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Friday, August 10, 2018

Mike Crawford's New 45 Mile Ride

"Summer was here again.  Summer, summer, summer.
I loved and hated summers. Summers had a logic
all their own and they always brought something
out in me. Summer was supposed to be about freedom
and youth and no school and possibilities and adventure 
and exploration.  Summer was a book of hope.
That's why I loved and hated summers.  Because
they made me want to believe."
Benjamin Saenz 

Summer yet again has flown by, streaking past me without so much as a fluttering wave or a rigid middle finger as I prepared for retirement and tried to ignore him.  Oh, there is still summer left for a few weeks more and the world remains lush and green, not yet cloaked in her merry fall clothing, but I feel it winding down.  So much missed.  I had thought retirement would slow down the whirling dance, but life happens. As the saying goes, "Man plans.  God laughs." I only have been retired about two weeks, but my sister, already handicapped, falls and breaks a hip. My brother is diagnosed with a serious illness breaking my heart, the brother whose first words upon seeing me when my parents brought me home from the hospital were, "I don't see what's so great about her,"  the brother who was the first to make me buckle my seat belt in a car, the brother who took me to swim practice and baseball practice and cheated me when we played cards, the brother that I love. I offer a bone marrow transplant if it will help and we match, but he has been told he is too old. It is hard and I wish they had not happened, but these things also assure me that I have made the right decision in retiring rather than continuing to work.  Life, like summer, whizzes by at breakneck speed with an unknown finish line.  At least some summer is left, and I want to believe in possibilities, in adventure, in changes.  And I intend to explore.  One fear I have always held is leaving life before living it fully.

I struggle with whether to drive all the way to Elizabeth for Mike Crawford's new ride as it is only 45 miles, but the possibility of new roads and companionship draws me like the moth to the flame. I decide to go, and I am so very glad I do.  The roads are magnificent:  lightly traveled and scenic.  I have ridden some before, but a few are entirely new to me. Some of the pavement is rough, but that does not bother me.  I would rather have scenery and little traffic on rough roads than smooth roads that lack these treats.  I get to see and drool over Lynn's beautiful, new, bright orange Calfee and hear his first impressions as this is the third time he has taken it out to play. 

I start out near the front of the pack, but decide to ride at the back.  After all, what is the hurry? And I really don't know the others despite a rather large turn out.  Getting to know people is difficult for me, and today I will not force it.  A silver mist coats the air at the start.  As my tail light is not working, I am glad for the light traffic.  It is beautiful, this mist, shielding us from the sun, making the word fairy like and odd, and the mist stays for a couple of hours before the sun pops through, wrapping his arms around us and heating everything up. I ride with Lynn and Mike occasionally talking and occasionally riding in companionable silence.  The corn is tall and not yet brown and withered.  Soy bean fields abound.  Yet there are also roads where tall trees line the sides, stately and dignified. All around me abundance, and I am thankful, thankful for friends and country roads and bicycles.  I think of when I was a child and school ended.  Summer seemed a magnificent eternity before being jailed again, full of forts to be built, woods to be wandered, and games to be played.

Now I am as free as I suppose we ever can be as adults because even though retired, there are responsibilities that I did not have as a child.   And perhaps every season can and should now be a "book of hope" full of possibilities.  What a thoroughly delightful route, Mike Crawford.  Thank you for sharing it.  I have enjoyed it and the company.  It was worth the drive.

Saturday, July 28, 2018

The Journey Begins

"Closing time. Every new
beginning comes from some other 
beginning's end."

Yesterday was my retirement party, and as it neared I wished I had told them no, or just our own unit.  It has been an emotional few weeks, bidding farewell to families and children I have watched over, trying to ensure that the transition to a new worker goes smoothly, regretting that yet again they have another parting to deal with. 

I have done this work for over thirty years.  I have had dogs sicced on me and been bitten, had a hatchet thrown at me, been chased with a knife, been spit upon, been cursed, cradled and cleaned children infested with lice,  and soaked diapers from babies where the feces had dried so tightly I worried that their skin would come with it.  I have hugged people who smelled so badly that I felt I might pass out and been thanked by people who are low class but have class. I have done every aspect of the job.  The cries of the little ones have haunted my sleep on more than one occasion, and I have awakened after some fresh horror with a scream in my throat.  I have had periods of no sleep.  I have fallen to my knees thinking I could not go on, and somehow been uplifted to plod forward, one foot at a time.  I have worked for an agency that is heartless and ungrateful and sometimes wrong at a job where every decision will be seen as the wrong decision by someone.  I have had supervisors who were wonderful, knowledgeable, and compassionate and one supervisor from hell that broke my heart and  impacted the well being of countless children before retiring.

