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Sunday, November 25, 2018

Bethlehem 2018

"I think I'm stronger than I was.
I let God do what he does.  I breathe in.  
I breath out.  Got friends to call who let me
talk about what ain't working, what's still hurting, 
and all the things I feel like cussing out.  Now
and then I let it go, ride the waves I can't control,
I'm learning how to build a better boat."
Travis Meadows/ Liz Rose
(Sung by Kenny Chesney)

A century ride to Bethlehem to celebrate the upcoming holiday season.  Normally I do this ride the first week-end of  December, but I decide to take advantage of the half-way decent weather predicted for the day.  It is 30 degrees when I leave.  Ponds  are delicately laced with a thin glazing of ice.   Frost covers the mostly harvested fields and the grasses that edge the road, later melting, the dew left behind glistening in the sun until the sun decides to hide behind the clouds.  The sun leaves about an hour and one half into the ride and the day is grey and wintry afterward, reminding me of what is to come for the next few months. Without it, I suppose, spring would not be such a welcome delight.  Sunshine would not be nearly as appreciated.  Still, it seems so very far away.

There is a beauty in the colorless, stark stillness of the winter months, but I no longer seem able to welcome it as I once did with the welcome arms of a child awaiting the first snowfall.  Would a fat bike change that perception?  I have debated, but have been discouraged by many of the people I have spoken to about it. Still, I will think some more.  I am not yet done growing and becoming.  As per the song, I am still learning to build a better boat.

Thanksgiving just happened, and there are so many things I have to be thankful for and I feel quite blessed.  I decide that the greatest blessing is that my children are healthy and productive followed by my own blessing of good health.  And quite soon, God willing, I will become a grandma.  A smile touches my face dreaming of little Ivy and what she will be like.  At the shower, we were supposed to write down what we hoped she would have from her parents.  I do hope that she has her mother's laughter.  Lloyd and I would smile at each other when the children were home and upstairs, newly wed, as their laughter floated on the air warming our home and reminding us of our own beginnings.  I hope she has my son's good sense of values and his intelligence.  And I hope she has Lloyd's eyes.  How I miss those eyes and how they would warm with love when he would look at me, at least when he wasn't angry with me or questioning my sanity.

I am thankful for bicycles and for Clarksville Schwinn and Bob Peters who has kept my bikes moving over the years despite the foolish things I have done such as riding through flood waters without carrying my bike, not heeding a shifting issue early on, carelessly letting my bike fall from leaning it against something too hastily, etc.  I am thankful for the cycling friends I have made, both new and old.  I am thankful for the friends I have made that don't bicycle. All these friends have fed my soul and are as necessary to well-being as food and shelter.  I am thankful that I have a home, food on the table, and the cats to keep me company and to keep me amused.

Unfortunately, my meditation on the good things in my life is interrupted by something I am not thankful for:  a bad driver.  The woman, talking on her phone, is going the opposite direction from me.   She turns right in front of me and pulls only halfway into the driveway.  I barely have time to brake and swerve around her.  But it is not her driveway so I am not done dealing with her and her careless driving.  She is using the drive to turn around.  As I am ascending a blind hill, I decide that it is  smart to take the middle of my lane and perhaps she will wait to pass until it is safe.  But of course that is but a pipe dream and she doesn't.  When she is about six feet past me, as I feared, another car crests the hill.  She slams on her brakes and swerves over back into my lane, barely missing me.  All the while her phone appears to be hardwired to her ear.  She is, I think, completely oblivious to what just happened and the danger she put herself in, me in, and the other driver in.  But that, I suppose, is part of cycling.  Dealing with those who are oblivious, not only to the dangers but to the wonders one sees from the seat of a bicycle.  Thankfully, most of this route has little traffic. Thankfully there are more good drivers than bad.  Thankfully, God watches over fools and drunks.

I begin to think of next year's PBP and whether I want to cancel my room.  I wish I could say that I have some interest in going, but I don't seem to be able to relight the flame that drew me. I suppose, barring terribly inclement weather,  I will ride the Kentucky 200K and go from there.  Dave King is the new RBA and it will be interesting to see if there are any changes.  I have no doubt that barring a serious mechanical or illness, I can complete the series and PBP again, but it seems too expensive and time consuming unless I develop a bigger desire to ride it again.  And perhaps knowing that I can do it is part of the problem. I loved the ride the two times I did it.  The people were amazing.   The countryside was amazing.  But yet, I remain unsure that I want to face the tiredness and the stress of travel again.  And there are other places to ride in, other people to meet, other scenery to see. Well, no decision needs to be made today I think and put those thoughts behind me.

The wind picks up.  The Bethlehem Century, I think, is never easy despite the course not being an exceptionally difficult one.  The only challenging climb is climbing away from the river once you reach Bethlehem. I am doing the easiest of the climbs out, but it is still a long climb.  Like many long climbs, it is a teaser, easing the tension on the legs midway with a relatively slight grade only to resume with more steepness. At least the wind is not out of the west as it usually is. I try to think how many times I have ridden this route since I first weaved the roads together to design a course, but it is too many to count. 

 I think of Jeff White, shivering, the year three riders had to be sagged back to the start from the lunch stop due to the rain and cold and their inability to continue riding.  The woman at Subway gave those of us who continued onward plastic gloves for our hands to help protect them better.  I think of buying gloves with Grasshopper at the last store stop another, different cold, wet Bethlehem Century, mercilessly shivering from the cold, damp, and wind,  and how the warmth was heavenly.  I still have those dark blue gloves though I do not use them for riding.  I think of Steve Rice asking me on Chicken Run Road if the wind ever stops on this route.  I think of reaching the last store stop yet another time and seeing Perry Finley and Scott  Kochenbrod, two very strong riders, their exhaustion etched in their faces letting me know that I was not struggling alone.  I think of stopping with another rider only about six miles from the finish as he struggled with whether he could go any further.  So many rides.  Today, as happens more and more often since I no longer captain for the club, I ride alone.  And it is okay. Suddenly, realizing that despite the challenge I am enjoying myself,  the wind  suddenly does not seem so bad as I count down the miles until I can turn out of it and not meet it face on. Yes, I am building a better boat, but that does not mean it cannot include those things I love, like bicycling.

When I stop for lunch, the woman making my sandwich is concerned about my riding alone and the distance I have yet to go.  I do need to remember to slap a light on my bike, but I am making good time and know that barring something very major, I will be in well before dark.  And I am, tired and ready for rest, looking forward to the next day when my daughter is to come, we will put up the tree as we have for years, and I will find comfort in the continuity and the comfort as I continue building what will be, what is my life. 

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