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Monday, July 20, 2015

Century Interruptus

"Promise me you'll always remember;
you're braver than you believe, stronger 
than you seen, and smarter than you think."
Christopher Robin to Pooh  (Milne)

It is Saturday and Sunday is all mine.  I took care of my mother and sister last week-end.  While I didn't finish, I worked on the shed and housework yesterday and will continue today.  Sunday will be a play day. There are no club rides that interest me. And I actually want to ride:  I want to ride in a way that I have not wanted to ride for many a month.  I want to do a new route, to explore new roads, but there is so much flooding and a prediction for possibly more rain and a heat alert with feel like temperatures of possibly 107 that I waiver.  I decide to play it safe and stick with roads that I know.  But I will ride.   I will ride as far and as long as I would like.  I am filled with anticipation. It feels good.

I want to ride.  I want to shout it to the world, "I am alive and I want to ride by bicycle."  I thought I might never feel this again, and it was not like when you say you don't want to ride again at the end of a long, difficult brevet that has stretched your limits.  Yes, I want to ride.  I want to feel the pedals yield to leg muscles and core muscles.  I want to feel those muscles strain and quiver forcing my bike up the hills and to feel my lungs gasp for air to feed those muscles.   I want to feel the sun make me sweat, burning my eyes and my skin,  but drink enough so that it cannot not break me.  I want to savor the feel of the wind in my hair and nuzzling my cheek, and I want my eyes to absorb all the beauty that I come across during my rambling.  I want to cramp and work my way through those cramps, victorious.  I will find a path, somehow, through all this flooding.   I Want to ride my bike and I Want to be happy and I Want to feel alive.

As I roll out into the world, light sleepily seeps into the world and  I find the clouds have come down to embrace the earth:  knee high fog mists across the fields.  The air is rather thick with the humidity, but still pleasant. Everything is green and lush from the constant precipitation we have been getting despite the heat, and I find my eyes, mind, and mouth smiling with delight.  I have decided to head toward Salem on Eden/Delaney Park Road and see if I can get through.  I have my doubts, but I love this road so.  It is worth taking a chance on.  And so what if I have to turn around and head elsewhere.  I am playing.  For today I will be childlike.  Screw responsibility. The green lushness, siren-like, leads me onward.

 A flock of crows raucously greet me, shouting their warnings to each other that I am on the road, cheering me on as if they have missed me, my totem. A bit further down the road I hear a chorus of frogs so loud and so numerous that at first I do not know what I am hearing.  Who other than a crazy bicycle lady would be out here in the woods at this time of the day, and what would they be doing?  Hunting season has not yet arrived. A gaggle of  young turkeys take flight to the low tree limbs lining the road  causing branches and leaves to rustle. I notice the roots of trees, valiantly lacing themselves together in a vain attempt to hold the earth in place.  Like all of us, they win a few skirmishes, but never the war.  Despite the ultimate futility of their efforts, they are beautiful, these trees, and so are their efforts, and I tell them so.  And I think that perhaps today, instead of being a plain Jane, I am beautiful too as I win this skirmish.

The wind has brought down the first of the walnuts and persimmons, immature, but still a portent of what is to come.  "Not  yet, not yet," I think.  "I am just coming back to life, and I am not yet prepared for the dark, cold, silence that is winter.  Riding in the winter is just so much harder, harder even than these ninety degree days, demanding a discipline that I have not yet redeveloped.  I need to be stronger, more ready."  But despite my protestations, I know that time will move on unremittingly, deaf to my pleas,  just as this seemingly ceaseless rain continues.

Rounding a corner, I notice a corn field off to the right completely submerged in the flood waters, but I plunge onward. Other than the tops of a few of the corn plants, you would think it was a lake. I have ridden over an hour and have not yet seen an automobile or a person.   It is as if I am alone in the world other than the inhabitants of this forest.  The flooding makes it seem as if I have been magically transported to a new land with unfamiliar roads and all sorts of discoveries just waiting to be made.

I begin to think of Paris and how jealous I am of the adventures the Kentucky crew had the other evening with their preparation ride.  I think this is a splendid feeling, a sign that perhaps I will make it through and out the other side, something that I had begun to doubt.  But I must be patient with myself. Did I make the right decision in not going this year?  Absolutely.  But it is good to feel a tinge of regret at the adventures they will surely have without me.  And there are other brevets and other types of rides that beckon. 

All too soon, as I feared, I hit a moat of water covering the road.  I toy with the idea of wading across, but I decide the distance is too great and it is impossible to know for sure how deep it will become and if any current remains. It brings to mind the many times my husband scolded me for crossing flooded areas, bike hoisted on my shoulder, and I think he would be proud of my decision. It is odd to see the soybeans submerged under the water, looking up longingly through the water, desperately desiring air, dancing in the little water current.

I decide to head toward Pekin and enter Salem from the south rather than the north.  My store stop will be my own house, and my cereal with blueberries tastes like a feast.  I think how riding, running, or other exercise enhances the pleasure of eating.  Things just taste better when you are truly  hungry and your body is depending on food for fuel to perform.  How many times do I just eat because I am supposed to or because the food is there rather than because I truly am hungry and have need of sustenance.

This part of my journey is completely different terrain and scenery wise.  Forest gives way to farm land, unflooded farmland with crops as lush and green as I ever remember them being. Black-eyed Susan and Queen Ann's Lace decorate the borders.  Briefly, I smile at the thought of how when the children were small we would cut the Queen Ann's Lace and place it in jars of colored water delighting as the water gradually colored the white flower petals.  I pass a few cars, particularly around Salem, but the road today seems to belong to the Amish.  It seems I pass wagon after wagon of horse drawn vehicles.  Two are hitched at the final store stop while the Amish pick up odds and ends that they need.

Tired, but happy, I arrive home, hoping that I will sleep tonight.  I have held the words that Christopher Robin said near to my heart.  I had forgotten them, but before my nickname was Puddle, I had friends that called me Pooh.  Perhaps I am braver than I believe, and I will make it through this after all.  And perhaps I will continue to love cycling with a passion that is something to behold.  I certainly did today.  The century was interrupted, but it was completed, and I loved every minute of it despite the heat and humidity.