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Sunday, October 15, 2017

Ride Diversity

"There is no beauty without difference  and
Rasheed Ogunlaru

The week of two centuries, each so very different:  one solo on a cloudy day that occasionally spit rain at me and the other sporting sunshine and friends.  One route hilly and demanding while the other is mainly flat and easy.  Riding with friends and riding alone, each has charm and its place in my life.

Riding alone gives me time not only to think, but to marvel at the beauty of the world that surrounds me, to note the changes that have happened since I last passed that way, some positive and some not so positive:  a new house, logging along one of my favorite wooded roads, a new dog. Sometimes, often in fact, it brings memories, some happy and some sad, all of which have contributed to enriching my life and to shaping me.  The thought of losing memories is truly terrifying.  I briefly wonder if there will be anyone to remind me as I think of how the last few years of her life my mother enjoyed it so when I told her the stories she had told me of her life, for she lost those memories unless they were brought back to mind.  There is a sadness that cannot be staunched in getting truly old.  Blessing or curse or a little of both? And I think again of how our children only know part of who we are. When I ride alone, I may laugh out loud, sing, cry, or curse, and sometimes do them all.  Crazy? Quite possibly.  But not harmful so who cares.

Alone I wonder about the fields of unharvested pumpkins that I pass.  Three years in a row now this farmer has grown acres of pumpkins leaving them to rot in the field.  Originally I thought perhaps it was an older person who had planted the field and died prior to harvest.  Or perhaps was unable to get anyone to work and help him/her reap what they had sown.  Now I wonder, does the government pay them to grow the pumpkins and that payment is sufficient without bothering with harvest.  Surely there is work involved and expense and time in planting the pumpkins. When I mention it to someone at the next ride, they suggest that perhaps they are just reseeding themselves, but the bounty of the harvest makes me doubtful. To sow, but not to reap?  The green in the world is toning down and diminishing.  Only the winter wheat, or I think that is what it is, is the green that normally marks the beginning of spring.  Soy bean fields, some harvested, some not, brown and dusty.
Alone I think about things, notice things, sometimes stupid things and sometimes things that are meaningful to me. Many would not cross my mind if I were in company. I notice how the colder weather enhances the scents that surround me when an old, stinky car passes, and I smile thinking that the more pleasant smell of dryer sheets, containing fluorocarbons, are probably just as bad for me to inhale.  I note about two Amish girls, seemingly preteen, chatting and walking down a road in the middle of nowhere only for me to find that forest had been cleared and a home built where no home existed before.  I think about vacation and how it gives me the freedom to ride this week.

It is beautiful with fall slowly making its way across the land.  Trees are starting to change.  Leaves rustle.  Farmers work. I pass a scum covered pond where a half grown cow eyes me before walking into the water for a drink despite the chill in the air.  I shiver once again grateful that I brought the jacket that I almost left at home and ended up wearing the majority of the day.  I giggle to myself and chide myself for my mirth thinking of my ride earlier this week to Salem for donuts and the young man with the big belly who so wanted to tell me about how his wife does not like it that he buys so many bikes and that I should switch bicycle stores while all the while I am looking at his tummy and  thinking he needs to ride some of the bicycles he talks of a bit more  (as I sit eating a donut).  Like I am not in the same situation for I suspect that with my penchant for sweets,  I will never be truly thin unless I become ill. It was one of those days where I just really wanted to sit and savor what I was eating, but this young man and many others, none of whom I knew or had ever seen before, for some reason, felt a compelling need to talk with me as I sat on the curb.  I grin thinking of a friend who once asked me if everyone I meet has some unrelenting need to tell me their life story despite having just met them.  

In contrast, Saturday's ride is filled with people I do know and who I long to visit with.  Some I suspect I will not see until the spring, know I won't see until the next spring unless the warmer weather holds, for they do not ride during the cold months.  Some hike, some do spin class, some other activities.  All wait for the warmth of spring to once again begin the process of honing their legs and shaking off winter weakness. I hug a special few, inhaling and absorbing their essence to cling to when it is cold and dark and I am isolated.  I try to ride with these friends, the ones whose absence I will feel throughout the winter as they put up their bicycles. Someone, I can't remember who, asks me how long ago I put this route together, and I don't remember, but it has been many years since first I rode to Medora.

 The pace is slow, and I am glad.  Why rush such a gorgeous day, a day made more precious by the knowledge that it will be one of the last because such weather cannot continue throughout the cold, dreary, winter months?  I have friends riding a faster pace, but my place with them will, perhaps, be another ride on another day.  I love them all and try to ride with them at different rides, unable to meld everyone into one group.  And my pace slows with age or the lack of desire or a combination fo the two. We get to the festival at Medora and sit, as we do each year, eating our sandwiches and talking, watching the whirl of people. 

At the end of the ride, Ameila, the ride captain, has brought snacks and beverages and a few of us sit for awhile talking and enjoying what must surely be one of the last of the precious, warm autumnal days.   Amelia and I were supposed to go out for dinner, but both of us are still full from the gigantic sandwich at the festival that has been topped off with snacks and so we agree to put it off for another day and another time.  Kirk and Cathy have announced another ride tomorrow from a local winery, but I am meeting my daughter for lunch and know I will not be going.  

I am glad that I took vacation and that despite the questionable weather Thursday, rode two centuries.  I am glad that one was alone and one was not, for too much of either is difficult for me.  Each has its own charms.  Mostly, I am glad that I have the health to do this, and the freedom to do this.  Recent events have lead me to once again realize that freedoms should never be taken for granted, that they exist only because someone sacrificed themselves so that I could have them, and that with those freedoms come responsibility.  I am thankful. 

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