through macular degeneration.  I am blessed with a mind that may be a bit foggier than it used to be, but still functions well enough to allow me to go about my daily business. And I am blessed with people in my past, now gone, that I loved and who loved me, who molded and shaped me, giving me the strength to move forward and to possibly love again.  Hopefully they have forgiven me for the times I let them down, when I did not cherish or use the gifts that they gave me as they should have been used.  I do realize that they gave me "the stairs" to climb to where I am today, and while it is not perfect, it is okay.  So long as I hold on to my memory, they are here with me, in the wind as it whispers and kisses my cheek, in the road as it changes while my bicycle wheels lead me forward, in my mind as I recall them and smile rather than cry, as a song bursts forth from my heart into the open air.  To them and to those that are still with me, who remain important to me, I say thank you.  And since I cannot do more, that must be enough.  

I wish you all a Happy New Year.  I hope that you have people that you love and people who love you.   I wish you an appreciation of those who have gone but who played a role in your development. I wish  you the ability to be appreciative of what they gave you, of the role they played in your life, in making you who you are today.  I hope you had the strength and wisdom to tell them what they meant to you while you could.  I wish you the strength to continue to hold strong and stay safe until the worst of the pandemic is over, and that you have the wisdom to dwell upon the things it has taught you about what and who is most important to you and to your world.  Happy 2021!   As Dicken's Tiny Tim wisely said, "God bless us every one."



Wednesday, December 16, 2020

A December Century

"In the sweetness of friendship let

there be laughter and sharing of pleasures.

For in the dew of little things, the heart 

finds its morning and is refreshed."

Khalil Gibran


 When Jon asks if I am interested in riding a century with him on Friday, I am hesitant to answer.  It has been quite a while since I have ridden a longer ride, no less a century.  He "says" the course is an easy one, but easy to one person may be hard to another.  It reminds me of people would call to ask about one of my rides and ask if there are hills.  I quickly learned that what was a mountain to one rider was only a bump in the road to another.  And Jon is a stronger rider than I am. Still, he has ridden with me numerous times before and should know my pace. Will it be an imposition if it is a choice?  As usual, I don't want to be a bother.


  I ask myself if he truly wants to ride as slowly as I am likely to go.   I ask myself if I will be able to finish without feeling as if I want to die.  I ask myself if I will be able to get in before dark as if I have not ridden miles and miles in the dark.  I no longer ask myself if it is the smart thing to do as the answer to that question really doesn't seem to matter;-) I chide myself for getting so out of shape and think again how I miss the encouragement of the Big Dogs. When I answer I tell him yes, but that he can back out if he is not okay with going slowly and that I intend to have a working light on my bike for "just in case."  Things happen.  People bonk.  Mechanicals eat time.  Snack stops need to be made.  You just can't ride one hundred miles easily without eating and while I have done centuries eating on the bike, I prefer to have a bit of a rest. 


One lesson you learn from riding brevets is how to inhale food or gulp it down with minimal chewing.  As a friend told me about brevets, if you aren't eating, riding, or sleeping you are doing it wrong.  But in all truthfulness, I have always gobbled down my food.  With four siblings, it became a right of survival. And it always seemed there were more interesting things to do than to sit and eat. While we always sat at the dinner table for the evening meal unless mom and dad were going out, I don't really remember that there was much conversation.  


I do remember that Mom would, for some reason, fix only one small box of spinach, one of our favorite foods courtesy of Popeye the sailor man, and you never got to eat as much of it as you would have liked.  And so you ate fast, in hopes of snagging seconds. As I write this, a Popeye ditty that my husband learned in the army and used to sing comes to mind and causes a smile to flit across my face.  I do miss him.  He was not silly often, but when he was oh how it made me laugh.  I then remember my brother, Chris, now gone.  When I would ask him to pass a bowl of food, he would always ask me, "High or low?  Fast or slow?"  How I miss them, these people who loved me and that I loved.

