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Monday, July 26, 2021

Dupont: Century of the Week

""Summer dropping so easily a delicious

everything upon your skin and lips.  Like

a never-ending kiss - taunting, deep, and 

luscious.  The sun.  The heat.  The thousand

echoes of a timelessness before time, when every

day seems longer than the next, and no day 

seems likely to truly end.  Summer."


Carew Papritz  

 This weeks century is the Dupont Century.  I am not sure who put this route together.  Paul says  he does not know.  I suspect it is Tim Chilton, but I don't know for sure.   I try to pass these things on  knowing full well that most won't remember and fewer still will care, but that there will be the one or two who understand the importance.  Certainly putting a century together now is much easier than it was in the old, pre GPS days.  But even now roads have to be woven together to reach stores to refresh supplies and to meet other needs.  Regardless, the route has, to the best of my knowledge, remained the same.  The change is going to be the store stop.  The old store is closed whether due to retirement or lack of business I can't say.  I have fond memories of the old store, but its closure can't take those away.  It can only mean there will be no new memories there.  Like the store at Medora, the old store was, literally, an old store, the kind that takes you back fifty years to a different way of life.  As the Rascal Flatts song says, "I miss Mayberry, sitting on the porch drinking ice cold cherry coke."  Change, change, always change.

I am the first to arrive at the ride start but it is not long before cars begin to  straggle in.  John calls to tell me he is running late due to a road closure.  I assure him I will wait.  I wonder how the day will go, for it is summer and it is supposed to be hot and  humid.  I hope everyone rides wisely.  I hope everyone is starting the ride fully hydrated.  


As I have said before, the sun is so masculine to me, searing hot and demanding.  The sun is wonderful and I will miss him when winter knocks with her gray days and pallid, heatless sunlight, no longer a kiss or caress. There has been too little of his presence thus far this summer, this bright, bold sun.  He can make demands on the body that leave you praying for cloud cover, some wind, or a blessed ice cube and watering hole.  Thirst...a powerful need.  But there is a comfort to his presence, a reminder of other summer days with  no school, no responsibilities, an eternity.  I feel sorry for children today that they have been robbed of that experience.  But it is what it is.  They will have other things to remember and treasure as have the generations that preceded them. 

It is pretty much what is becoming the regular crowd that show:  Larry "Gizmo" Preble, Tom Hurst, Tom "Ambassador" Askew, Thomas Nance, Bob Grable, and John Pelligrino.  I hoped Gayle would begin showing back up.  She is so funny and makes everyone laugh.  I miss Mike "Diesel" Kammenish and Dave "Bam Bam" King and others that I don't see very often. But it is what it is and I enjoy the people who have showed.  At the start of the ride there are jokes about the numerous Toms that are riding and I tell them Steve was the popular name when I first started riding centuries:  Steve Rice, Steve Montgomery, Steve Sexton.  But those are names from the past that don't ride centuries often or at all anymore. 

We start off and almost immediately break into two groups.   The Toms and Larry race ahead.  There is no way I am going out at that pace knowing what is in store later in the day.   Bob and John hang back with me. I am fine with that.  I am fine with riding the course alone, but I am also fine with having company. I want everyone to ride the pace they are comfortable with and to be safe and enjoy the day, the weather, the scenery.  I also know there will be one more that intends to join us at the first store stop:  Jon Wineland who is running a 10K this morning before the ride.  Jon seems to ride between paces most times often by himself even on the group ride.  

The first climb is as challenging as I remember and I think how much harder a hill is very early in a ride when  your legs and lungs have  not warmed up yet.  Still, I know this is the easier direction to climb on this road.  Climbing the other direction is longer and more difficult. Earlier this year I walked it with a rider who was cramping and did not have any regrets not having to push my legs until they ached. So who am I trying to kid?  That climb is hard in either direction and at the beginning, middle, or end of a ride. 


We pass an Amish Store shortly after the climb on the left that either is new or that I have not noticed in the past.  I make a mental note that it could be a store stop on a shorter course if I design one that goes in that direction.  Had I been alone, I would have stopped and explored, but I am not alone today.  From the outside, the store reminds me of the closed Mennonite Store in Lavonia other than it is closer to a city.  I mourn whenever a smaller store away from any city goes out of business.  One less oasis for the distance bicyclist that needs to refuel.  Roads become less accessible if there is nowhere to stop within thirty miles. And so many of them are now gone.  I have so many century routes that are no longer viable due to closed stores or restaurants.  


This morning it is not so hot, but it is humid and I know what is coming in the afternoon.  I know the pace separation is unusually big  between the two groups when we come to the first store stop and the first group is gone.  We are averaging 15.1 ourselves so I figure they are burning up the road.  I know they are all strong riders. I don't see Jon at first and wonder if he was held up, but then he appears.  He will continue with us until Otisco when he will ride back to where he started from in Madison.  


When we reach the lunch stop, the front group is still there.  But they have eaten and are ready to leave though they stick around to chat for a bit.  They opted to eat inside under the air conditioning, probably a smart move.  Our group buys our lunch and sits outside under a tree. All except Jon who eats outside but who brought his lunch and complains that it is still mostly frozen. I like this, the sharing of a meal outside while we temporarily loll.  Winter rides are like that.  No lolling allowed.  Ride and get in before  you get cold or the wind gets stronger or darkness imprisons you.


