Follow by Email

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Surly Straggler

"There are more things in heaven and earth,
Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosoply."
William Shakespeare

I have done it.  I have bought myself an early birthday present, a present I have wanted for awhile now.  I have wavered back and forth because truly I should not do it, delve further into the nest egg painfully saved for retirement and emergencies, but I decide to be impulsive.  You see I hear him, my husband, though no longer in this world, whispering in my ear, telling me to do it now while I can, while I have my health and the desire as he did so many times while he was living.  Like Puff, "without my lifelong friend," I have difficulties being brave; but I bite the bullet and it is done. And so, I have bought another bicycle, one more suited to riding gravel as well as pavement.  I have purchased a Surly Straggler.
I struggled with what bicycle to get, what bicycle would best suit my needs.  I want a bike that can take gravel or paved roads with equal equanimity.   A bike that I can do overnight trips on or week long trips on and not have to worry about the surfaces of the roads I might have randomly picked.  I want a bike that I can retire with in a few years and use to see things and go places I have never been.  I gather opinions settling on the advice of Steve Rice. 

I pick my bike up from Clarksville Schwinn deciding when I get there on those little details that you MUST have for the bike to be fully functional:  pedals and water cages.  It is beautiful, almost the same green as my bedroom walls.  There are braze-ons readily available so that I can carry "stuff" in the front and "stuff" in the back once I decide what bags I want.  

Of course, when I get home I decide that I need to try it out immediately despite the fact I have two more dead bushes to dig up and dispose of and numerous other lawn chores.  I dug up a bush this morning and planted two new ones as well as hanging the clothes on the line to dry, weeding the iris bed, and a few other chores. I think of my daughter asking me, "What will happen if you don't get it done?"  She is right: the world will not perish if I take a bicycle ride instead of finishing lawn work that never is completed anyway despite my best efforts.  And actually, had it not been for the new bike, I would have ridden a century today.  I did not ride a century this week-end or last, and I do not like going two week-ends without one, but next week I have four blessed days, and surely one of them will have good weather.

I quickly change into cycling clothes and head out to a gravel road I have not yet ridden.  It is windy but the sun is shining and the world is beautiful.  New leaves delicately lace tree branches, shy of the sun, flirting with the breeze, letting her know that she can not take them until they begin to decline and wither, changing into their fall outfits.  Wild flowers line the road in places, and I see the stalks of what promise to be orange day lilies in May.   

I have never ridden with these type of shifters before, Sram,  and I pray that I don't have to go back to the bike shop and feel like an idiot for not knowing how to shift gears, but I soon figure it out and get the hang of it.  And before you know it, the paved road ends and I am on gravel, going up a road I wondered about but never rode.  The pavement ends right at the gravel, and for a bit I wonder if I am going to make it or have to walk.  For a minute I ask myself why I ever wanted to find out what is on this road.  Despite the knobs on the tires, they slip in places when I try to stand and pedal. My lungs heave in and out, gasping and making noises that let me know they are not at all happy with the demands being placed on them, but they serve me well and eventually I arrive at what I "think" is the top.  It is beautiful:  no cars, no houses, just new, verdant, unspoiled forestland.  I suspect I will find the Amish eventually, for there is horse dung on the road in places.  
I find I am wrong about the climbing being over, but the slope is not steep and before you know it I arrive at the top.  Sure enough, the rest of the road appears to have only Amish residences.  Work horses rest lazily in the pasture, busily munching grass, swishing tails at flies,  knowing that there will be no field work today despite it being planting season.  In one yard, a horse and buggy is in the yard.  A young Amish man is lifting his daughter down from the seat.  She points and giggles when she sees me, and I wave.  I would love to take a photograph, but I know that it is considered rude in the Amish community though they rarely say anything when someone takes a picture because, well, to say something would be rude.  But the children always look so darned cute.  How I miss having little ones to play with now and again.

I think about the things I need to get for my bike.  My son and his wife got me a handlebar bag for International Woman's Day that will be perfect for this bike.  It would not fit my other bike as my road bike has narrower handlebars, but I just know it will be perfect for this one.  I need to find my extra GPS attachment so that I can have it along.  I have no idea where it is, but I keep my bicycle things in a few places and will look. And I just need to browse and dream, work some overtime, and save.  I need something to look forward to. I do decide that I will take off for a week-end soon, maybe return to Montgomery for an overnight, this time with a bike more suited for the gravel that I know awaits.  Mostly I dream, and I thank Lloyd for his sage advice, for all that he taught me.

Shortly before my husband died, he was sitting on the couch in the living room and said to me: "Melissa, I don't know if I'll be able to, but if I can I will look after you and take care of you even after I am gone."   My faith is not as simple or strong as that of my  husband or his mother, a dear friend I also miss.  After I get home from my ride today, I gather the laundry in the laundry basket and take upstairs: one of those last chores that you do to prepare for the coming work week.  Tom helps, of course, by sitting in the laundry basket.  Also in the laundry basket, from somewhere, somehow, is my extra mount for the GPS that I was thinking that I needed to find.  And suddenly I am crying, silently and with great longing tempered now by acceptance.  I don't know how that mount got there.  I assume you used that rascal, Tom.  But thank you, Lloyd, for caring for me and letting me know I made the right decision about the bike.  I will try to be brave and I will try to have faith for in the end, I know Shakespeare is right.  


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. My husband is ill, my kids are adults, I plan to ride 20 miles through Lancaster Amish farmland...I just ordered a Surly Straggler in mint! Also, our 5th grade class are rehearsing 'Hamlet'! Your story is striking beyond words.

    1. Mayra, I really like my Surly. I wish I had gotten the frame and put a triple on it. The only two things I don't really care for are the SRAM and the gearing. But both should be fine for rides under 100 miles. I find the SRAM takes too much finger strength as I tire. The gearing is fine unless my bike is loaded (think weighing 50 pounds.) I hope you like the bike as much as I do. I was dreaming of trips today. So sorry about your husband. Having been through that and eventually losing my love, I know it can be difficult. Hopefully your new bike will bring you some of the solace that I have found.

    2. I'm hopeful the dealer succeeds filling the order (other bikeshops said mid-June and the bike run is the beginning of the month. I still feel so out of my element despite my friend giving me a crash course on the Straggler's pros (steel, disk brakes, value for price) and bicycling in general. I feel a bit selfish doing this without my hubby but i gained 20+lbs in 5 months and was falling into a depression.

    3. Of course, each of us has our own journey, individual to us. One thing I found caring for my husband through the years of his illness until his passing, however, is that to take care of others you have to take care of yourself. Hope you get your bicycle on time and that it helps you along your path. I have often told people about my own journey that by giving me my freedom, my husband kept me in a way he might not have otherwise.

    4. The dealer called me earlier today and I'm getting my Surly Friday! Last frame in my size! My husband and I are so happy I'll have it for my bike run. You should think about doing it as well! 'Pedal to Preserve'. Visit the for info. You can look for me in my new mint Surly!!

  3. So happy you are getting your bike in time. Hope your adventure is all you dreamed it to be.