Anyway, Jon shares the starting place and does not take the out I provided him with, so at 8:00 a.m. my bike and I are at the start in Madison, Indiana.  The morning is chilly, but there is sunshine and it is really not cold for the time of year.   Jon has a cue sheet. He is one of the few people I know that rides with no GPS.  I am riding blind. But Jon has no light, so perhaps we are equal.  He sent me the cue sheet, but I found myself unable to make the connections on the map to program the route.  It reminds me of when I first started riding with groups, prior to anyone having a GPS, and how dependent we were on sheets of paper.  I have read that GPS units actually are not good for brain function (mine never functioned that well anyway), but I look at them as being safer.  Two accidents I had while cycling were caused by one person turning while the other was not or vice versa.  Regardless, like cell phones, they have their good and bad and they are not going away. Had I been able to program the route in, I would have been using mine.  



The miles pass quickly and we are at or close to 40 miles when we make our first stop.  Jon suggests stopping besides a lake.  It is pretty, the water shimmering in the sunlight, the wind playfully nipping the surface, and the buildings around it are decorated for Christmas.  I would love to see it at night, lit up. I worry a bit about how the people who own the land will feel if they see us here, on their property, resting, but as Jon points out they would probably just ask us to move on down the road.  Jon is surprised when I say I am going to have my lunch sandwich, but I am hungry and know I need the fuel for the ride.  I should have eaten a bigger breakfast.  Instead I had an apple and some low sodium V-8 juice.....and coffee......lots and lots of coffee.  Jon, as he often does, brought lasagna.  Despite the early hour, he decides to join me in making the stop lunch and eats at least part of it intending to finish it at a stop down the road. 

Most of the fields we pass are now brown, barren, and littered with stubble, though we do run across a few farmers still harvesting.  Most of the farmers in this area have other jobs.  Their farms are not large enough to support themselves and their families on and so they work the land when they can, often using their vacation time and hoping that the weather cooperates. I think how there is something special in people working to provide for those that they love and even more special when they give to those that they don't. There is beauty here along the route if a different kind of beauty than is to be found in the other seasons, starker and more demanding, like the faces of old people that are etched with wisdom and experience lacking the smooth, soft innocence of youth.   Beauty surrounds us in different forms and sizes and ways.  Perhaps the realization that life goes on and is renewed, with or without us, is part of the plan.  Acceptance.


There is an allure in the developing friendship that Jon and I share as we travel these roads.  We are beginning to reach the point in our friendship where there are shared jokes based on history. How I love laughter, the way it makes me feel, the smile it brings to my face, the way it feeds my soul. We are getting to know each others likes and dislikes, the ways we are similar and the ways we are different.   There is beauty in our love of the bike and the freedom it brings, the hum of pedals and chains spinning.  Despite COVID, I have much to be grateful for, this new and still fragile friendship being of those things,  and finally, the Calvary appears to be one the way with a vaccine how being approved though not yet available. I still have hopes of being able to cash in on the cycling trip I won to Scotland over the winter.



As we ride, I notice a shoe in the road and joke that Cinderella must have left it behind.  And then there is another, different shoe down the road.  Jon spots its mate.  And then a sock.  Jon teases that if we ride long enough we will begin to find underwear and tells me the story of riding this course with its designers, Dave Fleming, and coming across a man clad ONLY in boots, no clothing, walking between his barn and his house.  Not long after he points out the house, we come across a group working outside and I notice that the one man has his underwear showing as he bends over doing whatever it is he is doing:  a lot of his underwear.  If my eyes were better, I could have told you the brand for it is written in large letters across the waist band. I crack up and ask Jon if he saw the man. He did not but we both giggle over my sighting.  Jon later says that if we had ridden a double century, we surely would  have come across someone completely unclothed.  Life has such humor in it if we open our eyes and our hearts, but it is much better when that humor is shared with a friend.

