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Monday, October 26, 2015

Timothy's Medora Ride: A Thank You

"I cannot endure to waste anything as precious
as autumn sunshine by staying in the house. So I spend
almost all the daylight hours in the open air."
Nathaniel Hawthorne

 Bicycling can be so many different things.  I think, perhaps, that is one reason I love it so.  You can use it as  a mode of transportation, even a primary mode if you so desire.  You can use it to race like the wind, panting and heaving, feeling your heart feel about to burst from your chest and your lungs explode as you dash to the finish.  You can use it to play or to escape or to make friends.  I could go on and on about all the things you can use a bicycle to do.  And so, there is a need for different bicycles.  There are touring bikes and fitness bikes and road bikes and mountain bikes and so on and so on depending upon your intent.  

Today Timothy is having one of his rides that requires a mountain or similar type bike, and while this is not my norm, the call of the autumn lures me out the door into the car toward Medora, the ride start.  Like Mr. Hawthorne, I cannot bear to waste this day.  If I have learned nothing this past year, I have learned how very precious our time here is and that it should not be wasted.  I have been tempted to do some of his rides in the past, but always something seemed to get in the way.  But not today.

Does my house need a good cleaning?  Yes.  But that can wait until it is rainy or cold and the sun is not shining and calling me to come out and play.  

I am a bit leery of these rides for I rarely ride my mountain bike.  Normally it is the bike I ride when the snow has fallen and I need to get out for a bit.   It is not that I don't think I would like mountain biking, but road biking is more convenient and does not require that I develop new skills.  I suppose I also equate mountain biking with my old boss, who while I really liked him, was always straggling in with a broken hip or other serious injury.  Yes, I have broken a bone or two on a road bike, but not with the frequency that he seemed to do. Still, I do love the gravel I ride, even on my road bike, though I certainly can't tell you why.

I struggle a bit a day or so before the ride switching out pedals, mounting a new seat, getting a spare tire and tube, doing things that I don't worry about when I am just puttering around on my own.  And I apparently am successful because my pedals don't fall off during the ride, my seat stays put though I will need to adjust it, and both I and my bike arrive back home in one piece.  Thank you, Mr. You Tube.  But I am getting ahead of myself.

Arriving at the ride, I pull my bike out, put the front wheel back on, and take a short spin trying to remember how to switch gears on this bike.  Timothy assures me that it is okay if I turn out to be the slowest rider, that on his ride everyone stays together as a group.  I think briefly of the first Tour de Mad Dog rides as they is how they were conducted.  

Five of us eventually head out.  I really do not know any of them, and even by the end of the ride I could not tell you the names of everyone, but what a nice ride it was and how enjoyable it was to spend the day with them as we all savored our love of the bike.  The clouds cleared the sky and shortly after the first big hill  jackets or underlayers came off.  Some of the roads I was familiar with. Some of them are even on some of my centuries.  One bridge I climbed about a month ago with Lynn and Amelia, but there is one unknown bridge and some unknown gravel roads and even a paved road or two that I have not found on my solitary rambles on my road bike.  Briefly I wonder why it is so nice to ride unknown roads.  I suppose it is the feeling of being unsure what you will see or what might happen next.

A young German Shepherd playfully follows us for mile after mile on one gravel road that borders the river enjoying the company and the beautiful weather.   One of the riders is finally able to convince him to turn around.  This makes me feel better as I was beginning to worry that he would not find his way.  A huge pig glares at us.  At first I think she is loose, but I then see the thin wire restraining her.  Leaves are scattered on the ground, floating in the water we pass,  and dancing lazily through the air and the world is filled with color.  It is particularly beautiful knowing that there may be, at most, another week of it.  Already a few trees stand stark and bare, silhouetted against the blue sky, a cold reminder of what is to come.  The sun shines, but his heat is mellow and not the fiery, burning flame of late summer.  Nobody is in a hurry.  People climb hills at their own pace and patiently wait at each crossroad for the others to arrive.   

