Wednesday, June 22, 2022

A New 50 Mile Route

"Our minds, as well as our bodies,

have need of the out-of-doors.  Our spirits, too, 

need simple things, elemental things, the sun and

the wind and the rain, moonlight and starlight,

sunrise and mist and mossy forest trails,

the perfumes of dawn and the smell of freshly

turned earth and the ancient music of wind

among the trees."

Edwin Teale


A return to hot weather is predicted and it is to get in the nineties today, but there are not the extreme heat warnings of last week.  This week is it air quality.  Warnings about the air quality were issued this morning. As Roseanna Danna used to say,  "It's always something."

I have no idea of who to expect at today's ride with the heat prediction and the early start time.  Both may keep people home for some are afraid of the heat and some don't roll out of bed early or easily.   But I decided earlier this week when I put the ride on the schedule  to have wheels roll at seven.  People will come or  people will not come but I will ride regardless. I know that the group I ride with is aging and changing.  I try not to think of the days when most will no longer ride lost to health or inertia.  On the century ride last week-end, Rick and I talked and listed those we used to ride with who no longer ride or don't ride distance.  The list was sooo long.  It made me rather sad.  I don't want to be sad.


I awaken long before necessary and relish the quiet of the morning and the smell and taste of a cup of coffee, the way it warms my hands and my belly, the way it reminds me of my mother in the morning years and years ago before I was allowed to drink coffee.  How lucky I am to have my little house, food, coffee, and a purring cat on my lap. 

As I load the car, I shiver in the chill of morning.  Unlike last week, the temperatures have dipped significantly during the night and there is a nip in the air.  It is not the piercing, pricking bite of the cool  air on a fall morning, but enough to make the hairs on my arms stand up and take notice.  It is delicious. 

When I get to the ride start, nobody is there yet, but shortly thereafter Mark R. and John L. roll in.  John says he is thankful for the early start time and that he used to play golf early on hot days when he was still able to play golf.   Mark later says he is not an early riser and laughs saying that his wife says he gets up early only to fish or ride his bike. 

I giggle as all of us begin saying we are cold and hope there is a hill soon.  It is ironic that we are cold on a day when it is to be exceptionally warm just a tad later in the day.  And of course, there is a hill early on.  I have gone down this hill before, but I don't remember ever going up it; however, despite its steepness it is short and it is easier than I anticipated it would be.  Still you know you are climbing and it warms us up, or at least it warms me up. No more thoughts of being cold snake through my mind. And nobody else mentions being cold again either.


 One thing that strikes me as being particularly beautiful this morning is how the mist is rising off of the ponds we pass.  It is not a fog that obstructs our view and hides us from cars.  It does not cover the road.  But clouds roll off of the water like a shimmering cloak hanging in the air.  Dew gleams in the sunlight from the surrounding fields and yards, winking at us.  I briefly think about how comfortable I am on a bike and how I love to be outdoors.  I suppose I will never understand the city riders and they will never understand me, so perhaps I  should say I love to be outdoors in the country.


That is, I think, a blessing.  To have a place other than home where one can explore and dream and still be comfortable.  I treasure these rides.  I send up a prayer of thankfulness for the beauty, for the ride, and for friends who came to share it with me.  Yes, I would have ridden it alone and had a good time with different thoughts, but it is special having people to ride with as well, people who love the outdoors and their bicycles like I do.

Cut hay perfumes the air, so lovely despite triggering some allergies that I seem to have developed as I have aged.  Possible rain tomorrow evening means it will be baled later today or early tomorrow.  I think briefly about the difficulties of being a small farmer as most farmers in this area are, where farming is a second job to their normal day jobs.  Working in the fields can mean missing a day of regular work.  And this has been a difficult year for farmers with the early rain and cold that lasted much longer than it should have.  But then, I suspect most years are hard for farmers.  Do they, I wonder, love farming as I love bicycling?  They must, I suppose, to keep planting each year. 

We reach the store stop with no incidents and the course seems to have come together seamlessly.  As we leave, I notice a couple of pennies on the ground and quickly pocket them but not without noticing that one is a wheat penny from 1942.  How odd that it is lying here, a penny older than I am.  