 The sandwich tastes divine though perhaps a bit too much mayo for my liking.  Bob said he likes all the heavy mayo.  I remember it was the same at the other store.  Some complained about too much mayo and some liked it.  The words to a favorite song by Mary Chapin Carpenter, "Don't Need Much to be Happy" come to mind, "Sometimes it's hard to remember how tough we are to please."  

The first group take off with Gizmo complaining of stiff "lunch legs."  There are grins on faces still and so far everyone appears to be dealing with the heat okay.  Despite the fact that they are stronger than me, as ride captain I feel responsible for their well being. Not too long afterward, we finish and  head toward LeRoy's and Lexington.  The miles pass quickly.  For some reason, I remember this course being hillier than what it is.  I keep dreading the climbs, but they never happen. There are a few rollers along the way, but no significant climbs yet.  Odd.  I remember this was my first century after returning from PBP 2007 and I remember feeling that I just might not be able to complete it causing me to realize how hard PBP was on me physically and mentally.  For a bit, the bike became a chore rather than a love. 

By the time we reach Lexington, the first group has gone.  Jon is waiting outside on the stage behind the building.  Bob and John opt to remain indoors under the air.  After buying a drink and getting ice for my water bottles, I join Jon behind the building until it is time to leave mentally dreading the climb I know is to come.  As we climb, however, I find it really is not a bad climb so either I am in better shape, going more slowly and not pressing the pace, or delusional.  Either way, I am happy not to hurt.  My legs happily are meeting the demands I am placing upon them.  Maybe it is because I have company.  Maybe it is because of the sun. Maybe it is because we are not pushing the pace.  For whatever reason, I am glad. 

Between the store and the finish, we stop to rest due to the heat.  Right before the end, about five miles out, Bob has a flat on his new wheels, something that has been plaguing him since he got the bike and that he was really hoping would not happen again as he wants to get clinchers but feels this needs to be resolved first.  He sighs as he changes the tire saying that it will mean yet another visit to Bob at Clarksville to try to figure it out.  I tell him about the wheels I got a few years ago that were not supposed to need rim tape and ask if his have rim tape.  I had about 13 flats that year until rim tape was installed whether or not they needed it.  Since it cured the problem, it was needed.  I have no idea what the issue is with his wheels, but there is definitely an issue when you have flat after flat.

And we finish.  The first group is long gone.  Jon peeled off for home at Otisco.  It was a good day.  I drive home tired but sated.  Hot and thirsty, but so glad for the heat and the sun's embrace in what, thus far, has been a rather cloudy and dismal summer.  And yeah, as always,  really glad for bicycles and friends.   


Friday, July 16, 2021

Solo Orleans: The Back Door with route changes


"It is in deep solitude that I find the gentleness with which I can truly love others. The more solitary I am, the more affection I have for them. It is pure affection, and filled with reverence for the solitude of others. Solitude and silence teach me to love others for what they are, not for what they say."
~ Thomas Merton


So I went to bed at my normal, early hour only to find that I was troubled about something and that sleep evaded  me.   Lloyd always used to be able to tell if something was worrying me, consciously or unconsciously, as I would not sleep well.  Finally it hit me.  Frog Pond Road was water covered during today's ride, so Medora, part of tomorrow's century ride, the third store stop, would most likely be flooded.  

So I pop out of bed, change the route on the club calendar, and do a cue sheet for a ride I had changed to try to a. take us off so many of the same roads on another version of the ride and off the state road earlier and b. stay away from areas that flood easily.  The original Orleans has Medora as a first store stop, and if there is rain it seems the road to Medora is always flooded. While I don't expect anyone to show to ride with me, one person had said she might so I felt like I needed to be prepared.  

At the start time, I take off on my own.  A part of me, of course, is disappointed that nobody else is going to ride, but oddly enough a part of me is quite glad that I am the only one to worry about with the sun and the heat predicted.  And it will give me time to think about issues in my life right now.  I think best on the bike or when doing something for some reason.  Running, I miss running because of this.  I hope the day will hold some challenges other than the heat, that the ride will become an adventure where I have to use my brain as well as my legs.  It is already quite clammy.  The news person said it is not as humid as yesterday, but despite the lack of fog today (it was quite thick yesterday), for some reason it feels more humid.  


Because there are new roads on this route, I am not sure what climbs there may be having not really paid much attention to the little chart at the bottom of the page, but I know the first part of the route as I have not changed it and there are a couple of nice climbs.  It is what it is.  When I need to climb, I climb.  When I am by myself, the climbs come easy.  Or should I just say easier. No need to press the pace.  Climbing is always easiest done at one's own pace.  To try to go faster or slower is difficult.  


I wonder about the dogs at  the top of Liberty Knob.  There are so many of them and they are always coming out.  They have never offered to bite, but biting is only part of the damage dogs can do and they act like they might bite.  If they hit your wheel, down you go.  The owner of these dogs does not care that they chase cyclists.  I have talked to him and others have talked to him.  Because there are so many dogs, one day they may, like humans, do things as a group that they would not do as individuals.  But I am not willing to yield the road and quit riding it because they have an owner who refuses to control or discipline them.  He doesn't understand, evidently, that his rights end where mine begin.  And it is a public road.