Still, oddly enough, there is some regret at the finality and my day is tinged with tears.  I worry that nobody will show for my party, but I am wrong.  Friends, my co-workers, and some of those I have worked with in the past show.  And before the day is over, I realize that despite my short time in supervision, in a agency with an extremely high turn over, I have nurtured and supervised workers who went on: one director and six supervisors though one did leave the agency. Not a bad record when one figures the briefness of my time as a supervisor.  I wish my husband were here to share with me.  I miss being loved.  

And so, I am now free, my time my own.  And to celebrate, I head out on a solitary century.  There is a club century, but alas, it has some busy roads, and perhaps, with my mood, it is better to be alone today.  Glad has blessed me with unusually cool temperatures and low humidity and sunny skies.  The road is calling and I answer.

It seems too early for the corn tassels to be browning, but they are.  It was hard for the farmers to plant this spring with the rain, but once planted, most of the fields have yielded abundantly, helped by the frequent rain.  In the early morning, the dew still sits on the leaves of the soy beans, delicate and ephemeral,  and I ponder if my camera would catch it.  I decide that it would not and do not stop.  I pass a road side corn stand and pause thinking an ear or two would fit in my jersey pockets, but the stand is barren.  Too early for produce to be set out on a Saturday or sold out?  Regardless, I ride on. 

The hills taunt me, but at the slow pace I am maintaining, they are not too painful.  I seem to have problems with them now that I did not have in the path, as if I can't get enough air.  Age, health, mental state, fitness level?  I catch a glimpse of a heron, beautiful, relaxing on one leg, but before I can aim he is flying away.  So much beauty in the world.  A ground hog bustles across the road, brown and chubby, again too fast for me to take any picture that is not mental. 

I spend my time admiring the scenery and thinking about the people who took the time to attend the party yesterday.  I think about the plans I have, a visit to California to see a nephew who lives there, a trip I am planning to Illinois to ride a day or two with an old friend. I think of PBP and whether I will go back next year to ride again or if my path lies elsewhere.

I think of the beauty that surrounds me, the charm of a decaying barn in the midst of green crops, the flower daintily hiding her beauty among the brush, and I am thankful that I have not waited to retire until I could not longer ride and notice these things.  I cry and I sing and I am all over the board emotionally, but I am glad to be here and glad that I am able to move forward.  Goodbyes are painful, but beginnings are exciting.  As my retirement cake reminded me, there are roads to be traveled. 

Sunday, July 8, 2018

A July Ride with Friends

"Friendship is unnecessary, like
philosophy, like art... It has no survival
value; rather it is one of those things that
give value to survival."
C.S. Lewis

After a long stretch of exceedingly hot and humid weather with "feel like" temperatures above 100 degrees, there is finally a day that promises low humidity and temperatures only into the eighties, a day that just seems heaven made for cycling.  I am concerned about the route, as I always am with a new route and an unknown route designer. Unlike some riders, I prefer lightly traveled, country roads to busy roads even if they are more difficult to travel and take more time just as I prefer living in the country to living in the city. It suits me and it suits my personality.  Having not ridden one of his rides before, I have no idea as to the designer's preference.  The TMD crowd of bicycle riders has grown, and there are now many people who ride whose names I don't know no less their personalities.

 I may end up one of the many cycling victims of the automobile, but I would prefer it not to be due to poor routing. Still, I am not stupid enough to believe that it can't happen anywhere. Eddie Doerr used to say that it was not a matter of if so much as when and how badly and I believe him to be right if one rides enough.  However unfortunate it may be, bicycling is dangerous business. This route appears to be a combination of lightly and heavily traveled roads. After finding it is scheduled to go through Madison on Regatta week-end, I struggle before deciding to roll the dice, take the risk, and go.  It helps finding a group is starting earlier than the scheduled time, something I normally don't do as I consider it rude unless there is good reason, but the part of the route that goes on heavily trafficked roads convinces me that it is safer to get through Madison early rather than late.  Past experience on rides in the area on Regatta week-end has taught me that many people will be drinking and that many drivers in the area will be impaired.  The earlier I get through there, the less likely I am to meet one of them, and that is just fine by me.