The only snafu are three dogs on a road I seldom ride.  Both John and Mark carry dog spray  but it does not seem to phase the dogs.  I have warned them of the dogs at the top of Liberty Knob, but not of these because I did not know of them.  I must, it appears, reroute this section of the ride despite the loveliness of the road.  I think of how there really is no excuse for not corralling dogs with all the invisible fences and regular fences and training, but that is just how it is for bicycle riders.  Just because someone can or should do something is no guarantee they will. 

We climb Liberty Knob and the dogs there do appear, but they have aged and while they come out, they are not as scary as they have been in the past.  I have talked to the owner and others have talked to the owner, but he seems to feel it is our problem and not his.  His solution to me was for me to squirt them.  Easier, I suppose, then taking responsibility. 

Everyone enjoys the long descent down Pixley Knob.  We compare descent speeds and Mark and I are about even hitting somewhere around 40 mph with braking.  John calls himself a wimp and says he descended much more slowly though I don't remember waiting for him at the bottom;-)  


Mark has been good this whole ride, holding back when I know he is able to go faster, not fidgeting too much at the store stop that he would normally not stop at,  and not dropping us.  But now he does take off.  John and I ride along slowly, chatting and enjoying each others company.  At times he seems to feel that I mind hanging back, but I really am NOT hanging back and I am enjoying the company.  Being a widow, I do spend lots of time alone and I do love his stories.   Both Mark and John are interesting people and we have had interesting conversations.  I am happy that they came.  

The ride ends with a number of rollers.  When we reach the cars, it is no longer cool but it is not yet hot despite the brilliant sunshine and lack of clouds.  And it is early.  The majority of the day lays before me like a blank canvas.  Still I know there are chores to fill that time and my evening stroll to take.  I can do them and do them better having drank the sunshine, the company, and the scenery.  Thank God for bicycles, nature, open roads, and friends. 

Friday, June 17, 2022

I Need the Miles;-)

"The question isn't who is going to let

me; it's who is going to stop me."

Ayn Rand


I have giggled numerous times over Mark's assertion the other day when he was riding in the extreme heat alert with me that he needed the miles.  So what if the feel like temperature exceeded 100 degrees. And today, on a 32 mile solo ride while the heat warnings continue, I continue to giggle and think about why it struck me as so funny.  I think, perhaps, because they are words I and most other cyclists have said and are just, you know, so typically cyclist like.  And we are not lying when we say those words.  We do need the miles, mentally as well as physically, despite the fact we are not professionals and our livelihoods do not depend upon it.  

Maybe, I think, it is because cycling is sometimes, though not always, a chance to visit and catch up with friends.  And while we do have cycling friends, they often are unwilling to ameliorate their pace for long if we let ourselves slack and get out of shape.  Maybe it is partially because we can leave worries and frustrations strung out along the road behind us if only for a while.  It is just too hard to worry about a bill coming do or a relationship issue when you are panting trying to master a hill or a maintain a certain pace.  


I will say I love the moments when my body acts as an orchestra, each movement coordinated and playing along and in tune with the other. Maybe it is because our bodies were meant to be used, and used rather demandingly, or such is my belief.  It makes me think of what someone once said after being taunted about his running with the young death of Jim Fixx.  He told me that he did not really run to extend his life, but to improve the quality.  "I feel good," he told me, "even when I am taking out the trash."

Soon, however, the orange day lilies distract me from my thoughts.  They are so beautiful and so wild.  One never knows where one might come upon a patch.  I think how unfortunate it is that the county decided to mow along the sides of the road this week when they were just starting to bloom. But there are still plenty  lining the roads the escaped the blades.  And the Black Eyed Susan are starting to pop  up.

Suddenly, as I make a turn to head home, I spot someone on a bicycle coming toward me.  This is unusual here.   It is rare for me to see anyone on a bike.  As we near, I see it is my friend Diana.  I turn my bike around and ask where we are going.  It is nice to loll along and catch up for a few miles before it is time for her to head home.  She tells me to go on as her dog will follow me if I accompany her to her house to drop her off.  

As I head home, the heat is becoming more oppressive, but it is still quite comfortable, perhaps because of the wind.  Rather than fight her, I just ease my pace and head toward her knowing home is but a few miles away.  The heat is supposed to end for the week-end, then return with heat values in the hundreds again.  But barring something unforeseen, I will ride.  As Rand notes, who will stop me?  And I need the miles. 