Today they are not too aggressive.  They come out, a pack of five from two different households, but when I stop and begin squirting my precious water at them, they back off.   I move on without being further terrorized.  


The quote above pops  up in Facebook when I am sitting by myself at the first store stop drinking a container of grape juice and my homemade blueberry oatmeal bar that I often take on rides.  I think it is quite appropriate for the day.  It seems such a long time since I have done a solo century.  When I retired, I had great plans that did not materialize.  But I am thankful that I can still complete them and that I have not lost my love for distance.  And I know I will spend part of the day thinking of people that ride or used to ride and how deeply I care for them.   I actually spend a good part of the day thinking about how grateful I am that I can still ride and that I am not wasting today.  I might curse the sun at times, but it is the first time in weeks where I have ridden in strong sunshine, the kind that makes the skin on your face feel tight after a ride no matter how much sunscreen you use.



On Martinsburg road, I am briefly awed by my surroundings.  At the top of the ridge I look out and see hills and trees sprawled before me.  The sides of the road hold Queen Ann's lace and the last of the Black Eyed Susans.  Sweet clover is beginning to blossom along the hedgerows.  I pass one flower whose name I don't now but I have learned is an invasive plant.  It seems I missed so much of the beauty this year.  Part of the time due to  injury, part due to weather, and part due to myself.  June slipped by without even a whisper.  And here it is July, half done.

I am surprised at how good I feel.  With having ridden a tad over fifty miles the day before, albeit at a slow pace, I thought I might have nothing in my legs.  But I am moving down the road at a reasonable pace.  

I reach the lunch stop which is near 60 miles in and sit down next to people who want to know how far I have ridden and where I am going.  They notice my Louisville Mad Dog jersey and want to know if I am riding back to Louisville.  They are astonished when I tell them I have already ridden 60 miles and have 43 left to go. They also seem to think I am a tad on the crazy side, and I am okay with that.  I have always said the distance cycling does draw a rather odd group of people together.  

So many memories flood my brain throughout the ride.  Memories with old friends and memories with new friends.  After lunch the sun really begins to feel hot, demanding his due.  My pace slows but while some of the roads are new roads I am not familiar with, I find that there is not too much climb until Salem.  I stop the store stop I have chosen for a group ride and go to the bakery.   Dessert is a brownie, thick and chocolatey.  And then home.  On the last stretch, I see what I think must be trash up ahead only to find that the rain has brought out a large group of  mushrooms.   I laugh thinking that eating them would be one way to get out of the heat, take some photos, and pedal home in love yet again with cycling and with many of my cycling friends.  It was a good day.  As I told a friend recently, we only have so many cycling days left in our cycle.  Glad I didn't waste this one. 

Monday, July 5, 2021

Bethlehem in July

"This is the power of gathering: it

inspires us, delightfully, to be more 

hopeful, more joyful, more thoughtful:

in a word, more alive." 

Alice Waters


 This weeks century is Bethlehem, a century generously infused with memories of countless trips with countless groups of people.  I remember how much trouble I had finding a way to punch through from Bethlehem to Hanover without encountering gravel, how I tried and failed to find a route that bordered the river, how I went into the old, closed nuclear plant that never was and became frightened being by myself after my imagination took hold and filled the empty, eerie spaces with villains.  I remember the Christmas rides, always held the first week-end in December, when we would do the route to mail our Christmas cards in Bethlehem so the postmark would read Bethlehem and they would be specially stamped.  This was the last century I had that Jim Whaley came to before his passing, and I send up a prayer hoping that he is well and putting all the hills in heaven to shame.

Now the post office is closed down.  Many of the people who rode no longer ride or are missing.  If there is one lesson that nobody can evade in this life, it is that change is constant.   No use fighting it.  Roll with it and move on.  

I am not sure how many to expect.  It is one of my easier routes and the weather is predicted to be low eighties, a sheer treat this time of year.  But there is no longer a Tour de Mad Dog and crowds at rides are smaller.  I prepare for possibly twenty and begin to worry that I will not have sufficient cue sheets as more and more roll in, but I have more than enough.  The final count is 13 with a 14th, Jon Wineland,  joining us along the route after having run in the Madison Firecracker 10K.  Some of them have ridden earlier centuries with me this year (Tom Hurst, Larry Preble, Dave King, Thomas  Nance, and Tom Askew:  some have not (Mike Crawford, Amelia Dauer, Fritz Kopatz, Tony Nall, Paul Battle, Frank Hulsman, and Dee Schreur).  

The only person I am not familiar with is Frank Hulsman, and he tells me it is his first century.  It has been awhile since I have captained a first time century rider, and I am glad he has joined us.  There is something quite special when someone rides their first century.  It has always interested me.  For some, it is a "one and done" experience.  It was a goal, they complete, they have no interest in repeating it.  For others, they fall in love with the experience and repeat it time and time again.  I suppose that is one of the best things there is about cycling......there is a niche for almost everyone and they are all good.  As for my first century, nobody shepherded me.  It was the My Old Kentucky Home Tour time trial.  I shake my head remembering Eddie Doerr, the man who suggested that I ride it, another that I have not seen for years and years.