It will be delightful to see friends even if I won't be able to hang with them the entire ride.  It is nice of them to include me, and they are only starting early due to necessity. I used to be able to keep their pace, and perhaps I will again in the future, but right now I can't and have no desire to try.  I think how I have changed remembering futilely chasing after Jim Whaley on a ride, pedaling furiously and determinedly, with Mike Pitt saying over and over, "You can't catch him.  Stop. Stop. You can't catch him."  And still I pedaled and tried and tried only giving up when he was no longer in view.   I think how much desire plays into ability.  No, I didn't catch him that day, but I rode hard and I rode well.  When, I think, did that stop?  Did brevets and their non-competitiveness play a role?  Did I just grow lazy? I find I have no answer and it needs more thought, but not today.  That is a thought for a solo ride, and with retirement looming nearby, there will be time.

I do end up riding the entire day with Amelia, Jeff, Mike, and Paul, but it is only because they allow it.  I don't fool myself that I can maintain the pace they can set if they desire to. Once, yes, but not presently.  I tell each of them not to feel bad if they drop me, but they don't.  And as it turns out, it is just what the doctor ordered.  It is a fun century, the most fun on a ride I have had for awhile.  The last time I remember having so much fun on a ride was one of Rich's rides descending in freezing weather out of Clifty Falls down to 56, barely able to see as my glasses frosted over, laughing madly, cold as the dickens, delighting in the descent and the beauty of the snow as it fell icing an already delightful ride.  Or the century I rode this spring with Bill, Steve, and Dave. Friends, yes, friends are good.  Perhaps one can survive without them, but like love and relationships, they enrich life so. They are kind to allow me to stay with them and to include me, for they have honed a friendship out of hours spent in the saddle together that excludes me, just as I have with Steve, Dave, and Bill, but they allow me in and it fills a part of me that I had not realized was missing recently being so caught up in my own personal issues.

The route is lovely other than the Madison part of the ride and an early part of the ride that is not too busy due to the time of day.  Don't get me wrong.  Madison is a marvelous city and I love to visit there and to sample her restaurants and wines.  I just don't like to ride my bicycle there when the traffic is thick and heavy and people's minds are on vacation from their driving responsibilities. The designer has done a good job though minimizing these roads and keeping us on less traveled thruways.

The recent humid weather with bursts of rain have kept everything green and lush rather than browning to a crisp from the searing heat.  Some of the roads are unfamiliar to me.  During the ride, the others tell me a story of a ride earlier in the past week or two that they did on these roads when a huge storm blew in.  They sheltered in a garage with the owners blessing and the river was lapping at the doorstep by the time the storm abated and they resumed.  I do enjoy the stories I hear on rides, and today is no exception.  I enjoy Lucky's (Jeff's) relaxed attitude about things and wish I had more of that in me.  We talk of Steve Sexton, an old cycling pal,  and I spend a moment missing him and hoping he is well and happy.  I tell them of the time we were on a four day, four hundred mile ride and how I remember the heat and Steve grinning at me on a climb telling me it was a cleavage day. Paul tells me of the recent century where I did not ride with this group and Amelia was pushing the pace, pulling for mile are mile, another rider saying, "This is cruel.  This is cruel."  He laughed saying at first he though the fellow was saying this is cool.  That was before they dropped, no longer able to hold on.

Friends.  Yes, I suppose Lewis is right and we can survive without them as we could without art, philosophy, history, all those things that they are talking about dropping or have dropped from school curriculums.  But do we really want to?  Is life not a bit brighter, more fulfilling with these cushions to turn to that pillow us when life becomes cruel as it inevitably does at times.  I daresay that the answer varies for each of us, but today I am thankful not just for the health that allows me to continue to ride my bicycle for long distances but for the friends I have made along the way.  I hold the kindnesses they have offered along the way closely to my heart to warm me when the world turns cold.  And to them, both old, new, frequently and infrequently seen, I say thank you.  Life should be about more than just survival. 

Sunday, July 1, 2018

Gravel Roads to be Explored

"Time changes everything except something
within us that is always surprised by change."
Thomas Hardy

While I long for company, I do not long for city roads, even those that are not heavily traveled.  This, combined with a sore tendon, helps me decide to head for the gravel, something I have not done for a bit and hope to do more often in the near future.  The sun is hot.  Feel like temperatures are to soar to over 100 degrees today.  I decide not only not to do the club century, but not to do a century.  