Wednesday, June 15, 2022

It's a Hot 52 Mile Ride

"Sometimes I'm doing things considered

crazy by others, but then my heart

giggles.  That's when I know I'm doing

the right thing."



Last night I wrestled with the idea of canceling the 52 mile ride today.  The news, my phone, everywhere I turn they are issuing record heat warnings and advising people not to so outside activities.  And I remember hot rides and how painful they can be, the ones where you feel you are on fire and the only thing that will help are gallons upon gallons of ice cold water.  And I am not stupid:  I know they can be dangerous.  Though I have had my moments in the heat, it is worse when you are nursing someone who is riding with you, worrying about them, often in the middle of nowhere. But I decide to show up and see what happens despite the fact it is a drive to the start for me.  We are, after all, adults and responsible for  our own choices in life. 

When I wake up, my phone has, in large letters, Extreme Heat Advisory, and despite being morning, it is already in the low eighties.  Again I ask myself what is wrong with me that I would even consider having a ride in this weather.   I head to the ride start feeling relatively certain that nobody else will show, telling myself I'll ride and can always turn around if I would like.  Then I plan to go pick blueberries at a nearby You Pick farm. While I often try to combine errands in one trip, I  have become even more determined to do so with the current gas prices.

Sure enough, when I arrive, nobody is there in the parking lot.  I am not surprised and I am not particularly disappointed, maybe because it is what I expected.  I drag my bike out and begin the preparations to leave at the ride start time.  It is hot and it is humid, but it is a bit  overcast and I know that will make a difference.  And then Mark pulls in.  Grinning,  I ask if he knows that he is crazy.  Like a true cyclist and in all seriousness, he tells me, "I need the miles."  My heart chuckles and grins. Not canceling was, indeed, the right thing for me. I do admonish him, however, that there should be no macho "I'm a man and I can take it particularly if a woman can" bull on the ride.  I will tell him if I am having heat issues and I expect him to tell me.  Not sure if he hears me though.

And we ride.  Not only do we ride, but we ride fairly hard.  It is not the tongue hanging out, not enough oxygen in the world hard, but hard enough that I feel it nagging at my thighs and my lungs.  At first I think the humidity, in the seventy something percentile, is going to be an issue as I notice the sweat just sitting on my skin, but the wind from movement of riding begins to evaporate the dampness from my skin.  Yes, I am soaking wet with perspiration, but I am not overly hot which surprises me because I definitely am not yet at all acclimated to the heat.  

We reach the midway store stop and do stop.  I grab a quick 2 percent milk because they only have the large size Gator Aid and I don't want that.   We don't linger however.  We have clouds blocking the sun on and off and they may not last.  We don't want to waste them.  I chug and we pull out.

This route is still new enough to me that I am not overly familiar with all the roads, so I enjoy the scenery.  After lunch, it is mostly riding rather than talking and riding.  It is nice to be with someone that doesn't expect to be entertained the entire ride though earlier in the ride I had to tell him about Dave King's comments about my possibly only taking a carry on bag to Scotland rather than a checked bag.  He assures  me there is no way I can do this and I tell him Amelia did it on our trip there a few years ago. From his point of view, Amelia is so much smaller than me that her clothes just take less room than mine will.  And I giggle just as I did when he first said it and I begged his pardon;-)  I think the main reason he would like  me to take a checked bag is so I can bring whiskey back for him for whiskey, while a Scottish specialty, is not my thing.  

By the time we reach the big climb the clouds have mostly evaporated and we are averaging 15.7, much faster than I anticipated when I started the ride.  The big climb up Tunnel Mill into Charlestown, however, lowers the average to 15.3.  Mark drops me on the climb despite being on a recumbant and "needing the miles," but he is nice enough to wait for me at the top despite my prior urging to feel free to shoot ahead, and we finish it out.  Nobody had heat stroke and no cramps.  The sun is out in full force as we turn into the parking lot.  And I am glad that I rode despite it being a bit on the crazy side. It is not the first crazy ride I have done and my heart continues to giggle.  Then off to pick blueberries.  (The man there also thought I was a bit off, picking berries in the extreme heat, but he appreciated the business and I'll appreciate the berries tonight in pancakes, a special treat for my efforts.  Also have to be sure to fill the huge  size clothing I wear per Dave;-)  Great ride!

Sunday, June 5, 2022

Hardinsburg Solo Century: June 2022

"Time flies over us

but leaves its shadow behind."