Thank you, Timothy, for the wonderful ride and for your patience.  I enjoyed the company, the day, and the route.  How glad I am that I did not waste a beautiful autumn day doing anything as mundane as completing household chores.  I even had time to finish out the beautiful day planting the last of my flowers in their new bed to sleep through the winter until next year squeezing every last bit of sunshine out of the day. 

Friday, October 16, 2015

Riding in the Fall: Can't Get Enough

"Fall colors are funny.  They're so
bright and intense and beautiful.  It's like
nature is trying to fill you up with color, to 
saturate you so you can stockpile it before winter
turns everything muted and dreary."
Siobhan Vivian
I am home and I am physically tired, but despite back to back centuries this week-end, I am not sated.  I do not know if it is possible for me to get enough of these beautiful, sunshiny fall days, days that start cool but that warm near or into the seventies and winds that do not yet chill me to the bone.  Siobhan Vivian is right.  I am trying to stockpile this weather and all the little details for I know it cannot last.  Soon the world will turn gray and dreary and life sounds will fade away until the spring. Already the insect sounds grow fainter and sound frail rather than brazen and robust as they do in the spring of the year when the world is awakening and mates are being sought.

Morning is as crisp as a cracker calling for arm warmers, knee warmers, vest, and long fingered gloves, painting my cheeks red to match the changing maple leaves, but morning also breathes the promise that you eventually will pay the price for your morning comfort by carrying all those extras for part of the day: perfect if I am riding my Lynskey with the carradice attached, but not so nice on the Cannondale where I end up stuffing pockets until I look stuffed to the point of pregnancy.  Either way it is extra weight and bulk, but this time of year it does not matter.  Fall is not a time for speed despite summer mileage hardened legs.  And frankly, the older I get the less I care about what people think of my looks. 
Near the end of my ride today, I think that I am lucky that vacation is almost over since rain is not predicted or I might ride myself to death or back into some semblance of fitness, whichever happened first.  Even when I reach home a part of me wishes I were just heading out, that the sun was not heading west toward bedtime,  but that it was in the east just rising and that the day could go on and on.  I think about how riding the first century with company gave me things to think about and digest, smiles to relive and tears to shed, during the second century when by myself even though earlier this morning when I started out my legs said, "You've got to be kidding me. Again? One is not enough?   "

Yesterday was the Medora Century, and I shared the day with club members and friends, including two new century riders.  The pace was relaxingly slow, the day languid, and the scenery spectacular in places.  There is something about the sunshine this time of year that makes even the harvested fields, already brown and dry, scenic.  It was not the kind of pace where you wonder if you will ever sweep people in or if you will be out shepherding riders until midnight, but a pace that allowed conversation to flow and laughter to float through the air, and it was not the pace where you gasp and your sides heave as you attempt to  hold on to the wheel in front of you as some sadist presses the pace, but  the kind of pace that allows you to savor the day and hold it close for those times when you feel alone and if there is no joy in the world.   It is the type of day you will remember when you are home snow, wind, and ice bound longing to be on a bicycle without wearing layer upon layer and to see color in the world and hear something besides the man made sounds of automobiles.

The town of Medora was having their "Medora Goes Pink" festival to support breast cancer research.  Kirk R. came up with the idea of having riders wear bras for the bra judging contest thus starting the day  with giggles and laughter at the elaborately decorated bras worn, of course, outside of jerseys.  One couple on a tandem  had a bra with ghosts on one said saying boo and honey bees on the other cup saying bees....  boo bees....get it:-).  The other on the tandem had owls on his brassiere. Bras had lights in the middle, tassles in the centers, writing, and were colorful.  Regardless of the color, style, or the sex of those who wore them, they brought a smile to everyone's faces.  I wished I had taken the time to participate as I intended and had made a bra that said, "Grow a Pair," but things seemed to get in the way.