We roll out into the cool of the morning.  Despite not driving the course, something I am just not doing this year, I am not at all concerned about this part of the route as I rode it earlier this week.  I know there are no bridges out and no road closures.  I grin thinking of Tom Hurst telling me this morning that he brought his cleat covers today as every other ride seems to have had an obstacle and he did not have his covers with him.  Perhaps it is like washing your bike:  there is no better way to ensure that you will get rained on during a ride than to wash your bike ahead of time.  By being prepared, he has doomed us to a ride with no unusual obstacles;-)

Because it is a larger group, I have no illusions about this group being cohesive and staying together.  There are enough people that faster people can pair with others who ride fast and slower people can ride at the back with me.  I have found that I have enjoyed this year and the slower paces. I do worry when I learn that Paul has forgotten his GPS in case he gets ahead of me and I worry if I programmed the detour around the gravel correctly.  Neither is a huge issue though I do learn later that while half of the group found the detour, there was a small group that navigated the gravel.  

Despite the different paces, there is not enough speed disparity that we don't regroup at store stops.  At each stop, people regroup.  Along the way I notice as I did earlier this week that the sweet clover is blooming and the Black-eyed Susan's are on full display screaming, "Notice me. Admire me for I am beautiful."  The orange day lilies are mostly gone, but there is still color in the world.  And it is still green, green and lush.  Corn and soy beans line the road in places.  It makes me feel as if somehow I misplaced June.  I spend a moment grieving my inability to slow time, to soak up every moment, every sight, to remember every joke, to clutch the sound of everyone's individual voice and laughter so as to bring it up at will.  But alas, my brain is much too small and insignificant.  Tears fill my eyes for a moment at the beauty of it all, the beauty of the people, the beauty of the landscape, the beauty of the bicycles and jerseys, and the beauty of being healthy and alive on a fine July day.  But I realize that this is not a ride to sink inward in the way that I can do at times.  There are too many people and I have responsibilities.  


 The ride ends with Frank successfully completing his first century to the sound of the others who kindly waited at the end, clapping and congratulating him.  His bravery is inspiring as I know the hills at the end hurt him, but he did not complain and kept the wheels turning.  The only issue the entire ride is Larry breaks a shifter cable.  Luckily, I carry an extra cable and Dave King is kind enough to help with the repair so it becomes a non-issue.  The group has inspired,  helped, and been grateful.  A good day and a good ride.  Different than others, but that is only to be expected.  Any day on the bike where everyone successfully finishes and nobody has a major accident or mechanical, well I suppose that is a good day.  We are blessed. And we are alive.



Monday, June 28, 2021

Campbellsburg Century Revisited

"You may not remember the

time you let me go first. Or the time

you dropped back to tell me it wasn't

that far to go. Or the time

you waited at the crossroads for me 

to catch up. You may not remember any

of those, but I do and this is what I have to

say to you:  "Today, no matter what it takes, 

we ride home together."

Brian Andreas


It is interesting, this century a week, reminding me of the early days when a few of us rode two centuries most week-ends, all of our free time spent with the bicycles, each other, and the open road.  That intensity passed.  There were other paths to travel, spouses to appease, other interests to pursue.  Despite becoming quite special, people became known, and as the saying goes, familiarity can breed contempt, or if not contempt a lack of appreciation. Life has a way of shaking things up. Change happens.  So I was not at all sure what sort of response I would get this year to scheduling a century every week-end  that I possibly could throughout the traditional touring season. 


So far, interest remains higher than I anticipated.  This week draws Mike Kamenish (who arrives after the start but is so strong that he quickly catches up), Larry Preble, Tom Askew, Tom Hurst, Bob Grable, and John Pelligrino, all of whom have ridden at least some of the centuries I have put on this year.  The centuries do not draw the huge crowds that the Tour de Mad Dog drew, but it harkens back to the closeness those of us who shared the roads  all those years ago knew.  Perhaps because the group is smaller.  Despite the different riding abilities, there have been rides like the last where everyone has pretty much stayed together.  So far as I know,  nobody has felt as if the pace was more than they could or wanted to handle and nobody has felt it was so slow as to be tortuous.

I have urged people to ride ahead if they feel the desire and the need, for in part I am reliving memories as I am putting on many routes that I myself designed.  This ride brings back memories of no map or GPS as I  planned the route, heading out with bicycle, pen, paper, and sidewalk chalk on that I used to mark turns on roads I was not familiar with so that I knew how to get back.  This ride brings back memories of cutting off some of my son's old tube socks to use as arm warmers as I could not afford to buy real arm warmers at the time.  It brings back memories of people that I loved who no longer ride at all or who no longer ride distance or who no longer ride with me.  And with that company, I have no fear of being alone.   But they do not drop me.  A few ride ahead, but we always regroup at stores and there is laughter and conversation as new memories are formed.  


I think of how when the Tour de Mad Dog began, despite differing abilities, people rode together.  It reminded me of the saying above.  Suddenly in my memory I am alone on a brevet at night in the middle of Texas after having a flat and watching the lights of the group I was riding with disappear leaving me in complete and utter darkness other than my bicycle light.  And I was afraid, not terrified, but afraid.   But it was not too long before they returned, helping, urging me on, assuring me I could fix the flat and finish, that we would finish together. And we did.  I think  of how when the Tour de Mad Dog began, fifteen people might stop and loll in the grass, talking and joking, while someone fixed a flat.  But I am brought back to the present by the riders with me. 