Nathaniel Hawthorne


It has been awhile, perhaps too long, since I have ridden a solo century.  The weather is supposed to be perfect for early June with wall to wall sunshine, low  humidity, and highs only in the seventies.  I really want to ride a new course I have put together to Bedford, but there are too many concerns about flooding around Medora.  So I decide to ride an old favorite:  Hardinsburg.  There is some road construction going on there that I strongly suspect means a favorite old bridge is being replaced by something more modern, and this trip will give me the answer to the question that has been haunting me since I first read of road closures in that area.  



One benefit of riding solo is that you can leave whenever the whim strikes you.  If you feel like one more cup of coffee before hitting the road, fine.  If you don't, that's okay too.  There is nobody to answer to except yourself.  I slip out into the chill of morning a bit after seven clad in shorts, short sleeved jersey, and a pair of sun sleeves that serve as light arm warmers but are way too hot to wear as intended.  They don't stay on long.  The climb up Leota Hill warms me and I peel them down around my wrists.  

While it is technically still spring and not summer, and while it is cool outside, the green no longer tells of new birth and spring but of summer.  Trees are full figured,  ripe with greenness.  Daisies litter the road in numerous places, so cheerful.  I briefly think of how I would wander into the pasture to pick them when my marriage was new, trying to brighten the small mobile home in which we lived. 


Despite our lack of "things," I do not regret those days.  Indeed, sometimes I feel rather sorry for those that start with everything.   When I look around me now, though without him at my side, I see what we earned pulling at the harness together.  I remember the sacrifices and the achievements, the wins and losses, and the happiness that comes with an honored commitment though like everyone, there were times when we wondered if we would/could remain a couple. A burst of love and thankfulness fills me knowing that he worried about how I would do alone and that I have done okay partially due to his worry. 

It strikes me that there are still no orange day lilies.  And the crops....throughout the ride I notice that the crops, particularly the corn, is not as tall and as healthy looking as it normally is in early June.  Perhaps, I think, it is my imagination.  But a Facebook memory from this very date a year or two ago notes that the day-lilies were in bloom, their orange faces turning throughout the day to follow the sun.

I also notice throughout the ride that numerous people have gardens that did not have gardens in the past.  Some of them are not much to look at, but many of them are glorious and I miss my gardening days.  That thought takes me back in time to the hours I would spend tending the garden, canning and freezing.  Hard work, but how satisfying to hear the lids seal after taking them out the canner.  To open the freezer door and see frozen vegetables galore.  And how, sometimes when I would cook with them in the midst of winter, it would seem as if a trace of summer returned right there in  my kitchen.  The smell of food cooking so that one can fill the empty bellies of loved ones.  Is there a better perfume, particularly when combined with a warm, cozy shelter against cold weather? 

I notice mulberries on the ground and remember how a large mulberry tree grew near the front of my husband's mother's house.  How the children loved them.  And just as I am in the midst of my thoughts, I turn the corner to come upon an eagle feeding in the road who immediately takes flight to a nearby tree, his white tail feathers taunting me yet telling me I have identified him for what he is.  I stop to try to get a better look, but he must think I look dangerous because he leaves his perch taking again to the air, gloriously beautiful.  Tears briefly water my eyes as it all seems too much to take in.  So much beauty.  A gratefulness for the health to ride a bicycle fills my heart.

And then a descent is upon me, difficult to navigate because of the shadows that dapple the ground.  I have ridden this road enough to know it is not well maintained and there are quite possibly pot holes waiting to fell an inattentive rider.  It demands my attention and I heed its warning.  For almost a year now, I have been able to sleep on both sides, normally with no pain, and I know from past falls how easily that can end.  Falls from bicycles are how my shoulders got messed up to begin with.   A cat is at the road edge following a curve near the bottom of the hill.  My descent messes up his hunting, and he gives me a brief, disgusted look before melting, ghost-like, into the brush that lines the road.  


During  the ride I find that the bridge I was concerned about is, indeed, scheduled for replacement.  The sign says it will close on or after April 1st, and while I wish it was an April Fool's joke, I  know it is not.  This shadow of time's passage will soon disappear, laying down its life for progress. I say my goodbyes. I have lost count of the older bridges that I have ridden that are now gone, replaced with more practical but not nearly so beautiful replacements.  The number of small country stores that have closed their doors, unable to complete with Walmart and Dollar General and other large conglomerates.  I  accept that this is the way of things, but that does not mean that I necessarily like or approve of the changes time has wrought.  They shadow rides, these stores and bridges, when I pass their way. 