Riders rode the children's barrel train at the festival and posed with cartoon characters getting their pictures taken.  It just was the type of day that makes you feel almost inebriated, perhaps because it is a closure:  the last of the tour stages for the year and for some, indeed most, the last of the club centuries until 2016 as many do not ride distance throughout the winter.

On the way back, we pass the mobile home Lloyd and I lived in until the children were older and we had saved enough to buy a house.  So much love in that place that it had to have seeped into the soil and permeated the atmosphere. Surely it can not be entirely gone.  Deep sobs racked my body shaking my bike for just a moment as we passed.  I remain amazed at how quickly this can happen and how quickly it can pass, but then this has been a new world for me the past few months and a new me is emerging.  Sometimes it is hard to tell what is temporary and what will be permanent.

I am far enough behind the other riders that nobody can hear, and I am determined that nobody will.  I do  not want my temporary longing and sadness to taint anyone on this glorious day, but I cannot help how I feel.  Would anyone understand that part of us is still there, that ghosts linger in the shed that he built, the trees that he planted, the memories?  The ghosts of children flit  through the yard, a tangle of giggles and silliness, and I think of a  poem my mother-in-law once gave to us, a rare gift for she was always struggling just to make ends meet and gifts were a luxury:

Are All the Children In?

I think oftimes as night draws nigh,
Of an old house on the hill,
And of a yard all wide
And blossom-starred
Where the children played at will.
And when the night at last came down
Hushing the merry din,
Mother would look around and ask,
"Are all the children in?"

Oh, it's many and many a year since then,
And the old house on the hill
No longer echoes to childish feet,
And the yard is still, so still.
But I see it all as the shadows creep,
And though many the years have been since then,
I can hear mother ask,
"Are all the children in?"

I wonder if when the shadows fall
On the last short earthly day;
When we say goodbye to the world outside
All tired with our childish play;
When we step out into the other land
Where mother so long has been,
Will we hear her ask,
Just as of old,
"Are all the children in?"
by Florence Hadley

My sadness passed quickly and I chatted with others as we neared the end.  The ride ended at the forestry and I finished my century up there alone after stopping to chat for a bit more before the others take off for home, for the route is a bit shy mileage wise.

Today I decide to head toward Story, Indiana to continue to savor the colors and feel of incredible fall weather.  Story is located in Brown County, a county known for its fall colors, artists, and quaint shops.  But to get to that color (I am not interested in shopping), I first have to pass miles of farm land.  Most of the fields have been neatly stripped and are bare of all but stubble.  I pass a home that has a circle of ghosts dancing in the yard. I then reach the covered bridge that I came across during previous ramblings, but there is a surprise:  it is being repaired.  It is bare bones, the lovely support arches showing, and I celebrate that it will be restored and not demolished.  So much of our history bows before the pressures of progress or is destroyed through maliciousness, but perhaps this piece will remain.


Birds are beginning to flock together and gather in the gleaned corn fields. Disturbed by my passing, they swing into flight, wings graceful against the blueness of the autumn sky, bowing to the wind and landing in another field a bit further away.  Leaves fall and swirl as the wind is a bit stronger than yesterday.  While I miss having company, I also relish having the chance to concentrate on the scenery.  I am desolate when I come to one of my favorite roads and find it pillaged and raped by the lumber industry.  Yes, like most people, I love wood and know it is necessary, but like any red blooded cyclist, I wish they would get their lumber from places other than the roads I ride on.

I think about going back to work and how I wish I could retire.  Just a week at home has convinced me that I would never fade from being bored.   I know, however, that while I could retire and live even more conservatively than I do presently, I need to work if I want to enjoy more activities when I retire.  And of course, I do have need of another bike.  At least I don't detest what I do, I think.  I am not unhappy working, but I look forward to having my time as my own. And I enjoy the extras the working brings.

