I love cycling. Cycling is easier than walking. Walking or jogging or running (should I actually get to that speed) is slow, tedious, laborious, and painful. Cycling is easy. I just get on the bike and keep the pedals turning. Steady, continuous, effortless, fast. Well, until that roadie on the expensive Felt wearing the aerodynamic helmet and fancy kit zips by.
There’s not a day of the year that I don’t look forward to getting on my bike and taking her out for a spin. I don’t care where. I don’t really even care about the weather, as long as I have the right gear and as long as it isn’t icy. I might stay in if there is pouring rain…and standing water. Water does make the stripes on the road awfully slick. I’ve ridden in the mud, pouring rain, over fallen trees, on single track in the middle of December. While I’m not exactly a beast when it comes to singletrack or downhill, I’m certainly not anything close to a fair weather cyclist. My mantra, and the mantra of The SO (Significant Other) and My Son is, “Even a bad day on the bike is a pretty good day.”
But lately, I’m ill, and I know I’m ill because I just don’t wanna.
I just don’t wanna ride.
Actually, that isn’t entirely true. I do want to ride. I just don’t want to do what it takes to get in the saddle and I’m not up for anything more than collapsing after I roll up into the driveway at the end of the ride.
While I’m on bike, though, I’m golden.
All those 50-year-old aches and pains disappear. Any drama or stress I’m dealing with dissipates, because, seriously, I can ride 40+ miles in a day and want to go for more. Problems? Issues? Really? There aren’t many people my age, doing what I’m doing and even fewer women. Let’s talk about strength, endurance and ability to mentally persevere. Yeah, you go try to take that two mile hill without coming off your bike, Mr. Financial Pressure and see how you do. You go and try to keep pedaling at that rate Ms. Whatever Might Come Your Way. I can take you you on.
That’s the thing about cycling…at least…for me.
When I ride, it’s better than any drug, not that I was ever a druggie type. (Just watch your baby-sitter get wheeled out of your home on a stretcher because of an overdose and you’ll never be tempted to even experiment with any kind of narcotic. Trust me. And, no, I’m not making that last bit up. It was terrifying, and the best drug awareness education I could have received.) But I digress…
When I’m on two wheels, wind blowing past my face, feet clipped in, sun on my shoulders… I’ve become one with the bike. I am truly invincible.
On all counts, I’m stronger than most anything life dishes out, on and off the bike, specifically because of my efforts on the bike.
Exercise, according to my surgeon and my oncologist, will cut my risk of recurring cancer in half.
Even if that weren’t documented by research, I’d love cycling because of how strong I feel when I’m riding and how I can note my progress with each mile, each hill, each ride.
So, what’s up with the “I don’t wanna” mentality?
I’m guessing this is just a side effect of the radiation treatments. They warned me. They told me I would experience fatigue for a while after the treatments were done. I’m hoping that’s all it is. I mean, it isn’t that I don’t want to ride, but I just don’t seem to have the energy it takes to do all the prep and the after work. Thank God I have people in my life that do that for me or I’d never ride these days. I’d just sleep. (Which, I hear, is probably not a bad thing either.)
But, I’m still a little worried.
What if this fatigued feeling doesn’t go away? What if this is the new normal? What if? What then?
I think I would start by crying.
I can’t even think of it.
I muster up the energy for another ride.
After all, once I’m on the bike, I’m golden.
And when I’m on bike…really…nothing else matters…I’m still strong and healthy and that is everything.
Sometimes the decisions you make alter the direction of your life forever. We make decisions every day. Most of the time we do this without thinking and these decision don’t dramatically affect the course of our lives. At other times, the decisions are huge and they change everything: whether or not to marry, to stay in a marriage or relationship, to take or refuse a job, to move from one location to another. When we are younger, especially if we happen to be making decent money and we don’t have children, reversing the impact of any decision is much easier. As we age, we may gain seniority in jobs, making it more difficult to relocate because doing so means taking a significant pay cut and/or losing some job security. When children become part of the family, their security, well-being, and safety, among other things, must be considered.