I complete the ride tired but in better shape than I expected.  While neither of us eat inside of restaurants anymore due to COVID, Jon suggests getting barbecue and eating outside.  We go to a most unusual place:  Hoboken Eddie's.  As it turns out, not only is the barbecue good, but Eddie tells us how he ran Alaska Iditarod Run.   An interesting place and an interesting man with excellent food though the hygiene reminds me a bit of Varnderpohl. But despite the warmth in my heart and soul,  it grows cold outside so we eat our sandwiches and  part ways sated by a day of friendship, laughter, and bicycles.  I am so glad I said yes and did not let my doubts define me.  I am glad for friendship and the pleasures it bestows.  And I am glad for bicycles.  What a sad world it would be without them.  Gibran is right:  it is in the dew of these little things that I am refreshed.

Wednesday, December 9, 2020

Early December 2020

"For everything you have missed, 

you have gained something else; 

and for everything you gain, you lose something."

Ralph Waldo Emerson


It has been quite awhile since I have blogged about a ride or a hike or pretty much anything.  It is not that I have been injured or sitting idle in my house, but for some reason the urge has not hit me to put hand to keyboard and share thoughts.  And I have had quite a few memorable and enjoyable moments. All in all, despite the pandemic, I am blessed. I have my health, my house, my bike, and enough money coming in to get by.  The weather thus far has been more to the good side than the bad.  Some days have been colder than normal, but not the majority.  Some have been cloudy or windy, but many have had at least some sunshine and quieter gusts.  So I can't blame the weather, just me.


As I rode recently on a sunny day where the day had started in the low thirties but warmed up to at least the high thirties if not the forties, I thought about how a number of years ago, there would have been a group of us riding together, probably on a century ride, enjoying the day, laughing and joking, but that just is no longer the case.  At first I thought perhaps that they were riding, but without including me as I have slowed with age and there has been a gap caused by different political beliefs and I was sad but okay with that, but my phone reveals that while a few of my old companions are riding, and riding at the same time, they are  not together and not outside.  They are on Zwift. And it struck me as sad, deeply sad, and I wondered if they realize yet what we have left behind. Was it a conscious choice or did it just happen, aided by the indisputable fact that it is harder to motivate in the winter? I almost inevitably enjoy it once I am out and doing something, but it is just harder to get out the door.  Or perhaps I ride for a different reason than do they? 


Don't get me wrong.  I liked Zwift when I was able to play it on my computer.  It was nice to have on cold, windy days when going outside held absolutely no appeal, particularly if one is riding alone, or when snow and ice cover the ground making riding dangerous.  Following a Zwift update, however, my computer, while only about three years old, would no longer handle Zwift.   My daughter is on a quest to help me with this, but thus far no luck. Up to that point, I tried all their suggestions to the best of my non-computer minded ability.  My daughter tried all their suggestions to no avail and she is quite proficient with computers. And I have not given up.  She is going to try something new this week-end, hooking me up through another avenue.  But despite that, even if she is successful, I think it is sad. Not that we  have Zwift and other such programs, but that it zapped the time we had riding outside in a group with others.  And of course, the pandemic has weighed in, but this began happening before we were cursed with that particular blight.


It reminds me of when cell phones first became popular and people no longer chatted with each other at store stops during rides sharing their recent happenings and jokes and stories, but glued themselves and their attention to their cell phones.  And I am not saying I am better or different.  Once I finally gave in and acquired a smart phone, I often found myself doing the same thing.  But I do realize there has been something lost, something precious.  And it saddens me at times, even if the gains are as great as the loss. I suppose everything in life has a cost.

Today as I rode, I thought about the St. Nick's Hick Ride I did on Saturday this week and how much I enjoyed myself.  (Link to video composed by Rich Ries:)  It was good to see everyone.  It is not that we are emotionally close to each other or even what I would even consider close friends, but we are bonded by the enjoyment of this yearly ride, by Rich Ries who is kind enough to organize the ride each year and include me, and by our love of cycling though they lean more toward mountain biking and I suck at mountain biking.  The weather was unusually good for a Hick ride.  Indeed, at one point, I joke about it telling Rich I wondered if something was wrong with him when I saw it was not supposed be zero degrees or colder.  The sun was shining and the wind was light.  The pace was relaxed and the only goal seemed to be to enjoy the world that God has bestowed upon us and each other. It was made more special by the lack of club rides due to COVID and because I know I must isolate as much as possible between then and when I go to see my new granddaughter, Lia.  I also enjoyed the short stretch of single track, something new to me and that actually did not kill me or cause me to break any bones;-)