Lunch is at Little Twirl, the first place I ate at when first reaching this area.  At that time it was open year round.  Now, it is not.  There was a gas station that was open as well, long closed. Afterward, a Mennonite store briefly made an appearance and I enjoyed frequenting it with its delicious sandwiches on homemade bread.  But time closed it as well.  Little Twirl is all that remains as a rest stop in that area. 


After I have left the lunch stop, I remember that I was supposed to call the kayaking place my daughter and I are to go to tomorrow.  I stop thinking that there is no way here, on Branahan Road, in the middle of nowhere, I will have service only to find that I have better service than I do at home. Four or five bars.  Go figure.  I call and ensure they are open and not flooded.  Back on the bike to prepare for the long climb up to the Red Barn.  During the climb, I want to go to granny, but I remind myself I am, for the first time in a long time, training for a ride so quit whining and turn the pedals in the way that builds strength in both the legs and in character.  


When I reach the Red Barn, Amos is sitting outside.  I always wonder how he stays in business, there in the middle of nowhere, but while we sit talking another customer arrives so perhaps he is busier than I realize.  When I ask the man that arrives how he is doing, he grins at me and says that if he were any better, he would have to have help.  This tickles me and reminds me of the Lloydism's I used to share with friends and how we would laugh.  A grin on my face, I pull out of the parking lot to finish the century out.  


During the last 25 miles, I am surprised that I am tired, but then I remember that this century always leaves me a bit drained.  It is not the hilliest century, but there is very little flat other than Blue River Road.  But still I continue to enjoy myself, maybe because I love Eden and Delaney Park Roads.  Will, I wonder, this day be another shadow of the time spent?  I hope so. 



Sunday, May 22, 2022

The Crawford Century TMD Ride: 2022

"Action may not always bring

happiness, but there is no happiness

without action."

William James


I am looking forward to this century though wary of the heat.  It takes awhile for the body to adjust to  heat, but the only way I know to make that adjustment is to ride in it and be outside. At least I don't puke normally like some people.  As with most things in life, you have to pay your dues.  The cost for some appears to be higher than for others, but I suppose in the end it all equals out.  I am looking forward to seeing everyone.  I am looking forward to  a new century route.  And I am looking forward to riding my bicycle.  


  When asked, I tell Bob Grable that I will be riding more slowly than the last century, a century where I surprised myself with my speed.  No, not a blazing fast pace, but faster than I expected and faster than I should probably go today.  



It is a good group that shows.  All strong and seasoned riders as best I can ascertain though there are two or three I am unfamiliar with.  They look fit.  And I do start the century at a reasonable pace, only to find my speed increasing as I warm up.  I have found that it takes me longer for muscles to warm up than it used to....they need a bit of coaxing and convincing before they concede that they still can do what is being asked of them. And today is no different. 


Still, I feel stronger than expected today. Can a vitamin B12 shot be responsible for how I feel?  At a recent doctor visit, Sara took blood and told me my levels were low and advised that  I needed a shot after questioning if I had gone vegetarian.  (I have not though I have significantly lowered my meat consumption over the past few years, particularly red meat).  The day after I felt as if I were twelve years younger.  Such a relief as I believed my fatigue was age related.  

We ride on roads that I have not ridden for awhile, many from past brevet courses and occasionally memories of past rides tease me.  I push them away.  Today is not a day for dawdling and reminiscing. I think of Dave King and Steve Meredith, both doing the Kentucky 400 K today and I wish them strength and a successful finish.



 Everything is green and lush:  summer creeping in and taking over.  There are still a few spring flowers scattered here and there, but they are obviously on the decline.  Daisies are starting and the honeysuckle is in full bloom, perfuming the air whenever we pass. If I were by myself and/or going at a slower pace, I would notice more, instead I find myself pushing, monitoring my breathing, monitoring my legs, thinking how best to put 100 miles behind me without ending the ride wishing I had been left in a roadside ditch somewhere.  And I find myself singing.  I am happy here in the heat and sunshine rolling along on a bicycle with friends.

