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Sunday, September 29, 2019

Summer's End

"There is something deep within us that
sobs at endings.  Why, God, does everything
have to end?  Why does all nature grow
old? Why do spring and summer have to go?
Joe Wheeler
Yesterday's century was hot and hilly: it was difficult and there were times I wished I were elsewhere, when I thought to myself that I am getting too old for this nonsense. Still, I am so very glad that I accepted the challenge and rode: not only because the course had some beautiful roads, but because the easy cycling season is about over. I will miss most of these people as many don't ride throughout the winter but change their focus to other things. I will miss the ease of riding just in shorts and a jersey with no jacket or arm warmers or leg warmers to carry. I will even miss the sweat of summer, somehow less sour and more cleansing than the sweat of a winter ride. Certainly less chilling. While there is a beauty in the winter, I will miss having color in the world. And I will miss light and the warmth of summer sun. Even after all my years, I still marvel at how the sun can shine but without bestowing warmth in the winter. I will miss the quiet talk and feeling of anticipation at the start of the ride, and the relief at the end. The camaraderie that comes from attacking a hill together. But to everything there is a season and each has, I suppose, its purpose. One more and the TMD is over for 2019 and all that will remain are the memories.

During the ride yesterday, I harkened back to my early cycling days.  I grin briefly remembering my thoughts when my husband bought me my first bike because he was concerned I was running too much. "What on earth," I thought, "will I do with this thing?"  I rode only so as not to hurt his feelings, for despite his tough,  exterior, inside he was a marshmallow, the exterior wall there only for his own protection. Sometimes I wonder if he ever truly trusted anyone not to hurt him, even me.
But I rode and and as I did, I fell in love with the way the wind whispered in my ear, teasing me with secrets that only she knows.  I fell in love with the sound of wheels turning and gears clicking and shoes clipping in and out.  I fell in love with the look of the jerseys spreading out before me, a tapestry of color and form.  I fell in love with the roads that lead me to new destinations and new experiences and challenges to overcome.  I fell in love with the companionship, but ironically also with the way my bike could take me on solo adventures and could give me time to think. This was so fortunate for me because, as he suspected, my hip began to hurt when I ran and I began to develop a foot issue.  Eventually running faded, and cycling was what remained.  
But I will miss the summer.  I miss those I have ridden with who no longer travel these roads, whose paths have lead them in other directions even while I am glad for them when it is voluntary and not injury or illness based.  Still deep down there is a part of me that echoes the thoughts and feelings in the words of Mr. Wheeler: "Why, God, does everything have to change?"  I add on the wish that God give me the strength to face these changes as they arise, for arise they will.  Until then, however, I will soak in every moment and bind them to my heart.   

Tuesday, September 24, 2019


"Go oft to the house of thy friend,
for weeds choke the unused path."
Ralph Waldo Emerson

There used to be a web page called "The Big Dogs."  Distance cyclists logged their miles there.  They could write an entry describing the ride or just put the miles.  The main goal, at least as I, a late comer to the site, understood it was to complete a minimum of one outside century per month, no matter where you lived.  The site was extremely motivating at times.  I once read an entry by a Canadian cyclist who had to stop throughout the century to change clothing or unfreeze her bike, I can't remember which, and who could only ride in short circles around her house due to the cold temperatures, but she finished.  Others would log so many centuries that I wondered if it was indeed possible.

 I suppose the site also gave me my first introduction to the idea that people could ride so many miles and that  perhaps I could also ride these miles.  I went a long period of time, even after the site was shut down, riding a century each month until I was in a series of car accidents that ended my streak (hit by a sleeping driver who came into my lane and only about a month later rear ended by a teenager while pulling into my drive and cracking a telephone pole in two).

Unfortunately, the site is no longer in existence, but I have maintained a few friendships with cyclists that I would not otherwise have met had it not been for the site and for Hell Week.  Thus it continues to enrich my life.  Last year I traveled to Illinois and rode with some Big Dog members that I had never before met face to face as well as two I had.  But this year, it was only Steve Royse, Greg Zaborac, and I that got together for a few days of riding. 

Unlike our days at Hell Week when we were younger, we rode shorter mileage:  somewhere between 65 to 70 miles daily, but we had a blast, or at least I did.  Our pace was not what it once was, but nobody seemed to care. We rode from my house two days traveling some of my favorite roads and  we rode from around Steve's house one day.  Steve's wife fixed a wonderful lunch mid-ride and was a gracious hostess. 

Later we gathered with other riders that Greg knew and had ridden with before at Hell Week or on Tokyo for an excellent dinner sitting outside next to the Ohio River.  Mostly, we just enjoyed each other's company because we all still love to ride our bicycles and this thread continues to bind us enough that we each make some effort to retain and maintain that friendship.  Without that effort, I feel certain that the "weeds would choke the unused path."  And that would surely be a shame.

It is good to have friends, and even better to have friends that enjoy the same thing you do:  in this case riding bicycles. Until next year, my friends, ride safely.  Thanks for another memory to hold dear.  And I look forward to next  year and our hopes that a few more will join us on our rides wherever we decide to meet.