I’ve always wanted to live in a city. Not just the suburbs, but right in the city where you walked to the corner grocery, picked up the Met from down the corner, and really had no need for a car except when you were leaving town. I made some decisions early in life which, I think, may make my dream of ever living in a city an impossibility. At least, it may be impossible until I’m too old to be able to negotiate a move and adjusting to a new lifestyle. Now that I have children and a decent job with a level of stability, the likelihood that I will ever relocate, to a city or anywhere, is next to none. In these circumstances, it is easy for the adventurous spirit to feel a bit stuck.
Sometimes, even when we make decisions that take us away from our dreams, we still make pretty good decisions though we might not realize this at the time. Sometimes, our dreams and goals change or we add other dreams and goals into the mix. We then realize how our earlier decisions, which seem to be taking us away from what we wanted actually brought us closer to where we really wanted to be anyway.
The cost of living in a city, almost any city these days, is much higher than living where I currently live. Moving would mean a job change, loss of income and job stability, all factors I’m not thrilled about encountering. Health care services available in my area are outstanding and, for the most part, it is exceptionally convenient to get around almost anywhere by bike which is something I’m committed to doing as much as possible for as long as I possibly can. It’s a far greener and less expensive mode of travel. Quite frankly, I’m also a bit unhappy with the costs of vehicles and gas. Riding my bike is my way of protesting all of this excess damage to our environment. Plus, each mile I ride makes me stronger. I’m getting in shape. I’m training for old age which isn’t for cowards. The bike helps me get around, and combines my workout with my travel and entertainment, thus saving me time. I could definitely still ride in a city and I’m no stranger to that. The convenience of cycling here, though I don’t live in a city per se, makes me feel just a little less stuck in life.
Way back in the day, I did live in a city and I did live near a city. This city experience was short-lived and I’ve never gotten the city bug out of my system. Choices I made took me away from that life. Results of those choices keep me away now. Sometimes it makes me sad to think that as I age the likelihood that I may never realize my dream of being immersed in city life. There are days, and quite a few of them, where I don’t feel the least bit despondent about this. Yesterday was one of those days.
Southern Oregon, in my opinion, has perfect weather all year round. Winters are mild and snow rarely ever falls on the valley floor so riding year round is not only possible for the fair weather rider it is enjoyable if you have the right gear. If you like snow, there’s entry to experience most years just about 40 minutes away.
It rains in the winter and spring, like most places in western Oregon, but just when we are all just about ready to be sick of the rain, the sun emerges and bathes us in golden 80-degree brilliance which is perfect cycling weather no matter what time of day.
Throughout the year, there are only a few “too hot” days and not that many “too cold” days. Most of the time it is Goldilocks weather around here: just right. For a noob cyclist healing up after radiation treatments, who is about to reach that fateful half century date on the calendar, and who is working on getting shape via bike there really is no better place to be. Sure, it’s not the big city, but I think I’m okay with that. The decisions I made back in the day which took me away from city life and the ones I’m making these days which keep me here are turning out just right.
It’s one of those early summer days, just perfect for wasting. It’s a warm, clear, zero-percent-chance-of-rain day in Southern Oregon. It’s the kind of day that results in a greenway full of young lovers walking hand in hand, dog owners meandering back and forth disregarding the posted “Keep to the right” admonitions, and cyclists of all types rolling through. I should be among them. But I’m not.
Instead, I’m home…which I don’t mind…wandering listlessly around the house trying to find some project or task that can both absorb me, and for which I will have the staying power to complete. The Significant Other is off at his part-time job. (Yes! He finally got a steady part-time job!) All my kids are gone, for the moment. The youngest just headed off to her dad’s for Father’s Day weekend. The college student is away at college and won’t be coming home in between the end of her term and the beginning of her internship in Portland this summer. The recently graduated child is off being recently graduated, enjoying her friends and working. The son will return later, at which time, I’m hoping I have the energy to go for a bike ride. Until then, it is just me, here, alone. I love being alone. I love being in my home and alone. I almost never have a problem finding something to engage in. In fact, I am the one who is most likely to be voted “The Person Who Has Too Many Things She Wants To Do To Have To Work.” Today, something is definitely wrong. I find myself feeling almost…not quite, but almost…bored.