As usually happens with larger groups, and there are  probably 19 riding, not large by normal TMD standards but large for this calendar year, we split into groups.  Bob and I are together at the first store step.  Ned is close behind us, but for some reason does not stop at the store with us.  I worry a bit but assure myself that I am not responsible for him or any of the others.  Steve Rice and Mark Rougeux, another group, are already there.  They head out shortly before we do though both Bob and I gulp our drinks quickly and head out. 


The lunch stop offers two possibilities, a gas station and a restaurant.  The majority opt for the gas station.  I am surprised at the number of people eating inside, not merely due to COVID but because the temperature outside is pleasant and there is a covered area with picnic tables.  I take my chicken salad sandwich outside and eat giggling again at the thought of another year of the finest in curbside dining.  At least there are picnic tables here.  


After a quick lunch we take off.  No lingering after this meal.  And our average speed continues to climb until the third store stop.  But the pace is beginning to tell and Bob and I, still together, decide to slow it down a bit, particularly knowing there is a huge climb that lies between us and the finish.   And huge it is.  Halfway up a man working in his yard grins at us and says something about the climb.  I tell him we have this in the bag.  And we do.  We end together, pleasantly tired but not completely spent.  And I am happy.  Happy for the day, for the ride, for friends, and for bicycles.  James is right.  I find I am rarely happy without action of some type, mental or physical, and today I have had my fill.  The day is completed when some of the men in the front group comment on how strong I am this year.  Their words are music to my tired ears.  And for today I am sated.  And as always, I am thankful....thankful for bicycles, thankful health, thankful for friends, and yes, even thankful for hills that serve to humble and strengthen us. 



Tuesday, May 3, 2022

Charlestown to Scottsburg: A Spring Ride

“It was such a spring day as breathes into a man

 an ineffable yearning, a painful sweetness,

 a longing that makes him stand motionless, 

looking at the leaves or grass, 

and fling out his arms to embrace

 he knows not what.” 

John Galsworthy


It is always a delight to me to find that God has granted me another spring, and even better, another spring with the health to ride a bicycle.   I cannot remember  a spring since I was an adult where I did not have this thought. 


Spring is so lovely here, the tentative green of new leaves as they wonder if it is safe yet to emerge and court the sun and rain, the wildflowers tossing blobs of color everywhere, the daffodils sassing the cold mornings and frosts, the sound of peepers, birds beginning to defend their nesting territories and their families as the winter flock disbands.  All seasons are, indeed, lovely in their own way, but spring, following on the heels of winter, seems the loveliest of all. Perhaps it is because I tire of winter and her stark, coldness and pine for warm days made for riding in shorts and short sleeves.  Perhaps it is this that gives spring its sweetness.  So brief she always leaves me aching for more, for what was, for what wasn't, and what is to be.  Spring brings a feeling of hope, as if it reminds me that it is not too late.

I suppose that one of the things I love about spring is being able to ride again with friends who I have not ridden with since the fall.  Yes, I have ridden some through the winter, but not like I used to and many of the ones I miss do not ride in winter at all.  And I do miss them.  I miss the sounds of their voices, and particularly the sounds of their laughter.  I miss the joking and camaraderie.  And I miss the shared love of cycling, for we all DO love cycling despite the cursing on climbs, the complaints about weather conditions.  And as we age, of course, I always appreciate that they are back because so many of my friends in the past have quit cycling either due to lack of interest or health issues, and despite our fondness for each other those friendships lapse without the shared miles.  

Highway construction has taken four of my ride starts....indeed, all of my ride starts for the moment, so I have designed a course from Charlestown to Scottsburg.  Originally I was going to put on a different route that I put together that goes to Lexington, but the wild flowers on Hebron Church Road and the red bud trees along Hebron Church and Werewolf Lane have changed my mind.  I didn't have time to ride the entire ride prior to posting it, but I put it on the schedule anyway with the admonition that those who decide to ride realize there could be issues.  Most people seem okay with this.  It is only the occasional person who grouses if a road is closed for construction and they have to cross a creek, bicycle carried high on their shoulder. 

As it turns out, there are not other than Steve Rice not being able to load the route on his GPS for some reason.  It is a small group that shows but I am grateful to each of them for coming to share this sunny, spring day with me.  Phlox and Virginia Bluebells line Hebron Road near the creek as they seem to do most years.  I never seem to become immune to their beauty.  Red buds are at their peak, teasing the Dogwood who have yet to begin blooming in earnest.  

