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Friday, December 12, 2014

Christmas Breakfast Century 2014

"You can't prepare for everything that life
is going to throw at you.  And you can't avoid
danger.  It's there. The world is a dangerous place
and if you sit around wringing your hands about it,
you'll out on all the adventure."
Jeanette Walls

The first week-end in December I normally have my Christmas Breakfast Century.  Friends gather at my home for a breakfast feast before heading out into the winter cold to ride a century.  The morning is always dark this time of year, and it is always chill.  I use my best Christmas china and silver, things handed down to me by the women in our family that came before me.  They always make me think of those I love that are gone, and they serve as a reminder that life is short and should be lived to the fullest. (Of course, they also make me think of the hand washing and putting away I will have to do after the ride, but I have found it well worth it.)  I look forward to sharing this breakfast and this day with friends.

Candles burn providing a warmth that electric lights can never match and that screams home.   The tree lights shine and three candle candelabras sit on window sills awaiting the return of loved ones.   The smell of pine snakes sensuously through the air evoking memories of past Christmas Breakfast Centuries.  Lorenna McKennitt weeps her Christmas songs into the air as I prepare the feast.  And then they begin to arrive, sliding in like ghosts from the cold, drear outside.  And I am  happy.

Some years I have had to cancel the ride due to snow and ice, but not this year.  This year the weather looks fine.  There has been lots of rain and flooding is predicted, but no rain is predicted for today.  Yesterday my husband and I traveled to Medora by car to check for flooding.   Medora was not flooded, but 700 had water about 8 inches deep and another road on the way back is flooded.  So I decide to change the route.  Yes, I tried to prepare.  But I should know better.

Normally during winter rides the group stays together.  Those that are faster slow down and are patient with those that are slower, at least up to a certain point.  Patience thins when someone unprepared shows.  I don't expect to go fast today, but I do expect to ride with others.  After all, it is my responsibility as ride captain to keep the riders together and see them home.  And I have always done this in the past, but not today.  Today something will happen that has never happened to me before though I probably have captained one hundred rides.  I don't just lost one or two riders:  I lose them all:  Steve Rice, Mark Rougeux, Tony Darnell, Bill Pustow, Mike Crawford, Amelia Dauer, Dave whose last name escapes me.

Things are fine until lunch.  We reach Vernon at the same time.  We eat at the same restaurant, Burger King, as people don't want to take the longer wait time at the bar.  And then we head out.  Part of the group surges ahead while I wait for another rider to get ready.  Once the few I am with pull out, we cross and intersection and I "think" I see the group riding the wrong direction.  I decide to turn around and see if they have noticed their error yet and turned around.  By the time I cross traffic and return to the intersection, I no longer see them.  I puzzle for a moment and convince myself that I probably saw the orange construction barrels and thought they were cyclists.  My eyes aren't good at a distance and these are riders that  normally can read a cue sheet.

So I turn to catch the other riders.  Being out of shape, my hardest is not very fast, but miles and miles pass without my seeing them.  About 72 miles out, I come to, yes, a flooded road, and it is not the eight inches that I crossed in my car yesterday.  I can't tell for sure how deep it is, but it looks deeper.  It is only in the forties and was below freezing last night, so I worry about the group.  "Did they cross," I wonder.  They must have.  I know a work around but I would have seen them.  There are tire tracks into the water.  They look wider that bike tires, but not as wide as car tires would be.

I decide that since the group was ahead of me and I did not see them retracing their steps to avoid the flooding, they went through.  The water is ice cold as I plunge in intending to ride through, but as it deepens riding becomes impossible.  I get off and walk.  The water reaches my knee and creeps further up my leg as the current intensifies, and I am hysterically laughing.  For some reason the lines from a song, "Everything that kills me makes me feel alive" come to my mind.  I decide if the it reaches the top of my thigh I will turn around, but it only gets about four inches above my knee.  I worry about Amelia because she is so very small and light, but she must have made it across.

I continue riding being surprised how quickly my legs warm in their tights, but then I think of the cold, rainy rides I have done and realize that it has never been my legs that bother me. There have been times taking my tights off when I have touched my legs and they felt like ice cubes to my hands, but they have never bothered me otherwise.  I have wool socks on, and while my feet are chill, it is not that miserable cold, merely a nip that lets you know you have toes.

When I reach the third store stop, I ride by pushing hard thinking they must not have stopped as they were wet.  By this point I have convinced myself every rider was ahead of me.  And then I am at the parking lot and all the cars are there.  NOBODY was ahead of me.  I head in the house intending to get some dry socks and head back out and find messages on my answering machine.  I am able to reach Mark.   Evidently the first group did make a wrong turn and then had a flat.  The second group missed a few turns and eventually hooked up with the other group.  They did not go through the flood waters but rode back to 300 and did a work around, the one I was going to do if I had seen them heading back my way.

No, Jeanette is right.  You can't prepare for everything.  I changed routes because of the flooding and because I have ridden this route twenty times without any hint of it flooding.  And it was an adventure.  I will remember this one, the one where the ride captain lost every rider that was in her charge.  I will remember the freezing cold water and the laughter that bubbled up within me and the weird feeling of exultation.  I later teased the guys who came in later about how they would have gotten home earlier if they had grown a set and crossed the waters.  I asked if they had hid from me. And for once my husband did not scold me for my recklessness.  He knows about my need for adventure and I have been good for awhile and not done anything too stupid.

Thanks to all who came for breakfast and those who came to ride.  Merry Christmas!  Hope to see you next year.   And I will try to prepare, but let's not out the adventure. 

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