If things never changed, however, there would be no Lia, there would be no Ivy.   Life has a habit of moving onward.   Some people remain in our lives and others don't.  Some people continue to bicycle and others don't.  I suppose the trick is, as Adrienne Rich pointed out, to love what you do and not what you have done, and to be thankful for those that remain dear to  you.  To appreciate what you had, but to concentrate on the gains rather than the losses.  To remain aware of your blessings.  And to move forward enjoying the ride. 

Sunday, November 1, 2020

Goal to be Determined

"You are never too old to

set another goal or to dream

a new dream."

C.S. Lewis 


So with the upsurge in COVID cases, club rides are once again suspended.  But I decide I must make use of this beautiful day.  After over a week of cloudy skies with no hint of sun, the sun is out.  I wash and hang out three loads of clothes before heading out.  I decide to ride toward Salem taking the shorter route that I have not ridden for awhile. I think it is odd how I seem to ride a certain route for awhile and then realize I have not ridden another way for quite some time.  I think how blessed I am to be able to step right outside my door and take off with hills in one direction and flats in another and little traffic on most routes. 


There are now some trees that have completely shed their leaves and they stand tall, seemingly proud of their nakedness, but there are some who have not and there is still color that seems even more brilliant now that the sun is shining. I had thought they would be gone by now, but they are not.  Probably Sunday will take care of most of them as there are strong winds predicted.  The road is covered with leaves that have fallen and when no cars are near, I play my my game of picking one to run over delighting in the crunch.  But I am also cautious as the rain has left the leaves wet in many places, and wet leaves, like freshly cut grass, can mean a fall.  I feel the sun caress me despite his growing lack of warmth and I feel blessed.  As I age, sunshine seems to have become more important to my emotional well being.  

On Sawyer road, I am accosted by dog after dog.  I wonder where they have all come from as the majority that are there now did not live there the last time I passed this way.  I giggle at one I pass that has lived there and used to chase me.  He is old and just looks now, letting me pass.  How age changes us. I think that perhaps the pandemic has caused people to adopt more pets since they are home. I, myself, thought of adopting one since I cannot travel as planned until I saw how hard it was to integrate Murphy into my home when I had to take him from my sister.  Most of them appear harmless unless they happen to bump my front wheel, but a pit bull comes out that seems rather worrisome.  I stop knowing I can't outrun him and would rather be stopped if he bites than pulled from my bike. He smells me and I feel certain he can smell my cats,  but then he retreats seemingly satisfied that I am not a threat.  

On the way to Salem, I am facing a head wind, but my pace is leisurely and there is no rush so it is not a problem.  I know that there will be payback on the return journey, and indeed there is.  I blow home quickly and easily.  On my way I think about what, if any goals, I want to set for the New Year.  I come up with many ideas, but nothing that I settle on as a certainty. It just will take more thought.  But there will be a new goal and new dreams to sustain me through the isolation that comes with the pandemic so long as I count my blessings and not my losses. 

