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Saturday, April 10, 2010

Watching the Earth Give Birth

For a week or longer I have been torn between seeing my friends and doing the group ride or riding on my own. There are many friends I feel I have not seen in forever, but spring is such a short season and is so very lovely and the group ride is in town. It just seems like too much to bear. Friends will still be there; the last of the daffodils and forsythia will not. I make my final decision sometime while I sleep. I can't miss the spring and watching the earth give birth.

When I awaken, I sit and drink my morning coffee while the washing machine washes the sheets I will hang out before leaving this morning. I am not sure where I want to go, but I finally decide on Orleans. Early in the ride I thought I was going to get another bike when two German Shepherds came out and would not listen to their owner. I worried about flooding, but when 700 was dry figured I had it made. Somewhere on the way to Medora, I see a barn with two old, old bicycles leaning against it as decoration. I pass the round barn. But then, the flood waters before I get to the covered bridge.

Hey, it is okay. I have my handy, dandy GPS and I have always wondered where a certain road goes, so I turn around. I know if I head west I will eventually find a way across the White River. I ride and the way I want to go has a sign posted that the bridge is out, so I turn another direction only to have that road end in gravel. I pass some bee hives and stop to photograph them for my husband. I decide to see if the bridge is possibly nearly finished. Wrong. This bridge was built in 1900 and is permanently closed. While I am taking a picture, a car pulls up and a young woman gets out. She tells me she has walked the bridge and offers to hand my bike over. The kindness of a stranger warms me. She walks the bridge with me and hands my bike over the second barrier. I offer to pay her for lunch, but she declines. When she hears how far I intend to ride and where I have ridden from, she is amazed. I can't think of a better way to spend a Saturday.

I head on toward Buffalo Bottoms. The red bud is fully in bloom and the dogwood is awakening, blinking at the sun and opening wide. Everything is still so green. Wildflowers cover the route. I have no idea where I am and it is wonderful. I had forgotten how much I love wandering when there is time and the weather is nice. In five or six miles, I come upon some roads I know and decide to consider Orleans. I have missed Medora, my first stop, and I would like something to eat. Normally I am better prepared than I am today. When I figure the miles, however, it would turn the ride into a 200K and so I modify my route. At one point I pass a pond with two logs that catch my attention. As I look more closely, I see turtles sunning themselves on the logs. When I stop, most of them slip into the water, but not all. I manage to catch a few on film before moving on.

I finally get something to eat and drink in Salem at the seventy mile mark. This does not bode well for me as tomorrow is another ride, but what was I to do. On the way home, I check out Franklin Bottoms but it also is flooded. Even this has its own kind of beauty. "~ Spring shows what God can do with a drab and dirty world. ~" Virgil Kraft

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Kentucky 300 K Brevet 2010

I am unsettled about the brevet today. You know the feeling you get when you think you have forgotten something, but you can't quite put your finger on what it is. Maybe it is because rather than my normal pre-brevet activities, I helped my daughter move yesterday and didn't get to do much more than slap some lights on my bike. Maybe it is because the weather prediction keeps changing to include stronger and stronger winds. While some of my most memorable rides have been in wind that roared and ripped through the countryside like an angry bull, I have learned to respect the wind. When I arrive, Johnny tells me it should be a tail wind out and a head wind home. I would prefer the opposite, but not being God I have no say in the matter. My only choice is whether to ride or not, and of course I am going to ride.

I am glad to find that Susan is going to ride as well. So often I am the only woman and it is a nice change to have company. Riding alone does not bother me during the day. At night, however, I worry that I will not be seen as easily. Also, I just don't see as well as I used to and these roads are not the familiar roads of home. I do love rolling out into the early morning darkness wondering what the day will bring and watching daylight slowly seep into the world while the morning sounds titillate my ears, rolling wheels and the noise of switching gears mixed in with frogs and crickets and early rising birds. I figure we will have about an hour in the dark this morning as the ride starts at 6:00 a.m. and probably an hour or so at the end of the day.

At the ride start, one person who registered the previous evening does not show and I wonder if the wind scared him off. The Kentucky brevet series is a hard series and wind will not make it easier, but in 2007 I was very glad for the difficulties that I overcame in the series as it was good preparation for what I ended up facing in Paris. I hope it is the wind and not an accident or other problem that kept him from the bike.

It is strange to think of Bill, Steve, and Dave riding ahead since I normally ride with them except for the brevet series. It is a treat to have Susan ride: females in this area don't seem to be drawn to brevets. I wonder to myself how much longer I will enjoy the physical challenges that brevet riding inevitably brings. As we ride, Susan and I share the beauty of spring unfolding her carpet of flowers passing splashes of daffodils and forsythia on a green background. It is so good to see green and color again that it almost makes me cry. Susan notes the first red bud tree blooms and my heart rejoices. I think of a favorite Emerson quote, "Earth laughs in flowers." At one point, there is a field of purple flowers that tinge the entire field. I don't know the name of the plant, but I do know that bees love it. I found this out the hard way while removing it from my garden one spring, something the bees did not approve. While we have numerous hives at our home, I think that is the angriest little bee I have ever seen, and she got me good between my eyes.

We come upon a huge Dan Henry and Steve Royse photographing it. Susan also takes a photograph. It is good to see Steve and to hear he enjoyed his son's visit. I rarely see him anymore except at brevets, but he remains someone whose company I enjoy and who haunts my memories at times. We talk for awhile of politics and the sky begins to spit rain. At that point, we don garbage bags. I search for the one I know I packed, but I can't find it. Steve is nice enough to give me one of his.

Before we reach the turn around, the wind picks up. I remember all the tricks I learned through trial and error bicycling Ike, but there are times I wonder if I will remain upright. I worry about Susan as she has less weight than I do to keep her on the road. The wind tugs at our front wheels daring us to try to stay upright on the road. We accept her challenge and inch forward. Susan later tells me she sees the wind rip siding off an outbuilding. I see a trash can blown into the road. Every part of my mind and body is engaged in staying on the bike, avoiding road debris, and keeping the bike on the road. Passing driveways we get sandblasted. It is scary, but is also exhilarating. It is wonderful to feel alive, to be alive, and I know that I will remember this ride and this feeling. Every sense tingles as if I am being shocked.

When we reach the turn around, we are surprised to find Steve, Bill, and Dave still there. They have already eaten. They leave a bit before we do. We decide to wait until the next control to eat. We tell them briefly about "go go man" and the "little hill." We manage to reach the last control about an hour before sundown. At this control, the wind finally dies down. I am surprised at how well I feel though my right inner thigh keeps wanting to cramp up. Normally I can keep from stopping by alternating spinning with standing, and today this works.

We reach the last control before dark. The clouds have been chased by the wind and the sun is shining. We decide to buy some cotton gloves to wear to protect us from the increasing cold. From this point on, Susan knows the roads. It remains fairly light until State Road 55 or 53, I can't remember the route number for sure. By now the wind has finally died down and we ride a rather quick pace to get off of this road to one less heavily traveled. By now we are talked out, but we ride in companionable silence. I appreciate that quality in a person, the ability to share an experience without necessarily verbally processing it the entire time. Sometimes it is good just to feel, to experience the ride and the way the air brushes your cheeks, to hear the sounds that populate the world.

We finally reach the end. Susan says it is the hardest ride she has ever done. I know that she will remember this ride even if our lives diverge to the point where we never see each other again, as will I. It was nice to have a companion, to share an experience with someone you like. I am glad to know that while I was ready to reach the end, my legs felt strong enough to ride further for the 400K mocks me from a not to far distance.