Slowly, since getting my Surly, I am starting to familiarize myself with all the gravel roads in the area, the ones I rode past many times over the years on my road bike, wondering about but never traveling.  Some of them would be rideable on a road bike, but many are gravel for a reason.  There seem to be long, steep hills on many of them, hard enough to ride on paved roads and made more difficult by a sliding and slipping rear wheel. Today's gravel has almost a ditch across it in places where, I assume, water has forced a path in heavy rains. I don't know that I will ever feel truly competent on gravel, the way it seems to vie with you for control, always leaving me rather off center, yet I find myself strangely drawn to it.  Briefly I think of when the children were small and they, for some reason I still don't fathom, dug a ditch so that water would come into the shed.  I remember anger struggling with laughter in my husband's eyes when he discovered what they had done, and his resignation that it was just one more thing he had to tolerate until he could fix. 

I pass mobile home after mobile home early on the road, run down, almost frightening.  It is not the mobile home that frightens me:  I lived and raised my children in a mobile home until they were in middle school and we had enough to buy a house, but it is the condition of things: bushes untrimmed, yards unmowed, trash scattered, rusted cars and trucks everywhere.  Just a general feeling of neglect, as if caring would be too much of an effort.  Poverty...I learned a true fear of poverty from the stories of my mother and her childhood:  hiding from landlords, moving 12 times in a school year, never knowing if your needs would be met.  And yes, this place frightens me.  I pass a small camper with clothes lines attached.  A woman is hanging her clothing out to dry.  She yells something at me that I don't quite catch.  I don't stop, however, I move on.  I think briefly how I am surprised there are no dogs coming out and giving chase, but whether it is the heat, that there are none on this road, or they are restrained who knows.  I just know that I survive that part of the road with my calves intact.  

Later on the road, the scenery becomes beautiful.  Perhaps because the hills begin and there just is not a good place for a mobile home or camper.  While it is hot, there has been lots of rain, and the trees are green.  I come upon a young deer, walking down the road in the same direction I am going.  At first I believe it is just a large, skinny dog, but when I hail him he turns his head and I see budding antlers, black and velvety looking.  Startled, he bounds into the brush, but almost slowly as if the heat is just too hot for him to make an effort.  A tad later, a racoon saunters across the road, lithe and graceful, melting back into the forest.  

At times, I get off and walk the hill.  I have wrapped my achilles for the first time and forgot to allow accommodation for swelling feet.  It definitely is restricting the movement, but it also is not comfortable.  Still, I don't mind walking.  I find I have more of these niggling injuries now than before and that the best thing to do is to go with them rather than fighting them.  I have been lucky enough to heal from each with time.  This too, I feel certain, will pass.  

The gravel yields to paved roads and to fields of corn, tall and green.  This makes me think of my garden.  I have not gardened for a few years.  I tore down the rotted raised beds my husband had made this summer, but I did not plant or commit to planting.  I have all winter to decide and to ponder the numerous rabbits that have taken up residence in my yard since Rocky died and is not longer there to maintain order.  

But I have time to decide.  10 more days of work and I will be retired, free to do perhaps not whatever I please, but free.  As I told a friend recently, I suspect it may be like turning 18 when you think that you will be able to do whatever you want and find to your surprise that it is not that way at all.  Alas, dreams so often surpass reality.

I get home all too soon for my mental well being, but soon enough in light of the heat.  A shower will feel good.  My bed with clean, sun-dried sheets will feel good.  And I will sleep and dream of the rides that I will be free to do.  Even without retirement, time would change things, but as Hardy notes, I am always surprised by change, even when I am expecting it. 

Thursday, May 3, 2018

Riding in the Rain in May

"Let the rain kiss you.  Let the rain
beat upon your head with silver liquid drops.
Let the rain sing you a lullaby."
Langston Hughes

I wake up to overcast skies and wind.   I conclude that it would be ridiculous in the extreme to drive to the club ride, a flat, 50 miler through the city that a friend told me was "ugly."  Why, I reason, would I do this when earth is awakening.  There are wild flowers to be seen and green leaves emerging.  

