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Monday, January 1, 2018

Born To Roam's New Years Bike and Hike 2018

"What good is the warmth of summer, without
the cold of winter to give it sweetness?"
John Steinbeck
I have been looking forward to this bike and hike, but I have to admit that when I awaken and the weather person says that the wind chill is below zero, there is a moments hesitation when the couch, a good book, and the warmth of the house beckon.  I scold myself as this is no way to start a New Year, a fresh year  full of promises, dreams, and hopes. There is a time for  gentle pursuits and mental massage, but I need exercise and to be outside.  I have been too sedentary following my surgery and the children's visit and it needs to stop before it becomes an established bad habit.  I have ridden in cold weather before and now I have the appropriate clothing.  Besides, this is a short ride, only a hour or a bit over. As with so many things in this life, my hesitation is purely mental.   I know that if I give in and don't go, if I confine myself to the warm house, I will regret it as the day creeps forward for despite the cold, the sun is to shine and my body is ripe for activity.

And the weather person does not lie.  The sun shines dazzlingly and the sky is the clear, brilliant blue of a winter day.  There is no warmth from the sun for the body, but it does provide sustenance for the soul.  There are greetings when I arrive and while I am still struggling with placing names with faces, I need no names to see the kindness and welcome shining from eyes, some familiar and some not.  Indeed, I get one greeting hug, and I feel the warmth of that brief touch travel to my core.  The children leaving after the holidays to return to their own lives and this hug remind me how much I miss the shelter and warmth of my husband's arms, the touch of his hand.  Yet still I know, somehow, that he watches over me and would be glad to see the smile that lights my face and the warmth that lights my soul.  I am grateful. Perhaps this is one of the lessons loss teaches us, for I truly believe that God places us on certain paths for a reason, introduces us to certain people for a reason, however much we struggle against him and fail to understand. 

While it is a road ride, I have decided not to bring the Lynsky but to bring the Surly Straggler again.  The Surly has pedals that accept flat shoes and in this cold, regular boots will be much warmer than riding shoes. Also, there is to be a hike as well as a bike, a hike described as having some rugged areas, and hiking without ankle support is not a wise idea for me.  Lastly, the knobbed tires are less likely to have a flat, one of the dreaded mechanicals on a cold day.   Once again the voice of Eddie D, an early riding mentor, whispers to me about the difficult of and the importance of keeping the hands and feet warm during winter rides.  So many people have helped me through the years, offered hard won advice.  Some I heeded immediately.  Some I resisted. Some advice worked for me and some didn't.  All was well meant, a gesture of friendship. When Rich talks about his camel back tube being frozen, I harken back to a hard learned winter lesson when I stuck the tube inside my jersey to warm and it leaked.  Luckily, I was only a half an hour or so from home, but I was one miserably cold woman that day.

 I am warm on the ride to the lodge where we will park our bikes while we hike.  Others complain of the wind, but I am thankful that it is not slapping my face as it often does this time of year.  At one point, I soak in the sound of the wheels turning, the hum of conversation, and the gentle laughs occasionally brought forth during the conversation.  There all types of bikes from fat bikes to mountain bikes to cross type bikes.  There is also another woman on the ride.  As I suspected from the lithesome grace of her movements in the parking lot, she rides well despite saying she has not ridden for a long time and that running is her preference.

When we get to the lodge, I did not expect to find that my bike chain has frozen and has been made hard to manipulate by the temperature.  Keith asks if he can share the chain as he forgot his and is strong enough to unwind it and secure our bikes.  It is different, this locking of bikes, but then I normally am not leaving my bike for a long period of time.  Even when I ride somewhere and stay the night, I take it into my hotel room with me.  But I am excited about the hike, something I have started to enjoy in the past year.

Originally we were going to meet with a local hiking group, but as we are running rather late and Rich says he does not want them to have to wait for us to lock our bikes and prepare, so we leave to hike from another area.  Despite the sun, the woods  are delicately laced with the alabaster snow that fell recently.  There is beauty here, just a different beauty than there is in the spring when the fecund earth gives birth, or graceful, green summer,  or fall, that grand, glorious, good-bye to color and warmth.  It is not my favorite season, cold winter with her brumal blasts, but she does, as Steinbeck notes, enhance the sweetness of what lies before and will come after.

During the hike, we come across frozen waterfalls her tresses cascading silver and white against the gray, stone background.  Icicles squeezed from earth that was too saturated,  unable to contain the fluid within, glimmer in the bright sun.  On a bridge above the falls, we note the water, bubbling, imprisoned yet still alive in the creek under the frozen crust.  Briefly I wonder if it will freeze solid before the weather breaks, for it is not supposed to get above freezing for a number of days.  As always, I notice the roots of trees in the path, acting as stairways by containing earth that otherwise would have slid down the hill.  I briefly think  of how I cherish trees. Odd, but I could tell you every tree that graced our yard when I was a child, and we had a lot of them.  On this hike, unlike the Knobstone,  there is no place where I have to silently curse the loggers for ruining the picturesque beauty of the trail. Some areas should be left alone, undisturbed.  The words of Keats come to mind for some reason, "Thou still unravished bride of quietness."

 Rich is a story teller and seems to know area history and it is interesting to hear him talk along the way.  He points out concrete fence posts from what was once a working farm.  I think of how the land yields to us and I remain glad that some is now kept safe.  Keith complains of being hot and when he takes off his hat, I notice the gleam of the auburn in his hair, short hair, but the color is still magnificent.  As with my son's curls, it seems almost wasted on a male.  Internally, I tease myself as a sexist for having this thought. It is odd how different people appear without helmets and riding apparel, as if we adopt an alternative identity. 

We arrive back at the inn, have a pit stop, unchain our bikes and head down the hills toward Madison.  It is the only time on the ride when I am cold.  My nose feels as if it will just break off if I gently touch it, but still the decent is splendid.  I find myself emitting peals of laughter on the descent in the way that I sometimes do on descents because, well just because they are descents and so exhilarating.  The earlier climb was lovely, but this is what climbs are all about, the descent, like when you drag your sled up the hill repeatedly to go back down again and again. I think briefly of the look of celebration on the face of one of my new found friends after the climb when he tells us that he has lost 36 pounds, certainly something to celebrate and to be proud of.

All too soon we are back in the parking lot.  The group is going out to lunch, but I did not bring anything to change into and decide to head home rather than to run the risk of sitting and chilling.  I had meant to pack other clothing, but I forgot in the same way I forgot my phone.  Nothing like old age.  As my husband used to say, "A mind like a steel sieve." ;-) I don't feel the dampness that predicates being really uncomfortable on winter rides when you stop, but you don't seem to notice it until you have stopped for awhile and the shivering begins as your body convulses in an attempt to warm itself.  And I do dream of a piping hot bath, delicately scented, one of my favorite treats after a winter ride.  Nothing like a soak and a good book following a winter ride.  And so I head home to prepare for the coming work week.  Holiday is over, but what a wonderful time I have had and how glad I am that I came to ride with this group on the first day of this New Year.  Happy New Year!  May you see much of it from the seat of a bicycle.  Oh, and with a tail wind and lots of descents;-)

1 comment:

  1. I was pretty sure you'd be attending the event but was still grateful to see you at the start. You add much to our rides and add more afterward, with your terrific blogs. Thank you!