We arrive at the Red Barn store after the long climb.  Everyone nervously asks about the climb ahead for I have assured them it is a tough climb.  I believe that other than myself, only two have climbed it before.  I tell them of how my friend, Paul Battle, fell over on the climb.  Of the numerous people who walked, unable to turn the pedals due to the steepness.  I tell them of how you are riding along in a valley and suddenly you will see trees arching over the roadway, darkening the entrance to the climb, as if foreshadowing what is to come.  But we climb it and arrive at Little Twirl for lunch.  Some say they read a 26 percent grade, others a bit less, but everyone agrees it was a tough climb.  


Then we hit the head wind from hell and endure it for numerous miles before making the turn for a crosswind and lunch. As I take my turn pulling, I think that the headwind is as strong as was predicted and wonder about those of us who chose to ride in it rather than stay home with our feet propped up.  But despite the challenge, or perhaps to some extent because of the challenge, we are having a good time. 

I am concerned about how the food at Little Twirl will  be as I have not eaten there for some time, but the concern is needless.  While it does not have the healthiest selection of foods, it tastes good, particularly in comparison to some of the fine sidewalk dining at gas stations I have done over the years.   Little Twirl was the original store stop, before the Mennonite Store that came and is now closed.  It used to be open all year long, but now it opens only spring through fall.  New ownership.  Everything changes.

We leave and resume our journey into the headwind knowing that it is about to come to an end, and as we turn onto Beck's Mill it does.  At Beck's Mill, however, we find that the road is closed as the bridge is being rebuilt.  Workmen are busy.  Tom Askew is brave enough and persuasive enough that we are permitted to pass with the recommendation that we carry our bikes because of nails.  As I carry my bike, I wonder about how nail repellent cycling shoes are, but I don't bring it up.  Nobody gets a nail in their foot and I heave a sigh of relief.  And Larry gives Tom a Mad Dog name, Ambassador.  The naming of dogs, well, as T. S. Eliot says about cats, is serious business.  And it has been awhile since a Mad Dog has earned a name.  We are all grateful that the Ambassador saved our tired legs extra miles.  Nobody complains which is good because I did warn everyone I had not driven or ridden the route ahead of time.  

At one point, and I can't remember exactly when, we all do a double take when passed by an Amish couple on bicycles.  She has her bonnet and her dress on and he is also dressed traditionally.  No helmets.  I didn't look but I feel certain no cleats.  But they are both intent on their cycling and look to be as fast as the wind. I have run into Amish cycling once before, a number of years ago, but it was a group of young Amish men. 

And then we are at the end.  No Dog has been left behind this day though one of our number began to get leg cramps from the heat.  But he persevered and finished.  I suspect that now he has adapted to the heat, he will be fine.  And what a wonderful day it was.  Perhaps I can give back a bit of what I have been given, for there have been many rides when others could have gone on and left me but chose not to. "No matter what it takes, we ride home together."



Tuesday, June 22, 2021

Short Frankfort: Century of the Week 2021

"What makes something special

is not just what you have to gain,

but what you feel there is to lose."

Andre Agassi 


The night before the ride, I wonder if the century will be a go as there is talk of severe thunderstorms and high winds, but things sound a bit better in the morning with most of the bad weather staying north.  So I leave early for the ride start as it is quite a drive for me.   I am looking forward to the ride.   It has been awhile since I have ridden these roads.  Since I am playing with centuries this year, I am trying to vary the ride starts so it is not always a long drive for the same people, but when I think about it the participation has mostly been varied this year.  And today is no different.  There are five of us that are going to ride, and only three of us have done a century this year.  Tom Askew, Larry Preble, Gail Blevins, Trey (last name unknown), and I head out into the cool of the morning well aware that it will not last and is supposed to get into the ninties.

At first I think that the group will split early into two groups because of the different ability/fitness levels, but it turns out to be one of those special days when everyone seems content to ride together and enjoy each other's company.  There seems to be no rush to get anywhere or to finish.  We proceed not at a break neck pace, but we aren't crawling along either. People  talk to each other for a bit, then talk to someone else in the group, and when the group does split a bit on a hill or when someone is feeling their oats, they  stop and allow the others to catch up and regroup.  


I love these types of rides, the rides where there is just the company, the scenery, the challenges, and the bicycles.  The type of ride where nobody is in a hurry, where everyone seems to know that no matter their level of expertise of fitness, what is important is the overall experience of the ride:  the sound of conversation, some serious, some frivolous, the sound of laughter, the sound of wheels turning, the look of smiles on faces, the startling greenness and lushness that surrounds us, the feel of the wind caressing our faces,  the wonder of being alive and being on a bicycle.  I hold these things close, treasure them, memorize them, hoping to use them as a shield when the day comes when I can no longer participate.   As Agassi says, I am gaining from this ride, but the appreciation also comes from knowing what I, and the others, will eventually lose.  I send up a silent prayer pleading not yet, not soon, well aware of my selfishness for I have been given so much.  How grateful I am for this day and these riders.  How cognizant I am that these types of rides can't be forced.  They either happen or they don't.

