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Sunday, February 23, 2020

The Medora Store Closing: AKA "Another one bite the Dust"

"To say good-bye is
 to die a little."
Raymond Chandler

It is still cold out and despite the sun, the world looks defeated and used up.  I hope to see a little green, but I am disappointed.  Water pools beside or in the roadways.  Mud spots my pants and even on my GPS.  I can't decide where I want to go.  I only know that I want to go.  And so go I do.  I take the Surly thinking that I will seek gravel.

I do find gravel, and I ride on it for a bit, but since they graveled Story Road with the larger gravel, it is bumpy and takes all my concentration.  Originally, I decided just to head west and north and plan on ending up in Salem, but that is not to be. 

As I ride, I lose track of where I am, taking turns randomly and using only direction.  I don't have time for a century since I did allow it to warm some prior to heading out, but I have plenty of time for a longer ride. Eventually, I come out on a road I know, and I know I am near Medora.

While I definitely prefer my Wahoo to my old Garmin for programmed rides, there are some areas where it lacks.  Roaming is one of them.  I miss the comfort of knowing I can search for cities or addresses or food.  I miss the comfort of knowing that not only can I retrace my route (something my Wahoo will do), but knowing I can ask for the shortest route back.  So I decide to go to Medora.  I heard a rumor that the store there was closing and I will see if it is true today rather than waiting for a day when I need to refuel and go and find that there is no longer an oasis available. 

When I arrive, the store is still open yet a shadow of its former self.  There is one rack of edible products, mostly junk foods, and some drinks.  The girls manning the cash register confirm that it is closing.  They tell me there is a dollar store of some type that will be opening, but it will not be open until the following year.  I commiserate with them on the loss of their jobs and after a short sit down, wish them luck in finding employment. 

I think of how when I first started riding in that area, there were two stores and an ice cream store.  Now there will be none.  As always, I grieve at the loss of another small store in a small town that is dead or dying.  I think of the many times I have stopped there, of the rides I have that depend upon a stop there or carrying extra, and I am saddened.  Mostly I think of what we have all lost in the quest for efficiency and cheapness.  What makes one town thrive and another flounder?  People, location, a combination of the two?  I am not smart enough to answer this question.  Perhaps it is just our lack of caring.

Briefly I contemplate riding on to Leesburg to see if that store is still operational, but I decide it is too far.  I am weak from the winter and got a late start and have nobody to pick me up if I falter.  And so I head home.

 On my way, I think about the many times I have stopped at Medora.  The first time I found the store on a solo ride and how grateful I was. That special winter ride with Grasshopper when the snow started while we sat and ate our sandwiches in the older store, the one that closed first, the one that was an old hardware store and had the lovely aged oak inside.  The flakes were so lovely, as large as a baby's fist, and I worried about our trip back if it covered the roadway. I think of arriving there with Steve Rice and Steve Meredith and finding our way home blocked by flood waters, how we waded those waters, bikes held high, knowing they were probably both cursing me.  I think of riding there with large groups for Medora Goes Pink and remember some of the riders riding the small train made of metal barrels.  In my mind, I see Paul and Lynn sitting on the curb with me as we eat and drink, preparing for the next 50 miles. I think of taking Greg Z. there last fall as I wanted him to see the covered bridge. How we had to ride gravel to get there as the main road was closed and not walk- able. At least, I think, we can still ride the century there when they have their festival in the fall.  And I say my good-bye to the store knowing barring something unforeseen, I have walked through those doors for the last time.  Another good-bye. And I grieve at the loss of another piece of my past, another death, but remain grateful that I knew it when. 

Tuesday, February 4, 2020

Pope Lick Park Ride to the Ride

"Our creator would never have
made such lovely days, and given us
the deep hearts to enjoy them, above
and beyond all thought, unless we were
meant to be immortal." 
Nathaniel Hawthorne 

Yesterday was a beautiful day for February, warm and sunny, but I spent it hiking, so I was very glad to see a ride, or rides I suppose I should say, on the club schedule for Monday.  Even stepping out the door, it is unseasonably warm, and I think how nice it will be, despite our moderate winter, to have a break.  On a day like today, I can dream of spring and believe it will be here soon.  With days like today, I don't mourn the loss of Texas Hell Week in March quite so deeply.
I do contemplate just riding from home knowing it will save time and I will cover more ground, but I decide that today is not a solitary day.  Today is the kind of day where you want to be with people who love bicycling as much as you do, who share the passion.  

On the drive I worry about my ability to keep up.  I have become so accustomed to having a GPS file to guide me that I have become rather dependent upon it, but I know that if I get dropped, despite not having a route, I can use my GPS to find my way back to the car.  I just decide not to overly stress about it.  Despite being off all that time with a pulled abdominal muscle, I seem to be healing and rebounding fine.  

As I suspect, there are quite a few people gathered to "ride to the ride."  Many of them I don't know or only know superficially, but there are a few closer friends.  In the end, we are all happy to be there and happy to have this warmth to ride in.  There is the camaraderie that seems to happen when you have an unusually warm day in the midst of winter and people are going to be able to ride without being weighted down by winter clothing.  Even I, despite my propensity to overdress, have only knee warmers on with my shorts and no leggings.  Some are in shorts.  When in doubt or the weather is on the edge, I always chose to keep my knees warm.

As usual, I am not the fastest and not the slowest rider here today.  I struggle on the hills as I expect to, but it feels good, the way my thighs strain and burn and the way my lungs draw oxygen in and out searching for relief. A good friend recently told me that he notices aging mostly on the hills.  I would like to kid myself that this is not happening to him and won't happen to me, but since growing old is not optional and we do wear out, I become more determined to enjoy my current strength and age, to appreciate that I am out on a bicycle in early February and that I am climbing a hill.  I am so thankful that I have the health to be out here, and that while it hurts, to put one foot in front of the other until the task is completed and the hill is conquered. As I have told others, hills are our friends.  Like our true friends, they sometimes make us stretch outside of our comfort zones. 

There is just something about a good climb on a bicycle that you don't get riding on the flats.  Riding the flats at a fast pace can be very challenging.  It can hurt.  But it is a different hurt.  And the hills bring scenery that the flats never could.  I have heard people say that the club is leaning more and more toward flat city rides, and I believe that is probably true.  Do they, I wonder, know the loss that is inherent in that choice?  But of course each of us is different and one of the lovely things about cycling is that it is a very wide umbrella with myriad choices. 

At the last stop where we all regroup, the sun is shining and those of us who do not have short sleeved jerseys on are cursing our poor decision making skills, but still there is laughter and joking before we finish the last few miles back to Pope Lick park which I still think of as Floyd's Fork Park. John makes me laugh with his funny story about seeing bear scat in Alaska and how when they asked his daughter if it was scat, she replied that it was either bear scat or scat from someone who saw a bear.  The rain is supposed to begin tonight and the temperature to drop the following day, so I will hold close to this day until spring finally puts winter to bed.  I am glad the creator gave me the heart to enjoy this day and the ability to share it with others.  On a day like today, while I know I am not, at least in this earthly body, I feel immortal and thankful.  I believe God would approve.