Monday, October 19, 2020

The Red Barn Ride in Autumn

"I hope I can be the autumn leaf
who looked at the sky and lived.
And when it was time to leave, 
gracefully it knew life was a gift."
This is probably not the wisest thing I have ever done, not canceling my 64 mile, moderately hilly ride, but I am so looking forward to it after a hiatus from the bike due to illness and then injury.  And I have been conservative up until now, sitting around the house reading and using the computer and watching television until I want to scream.  I learned a long time ago that trying to ride or work out through injuries normally backfires and costs you even more time off the bike and more time unable to work out.  I have always believed that things happen to us for a reason, that there is something we are supposed to learn from the experience, so perhaps it is to aid me in acquiring more patience, a virtue I lack. 
 Yes, I rode a century two week-ends ago, but I was off the bike with a stomach bug that caused me to  lose 7.5 pounds in two days prior to that (negative COVID test)  and did not ride afterward as I developed an injury of the neck/upper arm/shoulder.....still not really sure or sure what caused it.   Per Gabe Mirkin, whose newsletter I adore, in just two week of inactivity we lose a tremendous amount of strength:  I believe him.
When making my decision, I decide that if I find I am in pain after a few miles, I will turn around and sweep the route by car.  I truly don't want to miss what is left of the fall.  I hope to see it from the seat of my bike, but if I have to turn to my car to see it I will.  What a wonderful thing eyesight is.  I think of my mom and how macular degeneration changed her life.  Before she developed it, I had never heard of this cruel disease that steals the central vision leaving only peripheral vision.  Better than total blindness, but still such a loss.   How important it is to squeeze every drop of beauty out of life while we can and to savor it and hold it dear, to look at the sky.  Our time is so short. 

I change the start time to a bit later due to the predicted cold temperatures.  Still, it is in the 30's when I arrive at the forestry.  I think how each year I have to relearn how to dress for cold weather riding.  I tend toward overdressing and that causes dehydration problems.  Drinking is always hard in the winter when it is cold and that exacerbates any overdressing.  One would think that I would learn, but it never seems to sink in.  I relearn this lesson every fall when the temperatures drop, just as I later will remember that there is beauty in the stark quietness of the winter landscape. 
With the frigid weather and a century on the schedule, I wonder if anyone will show despite the fact it is supposed to warm up to the sixties. I always wonder that, as if I could not ride on my own and enjoy it. Yes, regardless, I will ride.  Today is the Red Barn ride, and I like the route.  I suspect that Eden and Delaney Park roads will have some color to them.  It has enough climb to be interesting, one hill that is challenging, and scenery ranging from forest to farm land.  Plus, it is low traffic. 

As it turns out, there are ten riders.  Two of them I don't know very well.  We have met on prior rides I have put on the schedule and spoken a few words, but never had a true conversation.   Four of them I don't believe I have met before.  The two I have met are very strong riders, and it obvious that the group of six know each other and plan on riding together.  Despite my urging them to feel free to start ahead of the scheduled start time, something that is allowed and even encouraged by the club due to COVID and trying to keep groups to small sizes, they wait and we leave together.  But that is the last we see of them.  By the time we reach the store stop, they are long gone.  I am so glad that there was a group of fast riders because I know I am NOT going to be fast and I don't want to hold anyone back. And I don't want anyone riding alone unless that is their choice for the day.

I end up riding the entire ride with Mike Crawford, John Pelligrini, and Paul Battle.  I don't know if I am riding better than expected or if they are being kind, but they match my slow pace.  I strongly believe they are being kind as I know how powerful each of these men are on a bicycle. I grow slower in the fall every year, and with being off the bike for three and half weeks I am slower than normal. But we all seem comfortable with the pace and with each other.  We discuss politics and other issues and the miles simply fly by.
Paul mentions how different the course looks when we pass fields that have been harvested.  For some reason, the stubble always reminds me of a man who shaves regularly but has missed a day or two, perhaps because he is on vacation.  Suddenly I am back in the mobile home we lived in when the children were little remembering how when my son was small, he loved it when I would let him put shaving cream on his face and use a razor that was covered to shave himself.  I see him at the mirror, as serious as can be, as if there were even a hint of fuzz on those smooth cheeks, patiently shaving.  But with company, there is not much time for reflection.  
John mentions the woolie worms that seem determined to cross the road to wherever they are going and how many there are, but I think they are small in number compared to a few years ago.  I wonder if a new pesticide is what has decimated their ranks.  We certainly have not had exceptionally cold weather the past few winters that would have done this.  Always they are a sign of the coming winter and the change of seasons.