Despite the temperature being in the nineties, the  cloud cover and wind make it seem like it really is not overly hot.  Even the long climb into Frankfort, not steep but long, does not seem overly demanding.  The only disappointment is, upon arriving at Qdoba, the traditional lunch stop for the Short Frankfort, they are not open due to staffing issues.  We eat, instead, at Panera where Gail keeps everyone in stitches throughout the meal.  I don't know if she realizes how funny she is, but everyone is giggling and enjoying themselves.  Larry takes photos.  As for me, I try to make an image to retain in my mind.   I try to memorize the sounds of their laughter, the timbre of their voices, the ways their  lips curve when they smile.  And I know, despite the fact nothing unusual has happened, that I will remember this day and this ride.  

Perhaps if all rides were like this, they would not be so special.  They would become ordinary...mundane...repetitive.  But most rides are not like this, not with the differing levels of ability.  Like everyone else, I have days when I want to ride  hard, to feel my lungs heave and gasp for oxygen, to feel my muscles burn, and other days when I want to poke along at a snail pace, stop and take photos, lollygag.  But for now I am glad for this day, for these people, and for bicycles.  It is practically guaranteed that I will, eventually, lose contact with most if not all of them.  I have watched it happen before.  It seems a lot to lose. The thought makes my heart ache,  but oh, how much I have gained from this day.  And I am grateful:  grateful for the laughter, for the camaraderie, for our health, and this gray day that sheltered us from heat that could easily have stolen the laughter and turned it into curses.  Once again I am grateful for bicycles. 

Monday, May 31, 2021

Orleans with a Pizza Stop

"Remember, remember,

this is now, and now, 

and now. 

Live it, feel it, cling to it,

I want to become acutely

aware of all I have taken

for granted."

Sylvia Plath


 Since my solo century went well last week-end, I decided to put the ride on the club schedule for this week-end and share the course.  I really like most of this route to  New Orleans, particularly the stretch between Medora and Orleans, and I have not shared it with anyone for ever so long now.  I like the way it meanders for a bit between the railroad tracks on one side and the river on the other.  I like how the flowers grow alongside the railroad track, flowers shaded by the tree branches hanging overhead like a canopy.  I like how the shade of the trees dapples the ground, ever changing in the battle between shade and sun.  I like the old, metal bridge, no longer in use, that crosses the river only to end in  a corn field, a bridge to nowhere, and how despite the rust and rotting timbers, it clings to life reminding us of usefulness and how it too passes.  I like the climb up the Devil's Backbone and how the view you get changes so according to the season since the trees and grasses camouflage the valley to the side and below .  And  I like the anticipation of the descent down Tunnelton with its hazardous "S" curve at the bottom that includes a metal slab and grate that can snag any foolishly brave rider. Prior to their placement, sometimes I would find geodes, washed down the hill from the creek. 


When I schedule the ride, the prediction is perfect:  mid seventies and sunshine.  Of course, by the time it rolls around, the prediction is for a record cold high for the day, lots of wind, possible showers, and little sun.  Go figure.  I must admit that at times I wonder if, perhaps, my rides are cursed.  Sometimes it seems that the weather always wants to make them a bit more difficult than they might be otherwise. But it is all good.  Now, now, now.  I can ride.  I can push the pedals and feel my muscles contract and release and I can feel the wind.

I toy with canceling, but I need to ride:  emotionally as well as physically.  Those who know me well know that in the past six years, I have lost three of the people I loved the most:  my husband, my mom, and a brother.  Earlier this week, my youngest brother, older than me but the youngest of the boys, called telling me something was wrong with him and wanting my other brother's number to see if he could get him in to see a neurologist more quickly.  Hearing his slurred speech, I recognized the signs of a stroke, particularly when he says the left side of his tongue is numb.  And indeed, he has had a minor stroke.  All the horrors of my husband's death rush back over me for a moment, a tide of despair and fury at my helplessness.  On the very heels of this,  my nephew tells me that my sister is entering hospice.  It is just too much.  I ask  myself how strong I am expected to be and I am feeling sorry for myself as if nobody else has to go through this when deep down I know that life holds pain and loss for each.  I  know from experience the best way to fight this, particularly now I have nobody to hold me and assure me everything will work out, is to ride leaving the emotions behind on the pavement.  But, Lord, I am tired of being strong, and I do miss strong arms holding me and comforting me and someone telling me it will all be alright.  The words of Plath come to mind and I briefly think how much we take things and people for granted.  Between the Pandemic and the losses, perhaps this is the lesson to be learned.

I think of my nephew recently telling me that I am intimidating, a sentiment echoing the words of a friend after the death of my husband when explaining men's hesitancy to ask me out.  Rather ironic if  true. I certainly don't mean to be intimidating and it is not a quality that I think of being particularly admirable.  If they only knew what a shriveling, weak, coward I am inside, but sometimes you have to do what you have to do.  Standing still in life, well, it really isn't an option for any of us.  How glad I am that Lloyd was not intimidated by me.  Sometimes I smile thinking of how he once said that one of the things he enjoyed about being married to me was that he never really quite knew what I might do or try to do next. But now, now, now.   The past is the past.

