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Sunday, June 28, 2015

The Last Dog Standing: A GOAL

"It sucks that we miss people like that. You think you've
accepted that someone is out of your life, that you've grieved 
and its over, and then bam.   One little thing, and you feel like
you've lost that person all over again."  Rachel Hawkins

It has been a difficult week, Father's Day with my birthday following on its heels.  I thought I was doing well, that I was doing better, that I had accepted that he is gone and was ready to move on, and then here come the special days we used to share.  Memories cluster around those days,  and then on top of it all I dream of him. It is SO good to see him and to be whole yet again I think over and over again, and then with consciousness and the daylight he is gone and my heart shatters and cries, "alone.....alone."

  The weather has not helped, hot, windy, muggy, and often filled with jagged streaks of lightening and loud cracks of thunder, threatening, keeping me penned in from my bicycle or requiring a bravery I no longer seem to find within myself.    I think of the exhilaration I used to find in facing the elements. Now I cower indoors. Even in the little fine weather we have been blessed with,  it is more difficult to drag myself out the door, but when the wind is howling and lightening flashing, I do not even consider it.  I find my bike is not bringing me the pleasure and solace it once did, and on the way to the ride today, I consider whether it is time to quit riding. 

I do not want to ride today. I did not want to ride the last century, and at the end was not glad that I rode, merely glad that I forced myself out the door. Rain mists the air during the drive and the heat has been broken, but there is nothing in me that wants to move, that desires company or exercise.  I accept that I am weak and wonder if my strength and bravery was entirely linked to his being.  I am not sure that I like this sniveling, pity filled, coward, this me that has emerged.  I like to think of myself as stronger, more self sufficient, but then it is the trials we face that show us what we are made of, and I appear to be made of mush. My movements are forced and puppet like.  I have lost my smile.

 I can no longer keep up with friends.  You can't put on weight as I have done and not ride and expect to do so, and you cannot expect people to slow down for you. Many of the friends I have made bicycling through the years no longer ride.  And meeting new people can be just so hard.  Seems like I always say or do something stupid.   How I miss having someone I can share thoughts and words with, that helps me sift through those thoughts and words to find what what is meaningful.  How I miss being totally at ease with someone.

But I suppose that as long as I can force myself, I will continue to ride, at least to the rides that have courses I like.  Since I don't really ride for training purposes, I have no interest in courses that have lots of traffic and not much in the way of scenery.  I don't begrudge those who ride only for training purposes, but I do pity them. Yet in the past, I have done some of the same myself.

Today I must ride as fast as I can because my son and his wife are coming for a visit to go through some of his father's things and there are linens to be changed and housework to be done.  I remember how Lloyd once told me that I like things to be perfect for holidays and special occasions, and I realize it is true.  I will have the house clean and small treats:  new magazines on the bed, toiletries, small treats, those things that tell them both that I treasure them and want them to be comfortable during their stay.

Soon Kirk has given the pre-ride speech and we are on our way.  It is a larger group than I expected, so very many of them new and unknown.  The majority of the roads we will ride today are familiar to me, like old friends.  This is a comfort since I have no GPS file and I have no idea if I will end up riding alone or with a group. 

We pass a pond where white water lilies are starting to bloom, and the beauty gives me pause. Were I alone, I would stop and take a picture. I briefly catch up on some gossip with an old friend, but I know I cannot continue to keep this pace.  He is going slower than he would like and needs to go for training purposes, and I am going faster than I should be going if I hope to finish without significant discomfort and possibly bonking.  I remember the last time I rode this course with Mark and how I dragged in behind his wheel, the hills having taken their toll.  It is not that there are really any significant climbs, none of those climbs where you wonder if your legs and strength will betray you and you will stop and walk or fall over and melt into the pavement, but they are fairly constant. And hills are where weight gain plagues  you the most. Pace, pace, pace....all  important in distance riding. 