My only hesitation is the wind.  I know it will be a tough ride out, but I also know the ride home should be glorious.  While rain is not expected, I throw in a dollar plastic poncho.  It is small and easily portable and I carry one in my bike bag almost the entire spring/summer/fall season.  I get two miles from home and find I don't remember unplugging the coffee pot, so  I return and find I am correct.  I had turned it off but I had not unplugged it.  Then I am off to Salem to get a donut.

The ride along Eden Park and Delaney Park roads are some of my favorites.  The road is not terrible, there is little traffic, and it is mostly woods or farm land.   Recently two Amish families have built alongside the road, and I will enjoy seeing their slow but steady progress.  I pass the first home and a baby girl sits in the gravel wearing a  baby blue bonnet.  She does not appear to be big enough to toddle.  The mother and two sons are doing something in the field next to her, farther away from me.  The smile of the baby brings a grin to my face.  I don't know if I will ever be a grandmother, but if so it will be bittersweet because I will be sad that my husband is missing it. There is nothing like the softness of an infant, the way they melt into your arms as if trying to merge their way back to the womb, the sweet smell of youth.  I miss having children around, the laughter of the little ones, the intensiveness of their feelings as they get a tad older.  Children laugh from the heart, their whole body writhing with enjoyment, but their sorrows are just as deep.  I will miss the children when I retire, but I will not miss the sadness I have seen and have tried to ease.  Hard enough to do for your own children, no less those of another.  

The second Amish farm has put up a gate, or I assume it is a gate of some type since it is carved to fit into another log,  that I find interesting so I stop to take a photo since the house is not right there and I won't be intruding.  So often I pass photo opportunities I would love to take because it would be rude.  Meanwhile, the sky begins to darken ominously.  At the beginning of the large hill into Salem, the rain begins in earnest.  I stop to put on my poncho, make sure my phone and camera are encased in plastic, and turn on my lights.  Because the rain is heavy and visibility is little, I decide to walk the hill facing traffic to be sure I am seen and because I don't relish riding up the hill encased in plastic. Perhaps, I think, it will diminish by the time I reach the top of the hill.  As if to mock me, almost immediately after I think at least there is no lightening and thunder, the thunder booms as lightening flashes across the sky.  At the top of the hill, I decide to ride and discover that I have lost my rear view mirror.  Briefly I debate retracing my steps to try to find it, but I decide that is probably a lesson in futility, so I get on my bike and ride.  The plastic does nothing to help, billowing out like a sail to impeded my forward progress, but it beats the heck out of getting soaked.  It is warm, but not that warm yet.

The rain does let up before I get to the bakery, but it does not stop.  At some point, I realize I am enjoying it now that it is not so driving and hard. The above words by Langston Hughes come to mind.  I try to remember the name of the professor who showed me his poetry, his magic, but while I can see him in my mind, a slight, dark haired man, Harvard graduate, loved marathons, I can't remember.  Arriving at the bakery,  I apologize for dripping on their floor and display case, but the girls are nice about it.  I sit outside under the awning against the bakery eating my donut while people going into the shop stare.  Some look curious, some look hostile, and some look friendly, but they all look at the crazy woman sitting under the awning in the rain eating her carmel iced roll.  

I head back out truly missing my rear view mirror as this is the part of the route where there actually is some traffic.  The rain stops at the top of Salem Hill on Old 56, a descent I was a bit concerned about due to wet roads.  We have had so much rain lately, however, that the roads do not appear to have built up a slick upper coat of oil.  I find myself singing Joni Mitchell songs that I have not really sang much since college and I realize that I am happy.  Winters may be a  problem when I retire, but I do not think I will ever tire of my bicycle and roads he takes me on.  Even if it rains.  Somewhere along the line, I had forgotten what a joy riding in the rain can be.  And then, the biggest miracle of all.  I am across the street from my home, look down, and the lost mirror that fell off my helmet is there, hooked on the cables above my front wheel.  49 miles and just another day on the bike.

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Solo vs. Club

[F]lowers... adorn our lanes, fields and fells, 
and... smile upon us and cheer and 
 bless us in our country rambles.... 
the lovely blossoms... kiss the clear brooks
 and mountain wells... ~
James Rigg, "Preface,"  
Wild Flower Lyrics and Other Poems, 1897

Oh, the blessings of vacation free from normal life demands.  Sunday there is no club ride of any length, my heart and legs long for a far-reaching ride, and I do not have to go to work on Monday.  I debate and debate and finally decide on the Christy Century despite knowing first store is not open on Sundays and there will be nothing until I have 55 miles in the saddle.  That is a problem with many of my routes: they rely on small country stores that normally are closed on Sundays.  I rearrange my bike bag and stick a banana in there doing my best to ensure that it will not get squashed and yucky.  Daylight is long this time of year and so I can take my time, important since I don't expect to ride a fast pace.  A "country ramble" seems just what I need.  And the weather, while a tad on the cool side in the morning, is perfect.