I wonder how many will show for the ride.  John and Jon have both said they were coming, but the day looks bleak and it is in the forties.  As it turns out, there are five of us.  I am, of course, the weakest, and I sincerely mean it when I tell them that I don't expect them to hold back and wait for me.  I warn them of the sharp turns that are easy to miss and perilous to those riding with abandon.  I forget to warn them of the railroad tracks that can send you and your bike sailing through the air as I once learned but managed somehow to land, but I later remember and remind them at lunch.

At the start, there is the usual joking.  Everyone is complaining about the cold weather and how they had put cold weather clothes away a week or two ago.  But of the five of us, four are in tights and the fifth has knee warmers.  Everyone has full fingered gloves of some type, and most are dressed in three layers.  The only rider I know who regrets his clothing choice is the one dressed in only two  layers who wishes later in the ride that he had a third.

We ride off at a brisk pace on roads that were already damp and as we pull out of the parking lot it begins to drizzle.  I smile remembering a ride when I first started riding with the club and how  we were caught out on a century with no rain gear when the rain began.  At a store, we bought and all donned trash bags, tearing openings for our arms and heads.  And I remember how it warmed us and how I laughed telling the others I didn't know I would be riding with white trash.  And as I dream, I wake up to the sound of chatter around me as the riders that showed, as Tom Hurst, Jon Wineland, John Pellegrino, and Larry Preble catch up on all that has happened recently.  And the drizzle has passed only to be repeated once more and never for long enough to drench us.  For that I am thankful. Now, now, now.

The pace is brisk, at least for me, but I manage to keep up until almost Medora when I drop back.  I see a few  have stopped for a photo opp at the covered bridge, but I ride on so as not to hold them back.  I become worried, however,  when they have not caught me and turn back around thinking perhaps one has had a mechanical.  Instead they were just taking photos and doing other necessary things.  They seem to be enjoying themselves and I remind myself to hold on to the things I enjoy about all of them.  While I don't know him well at all,  I like how Tom's eyes crinkle and reflect his amusement when he laughs. I like the obvious pride he shows when talking of his daughter.   I like Larry's ability to recognize and capture beauty with his camera and his patience with my slower pace.  John, and I sincerely hope this does not offend him if he should ever read this blog, reminds me of a golden retriever, all smiles, laughter, happiness, and acceptance with no malice at all inside him.  He is a great conversationalist.  And then Jon and his beautiful mind, a boon and probably also a curse.  His sense of humor. Yes, now, now, now.  Appreciate these companions.  Don't take them for granted.  I may stop riding or they may stop riding or something else might happen to prevent our sharing the road in the future, so hang tight and soak it up, make a memory. 

At the store, we laugh at how the clerk is from New York (John is able to not only identify her as a New Yorker by her accent but guess where in New York).  She tells us she has lived in this area 10 years.  But still her accent gives her away.  And we each briefly wonder about how someone from New York City ended up in Medora.  Talk about contrasts. 


The lunch stop is not until we are past sixty miles.  By this time, Jon, Tom, and Larry are ahead.  While I know he, too, could forge far ahead of me, John and I ride in together and find them at Speak Easy Pizza, two of them already served.  Last week I was amazed at the speed of the service and this week is no different.  The guys tell me it is because of the brick oven.  As I look around, I again remind myself that this is "now and now and now," these smiles, these people.  Some will continue riding, some may not.  My pace may slow to where it becomes a burden to come to my rides rather than a pleasure, but not yet.  Or I may stop dreaded day.  As I often do, I think of the many who shared these miles with me and no longer ride or ride shorter distances or ride little and seldom with me.  Each has their own special place in my heart.  And so will these, the men gathered around the table, who came to ride despite the cold and the bit of rain. And we are cold when we leave the restaurant, but I know it is merely from stopping and that the hills that loom ahead will warm us.

Larry, John, and I finish the ride together while Tom and Jon ride ahead though we all meet for a brief time at the last store stop.  And this is good.  Even if they all rode ahead, I would be fine.  I am just glad that they came to share the day and to give me another memory to cherish when my riding days fall behind me.  I am preparing for those  days.  I have taken up painting in my quest to  find other hobbies.  And hopefully I will find other hobbies as the days and months and years pass.  But I want to concentrate on appreciating what is now and what I all too often take for granted and be grateful.  And I am fortunate that I have much to be grateful for in this life despite the fact that it is filled with losses, huge losses, losses that leave holes that can never be completely filled in.  My legs are tired, but I am sated for the day.  Beauty, bicycles, and some companionship.  Now, now, now.



Saturday, May 22, 2021

Orleans via Medora: It's All Good

"This time round I'm searching

down to where I used to go, 

and its been on my mind to make 

it shine."

James Taylor 


So my test ride earlier in the week went okay, unlike the week before.  And so, I decide to try a century.  The club has an easy century on the schedule, but I don't want any pressure to push myself or anyone to inconvenience.  After some internal debate, I decide to kill two birds with one stone.  I will plan on doing my Orleans century that has a first store stop in Medora.  This will allow me to see if Dollar General has opened there.  And, I tell myself, I can turn around and make it a fifty mile ride if my wrist is hurting too badly.  