As usual when I ride with company, I don't notice my surroundings nearly as much as I do when I am alone, but it is pleasant being with friends and occasionally the beauty of a particular view takes my breath away.  This is the case on the descent down Old 56, a long, slow 2 mile descent near the end of the ride.  I seem to be in a tunnel with walls made of yellow and orange.  The wind tosses leaves like confetti. And in the midst of the beauty I realize I am really tired and my neck in starting to hurt a bit.  I am glad we near the end and slow further worried that pushing may hurt more than it helps.  I counsel myself to patience.  

It is no longer cool.  I am not sweating, but I think I would be if it were not for the strong wind.  The sky has been blue but is beginning to cloud over, but still is it a gorgeous fall day.  The company and the scenery did not disappoint.  Life is, indeed, as noted by Dodinsky, a gift, as is friendship and and the autumn of the year, and of course, bicycles.  Yes, I hope when my time comes, I leave gracefully, grateful for my time here.  But I also hope that time is many, many years away.  I have more living I would like to do, much of it on bicycle. 

Sunday, September 20, 2020

BMB: No Bonking This Time Around

"Fear keeps us focused on the past or

worried about the future.  If we can 

acknowledge our fear, we can realize that

right now we are okay.  Right now, today, 

we are still alive, and our bodies are working

marvelously.  Our eyes can still see the

beautiful sky.  Our ears can still hear the 

beautiful voices of our loved ones."

Thich Nhat Hanh

Despite BMB being a rather easy century, I fear it.  I fear it because I have bonked on it numerous times.  Last year I bonked spectacularly.  Each pedal stroke took tremendous effort,  both mentally and physically.  Each climb, no matter how short or lacking pitch became the tallest mountain.  I hurt.  And I was slow, spectacularly slow.  This is bad when it happens near the end of the ride.  It is a living nightmare when it happens near the start. 


 Don't get me wrong, for some reason, I always slow down when fall gets here.  The desire to ride hard or fast rarely hits me.  I think that it is, perhaps, because I don't want the comfortable riding season to end. I will miss seeing friends regularly and hearing their voices. But this was a new low.  Dave King was the ride captain and patiently swept me and another rider in that year despite my pleas to just leave me be.  Brevets have taught me that I can go on, even when tired, even when discouraged, but it seemed terribly unfair to saddle another with the depth of my bonk.  I would make it in.  That was not the question.  The question was when.  That another rider was also struggling did not penetrate.  It was, in my mind, just Dave and me, and Dave could have ridden much, much faster.  But being Dave, he didn't.  Dave is the man who waits in his car while I finish out the last mile of a ride to ensure it is a century because he does not like the looks of someone sitting in a car who he feels might be a danger to me.  Dave is the one who has a conscience.  Dave is, indeed, one of my favorite people in this world for so many reasons.  He makes me laugh.  He gives me hope that there is goodness in this world. And it is for all those reasons as well as because he is a friend  that I don't want to be a burden to him.


I decide that I must do the ride if for no other reason than my fear of it.  It makes no sense to fear it.  It is not among our more difficult rides.  But having dealt with fear before, I know the best way to conquer fear is to face it down, to stare in its eyes and tell it you will not let it have power over you any longer.  After the pit bulls attacked me, it took me quite awhile to feel safe riding with others.  I made myself ride past the place where I was bitten by myself, tears streaming down my face, until I could hold my line, until terror did not make me stiff and until tears were on hold.  Don't get me wrong.  I still fear aggressive dogs that rush in the road.  But I hold my line and don't endanger others because of my fear.  Today is no different.  I am not terrified in the same way, but I fear bonking, that feeling of weakness, of hopelessness. But today Dave is not the ride captain. Paul rides with me, always patient, always interesting to listen to and talk with.  This may be more amazing because of our different backgrounds.  Bill once said that he had noticed that women always like to ride with Paul.  So maybe there is something about him that is comforting.  I think he is like Dave in that I can count on Paul to do the right thing.  But for whatever reason, he is a favored riding companion. 