There is talking and laughter and catching up.  There is the sound of bicycle wheels turning.  And there seems to be a smile on everyone's face, at least those in the back group or the group that finishes the ride together.  Again and again Mike tells me he likes the course, and while I believe he does, I think that what he really likes is for a group to be together again on a sunny spring day where the wind, while there, is not torturous, and on bicycles.  But regardless, it makes me smile and gives me a warm feeling inside.  

The miles pass quickly, but I can't say that I am/was sated.  I crave more.  More of their companionship, more of the aching of spring tender legs on tough climbs, more of their laughter, more of the road stretching out, and more of the sunshine which seems to brighten my soul even as it reddens my skin a bit despite the sunscreen.  Spring.....comes and goes so quickly, as if she were a dream.  And I am not sated. 

Monday, April 4, 2022

Orleans: Spring 2022

"Spring drew on...and a greenness

grew over those brown beds, which,

freshening daily, suggested the thought

that Hope traversed them at night,

and left each morning brighter traces

of her steps."

Charlotte Bronte

Finally, a day that offers a healthy dose of sunshine as well as warmer temperatures and a lighter wind.  As I age, I find myself less and less able to convince myself that I want to do a hard ride on gray, cold, gloomy, damp days.  It is not so much that I can't do them anymore, I can albeit slower than in the past, but that I have no desire or need to do them. I would rather paint or read or go hiking on those days knowing that more comfortable bicycling days will arrive.  And spring, of course, offers many of those days.  This year, perhaps, more than  normal with lower than normal temperatures and extremely few peeks of sunshine.  

When I saw the forecast, I immediately put the century on the schedule, not just because of the forecast, but because they are starting major road construction on the expressway between Louisville and many of my ride starts next week.  I fear that it will cause such traffic congestion, that few will want to head this way for bicycle rides and run the risk of a long sit in the car on the way home.  

As it turns out, it is one of those rides that I definitely favor.  There is a small group, only four of us, and nobody seems to be in a rush.  Everyone seems content just to enjoy our time on the bikes, the lovely spring weather, and the company.  I believe we are all glad that the self-imposed isolation of winter is drawing to a close and understand that spring is, indeed, a time to build strength in the legs and lungs. It also is also a time to renew friendships and rejoice.  The pace can slow a bit because you don't have to push so hard to keep warm.  While the start is cold, in the thirties, it is sunny with little wind.  And it is to warm to the 60's later in the day.  Steve Meredith, Dave King, Jon Wineland, and I head out toward Medora, the first stop on this journey.  

I am comfortable during this first leg other than my fingers which are cold.  I try to protect them a bit by holding onto the handlebar in such a way that my fingers are sheltered a bit from the wind by my handlebar bag.  I know the discomfort is short lived, and I am glad for that.  The discomfort is overridden by the joy of being on a bicycle in the spring with the sun shining and the joy of being with people that I have not seen in for what seems like ages.  At some point, and I can't exactly pinpoint when,  I realize that I have warmed and my fingers are no longer little popsickles.

The miles pass quickly with everyone catching up.  Steve and Dave are both doing the Kentucky brevet series and we talk quit a bit about PBP, a ride Steve has not yet done and has expressed an interest in.  As I do with everyone that is capable, I encourage this interest because, at least for me, PBP was such a unique experience:  both times I completed it.  Each was different but each was special in its own way.  Yes, I remember those hard moments, but mostly I remember the highs or the things that surprised me, like one woman at the start saying she brought her makeup because she thought it might make her feel better. Those who know me well know it is only on very rare occasions that I don makeup, and it never in a million years or a million miles would have occurred to me to bring some along on PBP  or any other long brevet.  How different we all are. Vive la difference!


But back to Orleans.  The first store stop is in Medora.  While in town, I seek out and we find the new cafe that Lynn Luking was kind enough to tell me had opened there, because everything had gone out of business other than the new Dollar Store. I think how I will be happy to ride back here one sunny afternoon for lunch to check out the selection and quality of the food they offer.