I slip out into the cool of the morning shortly after first light.  It is supposed to get near ninety today and I have been off the bike and have not at all acclimated to the sudden heat wave that hit this area.  That being said, I was never one that felt one hour made that much difference in the end.  And I really am in  no rush.  There is no ride captain to sigh and wish this chubby anchor had stayed home and no husband at home wondering if I am okay and when I will arrive. Still, I maintain a decent pace, surprising myself when I reach Medora and have averaged a bit over 16.  Of course, it is a flat course, but still I am pleased.  And I am back in  love with bicycling, with the feel of my muscles as they turn the pedals, with the way the wind teases me, the whirl of the changing sights and sounds.  The words of Dr. Seuss come to mind, "Oh, the places you will go."


Along the way I think of my new hobby, watercolor painting, and try to look at things and see how I would paint them.  I think I need to either attach my carradice to this bike or take the bike with the rack so that I can fit sketching materials.  I wonder about the round barn.  It would make a lovely painting, but it is white. I wonder if it is too much white for an effective painting; however, when I reach there they have painted it and it is no longer white.  I then decided that the challenge would be to paint a round building.  But I am looking forward to trying.  I spend time wondering how the roundness of a building would affect the shadowing, but I never reach a conclusion.


In Medora, I find the new Dollar General is open.  It adds about a mile to the course as it is on the outskirts of town, but it is nice to once again have a place to buy a drink and a bite to eat there.  I buy a chocolate milk and pull out my homemade baked oatmeal/blueberry bar that I had in the freezer for just such an occasion.  It is a bit soggier than I would like, but it tastes good and I know what is in it.  


And then I am off on my favorite part of the route:  the section between Medora and Orleans.  I pull off at the old brick factory, however, which is a bit off course.  I am glad I do as I see it is still being worked on.  When I first came across it in my wandering, it was completely overgrown.  It is now being restored as a historical site.  After leaving, I appreciate the purple flowers growing near the railroad tracks.  For much of this section, the road has the railroad on one side and the river on the other.  For some reason, it hits me that as often as I have ridden this section, I have never seen a train.  Do they still use the track?  They must as near the brick factory there were piles of railroad ties that were being replaced, or I think that is what they are called. 


Before you know it, I am doing the long climb up the Devil's Backbone.  Until Medora the course is flat, but  no more.  It is a long climb but not really a steep climb.  I grin to myself when I reach what I originally called The House of the Thousand Dogs because when I came this way exploring, the family that lived there must have had at least twenty dogs.  Too many to count.  Now the house is silent.  I see roads tempting me going different directions that I have not explored, but decide not to risk it today when I am not sure of my fitness level.  There will, perhaps, be other days to go exploring.  The climb makes me think of Packman and I think how sad it is that our friendship ended over politics, but it is what it is.  Sometimes words that are said cannot be unsaid.


On this section I begin thinking about the year Steve Rice, Bill Pustow, Larry Preble, and I rode this course when it was ten degrees outside.  I picked the course so that we would fight the wind going out and would have it at our back on the return trip.  The unthinkable happens, however.  I have a flat.  Luckily Steve Rice fixes it for me as he is much faster than I am.  I would probably have suffered frostbite.  Not only was it cold, but it was windy.  Bill hands me the pump to give to Steve and I turn, accidentally hitting Steve in the head.  (He was wearing his helmet).  Steve thinks Bill did it, however, and turns to Bill asking what that was for.  Bill has no idea what Steve is talking about and despite the fact that we all might freeze death in the next few seconds, I am laughing so hard I almost wet my pants.  We did make it that day and in my mind I can still see Bill at the end with icicles hanging from his facial hair.   And no, I didn't have frozen shorts.  I "almost" wet my pants, but I didn't.  Good times.

Before I know it, I am at Orleans and decide to find the Pizza Place.  I get there just as their Farmer's Market is closing.  One of the sellers is an Amish couple, elderly, but their wagon is packed.  No home baked goods today.  I sigh as there is no longer a Pizza place where I believe it was before, only to round the corner and find a new Pizza place.  And it has open outside seating.  While pizza is a bit heavy for the middle of a ride, I am over 60 miles in and decide to give it a try.  I found the service incredibly fast and the pizza much better than I expected.   The server seems surprised that I only want one plate, but hey, I manage to master that personal pizza.  After all, I am riding over one hundred miles today, or that is the plan.

When I leave, I realize that it is really starting to heat up.  It feels good to sweat.  I am glad I remembered to put sun screen on.  I am also glad for the occasional cloud cover.  I toy in my mind with possible route changes so as to have a less busy road going into and out of Orleans and decide to look at a map when I get home.  I suppose it doesn't matter much when it is just me, but I would like to  put this course on the club schedule again sometime.  I pass some fields of corn and am glad to see them.  I have seen so few and those I have seen have been pretty sad looking.  I have seen  lots of soy beans and a beautiful alfalfa field that needs to be cut before the bloom sets in, but little corn. I suppose the wet weather plays into this, but not being a farmer don't really know.  


I thought I might be lonely, but when I reach Salem I realize I have really enjoyed this ride.   The solitude has given me time to think and I have been able to stop and take photos whenever the urge hit me. And I enjoy the last few miles despite legs that are growing weary and a wrist that aches like  the dickens and reminds me that my pogo sticking days are now officially behind me.  I haven't set any speed records, but I also am satisfied with the time it took me to complete the course.  And I am glad that I made the decision to do this ride, to relive some old memories, and to tempt myself with new roads to explore.  Yes, I intend to make it shine.