The decision to ride the ride was made more difficult by Jon's offer of an alternative ride that would definitely suit my fancy because it involved: a. eating lunch at one of my favorite places that has outside dining, and b. stopping at a book sale.  Had I known earlier, I would perhaps have made that choice, but the die is cast and probably for the best.  I need to get over my fear of this course.  I will add that when I neared the end of my ride, Jon HAD to rub it in by sending me a picture of not one, but TWO, blackberry ice cream desserts;-) And I later learn he found not one, but FIVE books at the book sale.  Can you say jealous;-)


A large group of riders gather at the ride start and take off.  It is a cool, crisp morning with a bite to it.  Vests, knee warmers, jackets, arm warmers, and full fingered gloves are making their appearance on almost every rider.  And we are off into a bright morning where the sun is shining so brightly my eyes ache despite my sunglasses.  Dew shines on the fox tail.  Fields of yellow appear beautiful to my eyes if not helpful for my sinuses. Paul occasionally points out a beautiful vista knowing how much I appreciate scenery on rides. This is definitely not the most scenic course, but it does have it moments.  Conversation floats through the air before we split into groups.  Spirits are high and there is laughter.  Paul and I soon are bringing up the rear.  I tell both him and the captain that there is no need to stay back with me.  The ride captain moves on.  Paul stays. 


The ride is largely on main roads.  At times traffic makes it difficult to maintain a conversation.  But I see side roads with no yellow line and wonder where they lead to.  Paul tells me that Duc would know and I realize he is probably right.  Like me, Duc seems to prefer being a bit off the beaten path or perhaps he is just curious.   In Texas, there was a ride called "Fred's ride."  Evidently it was the favorite ride of someone named Fred.  But when we rode it, we wondered about Fred because the route was mainly heavily traveled roads, none of the side roads that I and those I ride with preferred.  Still, I know everyone has preferences.  I think of how Grasshopper enjoyed city riding.  I think of how last week on the century another woman said she could never ride a century alone because she would be bored.  Such comments used to hurt my feelings.  Now, as I told a friend, I look at it differently.  I like chocolate cake and others don't.  The difference is not bad:  just different.  I suppose our differences keep things interesting.


Mark drops back and rides with Paul and I for awhile and it is nice to have someone else to talk with for a bit. Mark is funny and often makes me laugh.  Mark, along with Jeff Carpenter, helped plan our bike trip from Washington D.C. to Pittsburgh last year thus becoming a friend.  But at the next stop, he is off with a faster group.  I briefly contemplate chasing knowing Paul is more than strong enough to follow suit, but I decide to continue to ride cautiously, something I do throughout the miles.

The ride ends with my never having gone fast, but also with not feeling worn out and exhausted.  The groups ahead of us are mostly still in the parking lot enjoying the beautiful fall weather sampler and enjoying the refreshments the ride captain brought. I talk for awhile before climbing in my car for the ride home, a ride during which I can think about the things that were said and that I saw during the ride.   But I am glad I faced my fear.   The only regret is ice cream swimming in blackberries that went into someone else's tummy. As Mr. Hahn noted, "My body worked marvelously" today.  Thanks, Paul, for the support and the company, for not minimizing my fear of this course when you know I have ridden many far more difficult.  I value our friendship more than I can say.  And I value bicycles:  the friends I have made through them and the places they have taken me.

Wednesday, September 16, 2020

Nearing the End of Summer: 2020

"The morning had dawned clear and cold,

with a hint of crispness that hinted at 

the end of summer."

George Martin


I wake and despite tired legs, feel like riding.  I can't get enough of this weather. Yet when I leave the house, I find that, unlike yesterday, I need arm warmers, a vest, and full fingered gloves to be comfortable.  Perhaps I would wear less if I were sharing the ride with others for I would be riding faster, but that was yesterday.  Today I ride solo. And my legs are complaining.  It is my heart rather than my body that desires this ride. As I debate my choices, I decide to ride about sixty miles going through Pekin and on to Salem where I intend to eat donuts curbside for breakfast.  