I head out by myself on a route that, while familiar, I have not ridden for a number of months, and I find my rhythm.  Everything seems so fresh and new.  The trees are not yet fully leafed out, green seems to seep from their bark, slowly, so slowly.  The daffodils, other than some late blooming varieties, are about gone.  But I see so many wildflowers, the majority of which I can't name.  I hope to see the field of Trillium outside of Vernon, but despite the fact they were in full bloom in Mitchell yesterday, I am too early or too late.  I pass Mayapples and grin thinking of how my children came up with the name of "Umbrella Trees," and thus, in the Hall household, Mayapples remain known as Umbrella trees.  They seem enormous and plentiful this year, but I see none in bloom.  I see phlox and some dainty red flowers that I have seen many times before but whose name I don't know. Redwood trees are in full bloom.  Streams, while dryer than a week or so ago, still run though not with the same fervor. 

I think about how I recently told a friend, Steve Rice, that part of the problem I am running into picking up the household chores my husband used to do, is the language of tools.  Often, I don't know their names.  Recently, however, I was able to fix a broken light switch and take apart the bathroom sink to clear a slow running drain.   I am learning and can accomplish at least these basic things, but the lack of the basic language is frustrating and hampers my efforts.  It is just hard to go into a store and ask for something like channel locks when you don't know that they are named channel locks.   Still, I think, these minor accomplishments leave me with a feeling of satisfaction, of having mastered a new skill however minor it might seem.  I struggle with retaining the names the roll across my tongue like a foreign language, but occasionally they stick. While I often would sneak basic tools from the basement when I was a child, hammer, nails, hatchet, my father, very handy with tools but very much a traditionalist, did not believe in women using tools. 

I think of other things during this ride, but mostly I am appreciative of the life I appear to have built and the blessings that have been bestowed upon me and of the beauty of the road and the passing scenery.  I arrive at the first store only to find it is either permanently closed, being completely renovated, or being changed into something else.  Pressing my eye to the window, I see the concrete floor is now pea gravel.  The counter, kitchen, and shelving is all gone.  I decide to move on a bit to somewhere more scenic to eat my banana and to grieve the apparent closing of yet another store.   Few people appreciate the importance of these small country stores to the bicycle rider that enjoys low traffic country roads to more heavily traveled roads. To them it is pearls before swine.  And as a friend pointed out, you often get the chance to meet "characters" there.

This leads to thoughts of all the changes.  So few people in the area ride distance anymore, and if they do it is only if the ride is a club ride AND a tour stage.  Sad.  Or perhaps it is sad that I continue rather than tiring of the bike and finding new pursuits as others before me have done.  That day will surely come, but I hope it is later rather than sooner.  I remember Grasshopper asking about brevets a few years ago and how he said, "You're still doing that?"  But I am in love with bicycles still, with the places they can take me, the things that I see, the demands they place on my body, the friends they have brought me.

I decide during the ride to do the club ride on Tuesday.  It is a hilly ride, only 50 miles, but it is a beautiful ride though I suspect it will not have the wild flower display.  Unlike my solo century, the club ride is well attended.  I am disappointed that Amelia is not there, but I get to see Paul and Lynn and Bill and Lucky and catch up. The scenery on this ride is spectacular though you pay for it with long climbs that stress the lungs and the legs, but I never appreciate it as I do the scenery on a solo ride.  But the ride delights in other ways.  The joys of conversation.  I truly miss having my husband to bounce things off of and tell about things.  I am sure the other riders are thinking, "Doesn't she ever shut up?"  But they are friends, or some of them are.  Others on the ride I don't know.

At one time, it would have bothered me not being in or near the front group, but now it only occasionally causes a twinge of envy and/or regret.  Now it is more about the camaraderie I find nearer the back of the pack.  I see the changes in my friends as well as myself, particularly if I have not seen someone for a long while or they have had a rough patch.  You know how you see someone you have not seen for awhile and think, "Oh, my, when did they get old? How could someone change so much so very quickly?"  Like when I look in the mirror and remember I am not forty or even fifty anymore.  