 One of my favorite sections is immediately leaving Medora and riding alongside the railroad track all the way up the Devil's Backbone and then down Tunnelton past the magnificent mansion that originally was built for Masonic widows and under the railroad tracks and across the bridge.  And today it does not disappoint.  There are many wildflowers that grow there that have not yet bloomed, but the daffodils, while some are a tad faded, seem so beautiful and cheery.  I think how I adore it in the spring when the Earth wakes up, stretches her arms, and drops blobs of color everywhere.   Purple grape hyacinths at times accent the brilliance of the daffodils yellow.  Redbuds are blossoming. And everything is growing so green, so very green.  

Interestingly, on the climb up the backbone, Steve notes that a white truck went over the edge at some time or another and down the steep embankment toward the valley and creek.  I worry that someone might be hurt in there as you would not be likely to spot it in a car, but they assure me that it has been there awhile and we ride on.

Dave stops on the bridge, and those of us who have ridden with Dave often know why, but still I ask to ensure he is okay.  He is and I ride on knowing Dave will catch me.   Jon gets a chuckle when learning of Dave's habit, initially thinking he is joking.  I assure him such is not the case and we enjoy a shared grin. We all regroup after the long climb that is challenging only due to length as there is not much steepness to contend with.  At this point, people begin shedding layers, but I decide I will be fine until we reach Orleans, and I truly am. I often seem to run a bit colder than others though I suspect my house is kept at a colder temperature than most.


At this point age comes up.  I am the oldest and Dave the youngest.  I find it amusing to find that we are all 5 year increments apart starting with Dave who is 50 and leading to 65. 

People are also beginning to get hungry, and Dave's face is priceless when he learns lunch is not until 63 miles, but the lunch stop more than makes up for his dismay at having to wait.  Personally, I prefer lunch a bit later on a century.  But I knew it was going to be late.  It is different, I suppose when it is a surprise. The wind has cranked up and I am glad we are going into it knowing that after lunch we should have, at least for awhile, a sweet tail wind. By the time we reach Orleans, everyone is ready for a break. 


  We stop at "Speak Easy Pizza" and their pizza has been delicious each and every time I have stopped there.  Today, however, it seems even better than usual and I remember, as I always do, how much riding distances improves the taste of food.  So often I eat without truly being hungry because my body has not been challenged.  Steve gets a salad and says that it is as good as it looks.  I realize he is not just saying this to be polite when he makes a comment about having to bring his wife here sometime.  Dave is impressed with their selections of beer and whiskey though none of us indulge.  The owner comes out to inquire about our riding and, along with a few customers that question us, seem to be impressed that we are riding 104 miles today.  I remember how glad I was during a ride to find this place as most of the eating places in the town had closed.  I have entire routes that are difficult to ride anymore due to store closures, but this, fortunately, is not one of them.  


We leave and see another cyclist on our way out of town.  Despite the sweet tail wind, we don't quite catch up to him before our turn.  Orleans used to have a paid ride in the spring, The Dogwood Pedal.  Despite that, I have never seen another cyclist during my trips to and through Orleans on rides.  


By now, all of us have shed layers and are feeling the blessed warmth of the day.  The miles to the last store stop in Salem seem to roll by quickly and despite all the moaning and groaning over the hills on Bee Line and full bellies from lunch, we all relax unhurriedly on the curb in the sunshine.


As always seems to happen on my centuries, one road is closed.  This time it is 56, but it is an easy workaround.  We roll through the town square and then cut over.  I grin to myself because Steve mentioned the detour when he arrived today, but it just didn't click until we actually neared the detour.  Oh, well, nobody seemed overly put out over the extra half mile or so it adds to our journey.


When we pull on Quaker Road, we pass someone on a recumbent going the other way.  I don't recall ever seeing a recumbent in this area before unless it was someone on a ride with me, so this sticks in my mind.  It becomes even more of a puzzlement about 10 miles later when we pass another who is dressed in the same bright green and greatly resembles the first cyclist.  In my mind I go through all the roads in my mind and know that there is no possible way it is the first cyclist.  The others confirm this.  


And then we are finished.  It is pleasant to end a century feeling sated but not spent.  It is pleasant to have spent an entire day on a bicycle in sunshine that is bright but not searing with people who also love riding and don't get mad or upset when there is an obstruction on the course.  It is pleasant to share an unhurried lunch with those same people.  It is pleasant to have friends.  And it is pleasant and more to see the annual spring greening and to think that I am still healthy enough to ride centuries and to have hopes of riding many, many more.  How blessed to have hope.