 I think about why I can't get enough riding in this time of year.  Is it because I know what is coming, the end of comfortable, little laundry riding?  Yes, you can ride all year long in relative comfort, but it is not the comfort of grabbing your bike and slipping out the door clad only in shorts and a jersey, of knowing that other than your helmet, shoes, gloves, and sweat rag, you will be fine.  Yes, you might get hot, but there is nothing to do for that other than to endure.  And so little to wash compared to winter when it seems riding clothes make up load after load even though you actually have spent relatively little time on the road.  So much more planning revolving around winter or cold weather riding compared to the  simplicity of preparing to ride in the summer.


The world is still green, and today the fog is thick.  I turn on two taillights hoping that it will lift quickly.  It really doesn't, but the roads I have chosen to ride are very lightly traveled so it is not a huge issue.  I think again that it is time to buy a new helmet mirror.  The one I have is starting to move without being touched.  I can reach up and adjust it, but it does not hold the adjustment.  Normally that would be fine, but not where quick action is required.  My safety is worth more than a few dollars.  Sometimes I need to remind myself of this.  Spending a few dollars for protection is MUCH cheaper than a hospital visit, and a hospital is the last place I want to be during the age of Covid.  Next time I am at the bike store, I will buy one.  

There seems to be an abundance of wildflowers.  In the morning they are still sleeping, half closed, their petals waiting for sunlight to warm them. The Ironweed has been particularly impressive this year, its deep, dark purple a lovely contrast with the verdant greenness that still remains in places.  I think of how I need to pick a few and press them for some Christmas gifts I need to make.  I started on the first present last week.  Each year I try to give each child something hand made as well as bought presents.  Some years they obviously like them.  Some years they probably don't but try to act as if they do.  But I enjoy the effort and how it makes me think about them as I work.  


I notice that the polk berries are ripe.  Lines I wrote about ten years ago race through mind:  "Jeff and Tiff, The poke berries are ripe. Come home! Let's paint our faces, build a bonfire, and dance until, exhausted, we fall into the embrace of the evening cooled grasses, a heap of giggles. Today I missed you both."  How I miss those days when my husband was alive and my children were little and every moment had needs ten times greater than the amount of time would allow me to fulfill.  I miss the laughter of the children ringing through our home.  And I miss bedtime, the smell of a clean child and the feel of them snuggling in your arms, melting into you, while you read the last story for the day.  I miss the hour or so alone with my husband after the children were snugly tucked into bed.  And I miss the way sometimes we shared a thought without ever saying a word.  But I am so glad I had those moments.  I have truly been blessed with a full life.

 On the climb up Flatwoode, a road name I always find amusing due to the irony of this steep climb, I think how glad I am that Bob diagnosed my bike problem.  It is nice to be able to climb without the bike shifting down into granny ruining my rhythm and shocking my knees.  Evidently I had worn a tooth off of my middle ring.  He was unsure if he could find the part, but he did.  And it is shifting perfectly.  It will be a sad day when he can't find the parts to fix my triple.  It is not that I use it very often at all, but it is somehow comforting to know it is there if I need it.  It is also comforting to find that my legs have given in and quit complaining.  They do what they need to do to get me up the hill and I am in no hurry today.


Besides the cost, the thought of not getting a triple is one thing that troubles me about buying a new bike, an idea I have been toying with but keep putting off.  When is enough enough?  I notice on Delaney Park Road that the trees are beginning to hint of turning.  Leaves are starting to scatter onto the road and I amuse myself occasionally by purposefully running over one to hear the crunch.  Soybeans are starting to yellow.  Harvest approaches.  There are, however, as Paul noticed yesterday, very few walnuts.  The spring cold snap must have affected them as it did the local fruit trees.  

I end with 62 pleasant miles.  A century Saturday, 53 miles yesterday, and 62 miles today.  Perhaps tomorrow will be a rest day or perhaps the lure of the delightful weather will call me forth on my bicycle yet again.  Time will tell.