And soon I am on my own, only to be picked back up by a group behind me.  I enjoy hearing Tony's tale of finishing his first 600K.  Another of the riders is one of the last four dogs standing having completed each year of the Tour de Mad Dog since its beginning in 2004.    I briefly tease him telling him my goal is to be the last dog standing, despite the fact I am the oldest of the four by quite a few years.  And I realize that this may be a goal to hold onto, obtainable or not:  "Ah, but a man's reach should exceed his grasp, or whats a heaven for."  (Robert Browning).  So long as I can keep that goal, perhaps I can continue forcing myself out the door, and perhaps one day the beauty that is all around us will seep into my soul again, and I will once again fall in love with bicycling that for now is merely a means of staying afloat.

Friday, June 12, 2015

An Ordinary Bicycle Ride

"It was a very ordinary day, the day I realized that
my becoming is my life and my home and that I 
don't have to do anything but trust the process, trust my
story, and enjoy the journey."
Charlotte Eriksson

After making sure that all the cats are where they should be, bellies full and content, quite anticipating their morning nap, I grab my bicycle and slip out the door into the arms of the burgeoning dawn and his cool embrace. There is a bit of a chill in his caress, but it is unlike the chill of fall and winter that plagues you whenever you are lolling or not pedaling rapidly or climbing a hill. It is a welcome chill that brushes my skin and raises small goose bumps.  I relish it knowing that by this afternoon it will be but a memory, a half forgotten dream, even something longed for. By this afternoon, the air will be sticky, thick, and hot. The summer months are male months, hot, lusty, desiring, and demanding, sometimes wanting more than I can give.  But as of yet, summer has not claimed the mornings:  they remain fresh and spring-like.  Even the afternoons have not yet reached the intensity that is August. 

I have my backpack on for my 16 mile ride to work.  It is a backpack my son used to tote to school many years ago, but still serviceable.  As I have told the cats many times when they look at me like a traitor when I leave, somebody has to go to work to make money to buy cat food. I have offered to stay home and nap and let one of them fill in for me, but so far no takers;-)  (And we call them dumb animals.)  I don't really get to see the magnificent transformation that is dawn other than in my rear view mirror for on my rides to work as with my life I am heading west, but I know it is there, just as I know I was once young. 

Yet again, to be on the safe side I have slapped on a light and I think about the obsession that randonneurs have with lighting for their bicycles.  I have a box full of different tail lights and head lights, some useful and some not so useful, but each bought with great hope that they would help me find my way.  The eternal quest for the perfect light!  A light bright enough to be seen by all, but not so bright as to annoy or even endanger a rider behind  you.  A light bright enough to guide your way and not be outrun on the downhills but that has enough staying power to make it worth taking your bike out the door.

I have different ways of attaching lights, particularly since my handlebars are narrow and any extra room is taken up by my handle bag bar.    The lights have different power sources:  batteries that have to be charged at an outlet, regular batteries, and hub generators.  And I seem to never get rid of them, but become attached to them, to prefer each for different rides and circumstances.  Indeed, I still have my first hub generator that I used at PBP in 2007, the kind where the light dims or goes out on hills because you are not pedaling hard enough.  It also has bulbs that must be replaced and cannot be touched directly with your fingers or the oil causes them to quit working.

But with lights you can find your way.  I remember the comfort that came with finally knowing that even if I got lost on a ride, I was strong enough to continue riding for a long, long time.  As I once told Grasshopper on a ride where we lost our way, much to his amusement, "If you ride long enough, you come out somewhere."  And I guess somewhere is usually okay.  Mark Twain advised us to "Enjoy life.  There is plenty of time to be dead." And with lights you can ride at night.  Sometimes I think people ride brevets merely because it is so very pleasant to ride at night.  There is almost something magical about it.  Yet for some reason, I seldom do it unless there is the excuse of a brevet, and I know many like me in that area.

I miss Lloyd dreadfully and I fear I always will:  my life remains in darkness and the beginning efforts of friends to "fix me up" with someone falls on deaf ears,  but I guess I must just trust God and the process.   Just as important, I need to start learning to enjoy the journey, even if this part of the ride is alone.  After I, I will come out somewhere. And whether I want to or not, I will become.....?