I think about certain conversations yesterday and I think how difficult it can be to have a spouse or mate that does not understand the lure of cycling.  It interests me that while many of these people met their spouse through cycling, what was an acceptable activity becomes not acceptable and a point of contention.  My husband always told me that marriage changes people, and I think he was right.  Even he had his moments when my excessive cycling caused a squabble even though he bought me my first bike, but somehow he knew it filled a need and that without it, I would no longer be quite the same me.  Mostly he encouraged me, and I was grateful for that.  Not everyone is so giving or thinks of the other person's needs rather than just his or her own.  Maybe, I think, it takes years of marriage to make that happen. 

A few miles outside of Story, I impulsively decide to stop and try an eating establishment I have passed numerous times but never stopped at before.  When she brings the sandwich: it is huge. She even brings  a fork. Oh, well, a girl has to ride to eat.  It tastes so exquisitely good that it is not hard to eat all of it. The potato chips get stuck in my pocket to be eaten later and I am off.

All too soon, I am home.  As I said previously, I am spent but not sated.  And perhaps that is a good way to end a ride or to end many activities, wanting more.  I know what is coming and I am glad that I did not waste the sunshine and the color and the sounds that filled the ride, for Sibohan is right:  soon the days will become "muted" and "dreary" it will become harder to drag myself out the door and onto the bike.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

NOT ABOUT BICYCLING: The International Story Telling Festival Ghost

"It was evenings like then, when beneath dim
light and relaxing in a sultry bath that she missed
him the most.  A flicker of candlelight, snow against
the window and the soothing scent of creme caramel....
all were a comfort to her as she closed her eyes, 
summoned memories and many a tender thought.  She 
didn't feel deserving of the devotion bestowed upon her, but
she had finally learned to accept its wondrous gift, knowing 
that love was the source of existence and its only end."
Donna Lynn Hope

Dear Lloyd,

I was not sure how to write this as there are no words to express the ravenous yearning that surged through me at the International Story Telling Festival when he sat down.  I could not see his eyes or his face, but his hair was cut just like yours, a few gray wisps intertwined with the silvery whiteness of age.  It was the same length, lay the same.  

His ears held the same curve and thickness, the same skin coloration, and I could see the ear piece of his glasses.  He was dressed in your style of plaid shirt, and it was neatly tucked into his jeans, bound by a thin, tan leather belt as yours always was.  His neck, perhaps a bit thicker, and his waist as well.  But it could have been you sitting there.  

Tears began to stream down my face, for while I knew it could not be you, it was you, and my loss returned as sharply and deeply as it was when first you left me.  I watched you die: I was with you when your soul departed, but somehow here you are.  I wonder what this strange man, so like you, would do if I tapped his shoulder and ask him to hold me, to let me bury deeply into his shoulder as I did yours so often when I was hurt or in need.  For this was what I wanted to do, to fill this need that plagues my nights and days, this endless aching that eases but does not ever truly abate.  The loss that I thought I had dealt with and was behind me instead is in front of me, yet again stretching endlessly,  never dealt with at all.  

And suddenly I notice that the man on stage is talking about the loss of his mother.  While I regret his loss, that he had to go through this, I realize that loss is universal, love, and that we must continue living, and living hard.  To do otherwise would be to dishonor you.  But, oh, how I miss you, my love.  And oh, how I dread the loss of others dear to me without your love to steady me.  My daughter worriedly pats my shoulder, her touch a balm for my wounds.  How I hate having her see this on her yearly girls' birthday trip.

But then I realize your love is not gone:  it surrounds me in these things you left behind, odd things like the labeled shut off valves for the water, the labeled fuse box.  It lives in this house that I asked God to bless before we moved in, this house where we raised our children, where we loved, where we argued and made up,  and  yes, where you died.  I will not dishonor those gifts, my love, and I will not dishonor your life and those gifts by not living mine.

The man stands up and turns to leave and of course he is not you.  That must wait for another world and another time.  Oh, the stories that I will have to tell you and to get your thoughts on.  Until then, rest easy.  I will be alright.  

Love, Me