Both of these rides filled a need in me, at least temporarily, and I am glad I did them.  They left me tired, but temporarily sated.  But I have more vacation and there are roads that need traveling.  Perhaps tomorrow.  Club or solo?  Well, whichever way my fancy swings when I wake up. 

Monday, April 23, 2018

A Perfect Week-end

“Treasure the ones you love.
 Tomorrow is not promised. 
Cherish the time you have with the people 
who matter the most. Enjoy and appreciate them. 
Make time for them. Love is action.” 
Akiroq Brost

What a week-end it has been.  I am tired but deeply content having spent the time with some of those who are important to me and that I cherish doing activities that are important to me and that I love and cherish.  What better combination than that? 

Saturday, Diana and I  hiked about 12 miles of the Knobstone.  During the hike, she reminded me that last year we had just finished our through hike this time of year.  The red buds beginning to bloom, wild flowers shyly opening, a haze of green hovering lightly at the tree tops, filled with the promise of what is soon to come.  We chance upon a patch of my favorites:  trillium.  How is it that I did not notice them until adulthood?  But then, my parents did parties and social gatherings.  There was nothing of the outdoors about them.  Yet still, their concentration on the social scene left me to my own devices and free in a way many children are not.  I spent much of my free time in the woods surrounding our house on three sides, exploring more than I was at home, even having the police called a few times when I did not return in time for the evening meal after I headed out following breakfast.  Were the flowers not there or did I just not notice them?  There were no deer in those woods at that time having been  hunted out. Maybe, I think, we notice different things at different stages in our lives.  But I really don't know if that is true or just one of the many thoughts that streak through my brain when questions arise.

Regardless, I am glad that Diana and I have become friends, and I cherish our time together.  She has become one of the friends that I love and admire.  We tromp the woods at a comfortable rhythm, sometimes conversing and sometimes in an agreeable silence.  We both are surprised running into a group of six young Amish hikers, backpacks filled to overflowing, straw hats on their heads, hiking sticks in hand.   In fact, we run into more people on the trail today than we did in the four days it took us to hike through last year.  Her husband has been kind enough to drop us off at one trail head in the morning and pick us up at another in the afternoon, even bringing a bottle of crisp, cool water.  

Sunday is a reunion of the friends I used to go to Texas Hell Week with when there was a Texas Hell Week.  I was beside myself with joy when Steve said Dave was coming. I have ridden with Steve this  year and I have ridden with Bill this year, though not together, but I have not ridden with Dave at all this year and I have not ridden with all of them as a group.  While I worry the slowness of my pace might be an issue, I know I will cherish this ride before it ever happens because I know I cherish these three men.  All of us have changed since we began riding together, but hours spent in the saddle on remote roads, facing the challenges that distance cycling brings cemented our friendship.  Each of them has a piece of my heart, and I think that each of them knows it.  In fact, while they would die before they would admit it, I believe that I have a little piece of each of theirs.

The weather is perfect and the course seems perfect for not having ridden much distance this year.  Nobody presses the pace and everyone seems content just to be together. There are enough hills to make it challenging, but not so many that the end becomes a death march due to unseasoned legs.  There is conversation all around me.  Some I participate in and some I merely listen to, and I send prayers to heaven for allowing me this day.  We arrive at the lunch stop and the man taking the orders is a bit concerned seeing that we are cyclists.  He said that the prior year a group of cyclists came through.  "Jesus," he said, "they were riding a hundred miles."  Bill tells him we are riding a hundred miles, but then reassures him there is a not a large group coming in behind us.  We all know that it was the club's Tour de Mad Dog he was referring to.  I giggle and giggle throughout the ride remembering the look on his face and how he told Bill he could never ride a hundred miles.  Of course, he could, but first you have to overcome telling yourself that you can't.  Randonneuring has taught me now much of riding is mental, a  lesson that translates to other areas of life as well.

I am thankful for all of these friends.  Each is a blessing.  Though they may stray far, though we may not see each other for long periods of time, there is and will be a bond.  How bleak my world would be without them?  God keep each of you safe and sound and allow us to make more memories together.  Perhaps rather than each of you having a piece of my heart, you are my heart along with all the other family and friends who have so enriched my life.  All I know is my heart overflows with contentment today, despite the fact I am tired, and that I have been blessed.