It isn’t that there aren’t plenty of projects to be done. There are. Even as I peck these words out on my laptop from the upper deck of my town home, I hear the S.O.’s voice in my head suggesting laundry as a top choice to become absorbed in. It is, in fact, overflowing, and it does, in fact, need to be folded and put away. Then, there is the garage, most of which, I’ve gone through, tossing decades worth of paperwork that no longer has any meaning in my life, but which I just never took the time to toss. I’ve worked the overwhelming pile down to a box and two 2-drawer file cabinets that I must go through and organize into a useful filing system. There are several bins of school paperwork that managed to just get tossed into bins over the course of the year rather than being filed in the appropriate binders. (I find there are binder people and there are file people. I am most definitely not a binder person. Give me a file and let me flip through it, please. Binders, for me, always end up in bins or buckets…or files. I’m far to busy to take the time to carefully open the rings, select the pages I want, get them copied, then return them. Forget that. I’m the type that grabs the file and plans on the go. When I’m done, it all goes back in the file ready to be pulled out again and used next year, this time with added notes and comments about what did not work. If I really had my way, I would have neither bins nor binders nor files…I’d have an iPad. It would save me so much time rummaging through the paper pile. It would save space: good-bye binders and files. It makes sense. It is also a pipe dream for me, right now, as I look at the fairly large amount of medical bills I have yet to pay, combined with the expenses associated with now having two children in college.) Organizing the garage and the remaining files would be a worthwhile project for an afternoon such as this. So would reading a book, going to get some tomato plants and beginning my veggie container garden, or going for a bike ride, or working on developing any one of my many blogs which I’ve neglected over the last couple of months.
There are any number of tasks that could absorb me. The problem comes when I begin to consider my energy level. There’s not a task here, including this blog post, which I think I’ll have energy to complete and I hate the idea of creating yet another unfinished project in my life. I hate unfinished projects. Just yesterday, my Mac crashed. It’s possibly a video card going bad. But it is something I now have to deal with, which I can’t because it will cost money, which I just don’t have. Another unfinished project. I hate this. I hate how life can sometimes be going along swimmingly, in fact, perfectly, if it weren’t for all the loose ends.
Yesterday, I had my three month follow-up appointment with my surgeon. I always enjoy meeting with this man because, besides being a personable sort, he has this way of rendering highly technical medical information into easy-to-understand packages for me. Yesterday, he took a bit of time discussing what I might expect in the months and years to come. He suggested that I’ll probably be feeling much better in the next couple of months as far as energy levels are concerned, but that I should expect it to take a year, maybe more, before I feel like this is finally behind me. In short, I need to give myself permission to feel tired and to rest when I just can’t go on.
I wonder…is today’s almost bored listlessness just another way the fatigue is manifesting itself?
I told you I wouldn’t have enough energy to even finish this post. I’m going to go take a nap.
We usually think of it as a bad thing; the end of a romance, a good book, a great concert, or fun vacation. Sometimes, even though they can be emotionally laden, endings can be positive. They can provide long awaited closure to the loose ends in life. They can be the end of stressful events, situations or unresolved dilemmas in life. Endings aren’t always a bad thing.
This has been a year of transitions or, more accurately, conclusions, for me. Endings. Finales. Mostly, life just goes on from one phase to the next, from one event, day or season to the next, without much fanfare. This year, I’ve noticed an unusual amount of endings to things that have been going on in my life, some of them for years. Things I’ve been working on cleaning up and moving off my plate are going away and, with them, the accompanying stress. I find it interesting that while 2012 has been an absolutely disappointing year, at least I can say that a great deal of the stressful chapters in my life are closing.
Since May of last year, I have been working on resolving the situation with my home which has become an overwhelming financial and physical burden for me. The tax break was nice, the hedge against inflation nice, the stress not so nice. Also, the fact that it gave me a negative net worth wasn’t exactly cheery either. I am pleased to note, that this chapter should be concluded by the end of July. That takes a huge amount of stress off my plate. I can’t say I’m disappointed. This signifies closure on one of the most unhappy and nightmarish periods of my life. For many reasons, I’m eager to say goodbye to this home and all it symbolizes.
My second oldest child is graduating from high school this year. We are in the midst of all the last minute preparations to close yet another chapter in our lives. For both of us it is an ending and a beginning of new things; new ways of being with each other as she adjusts to the demands and responsibilities of adulthood. While, she is not necessarily going far away to go to college, her role as a college student and theatre major will mean that she is, for the most part, not around. She will be making more of her own decisions and this reality ends my role in her life as it has been until now.
Another school year is winding down. This is always a bittersweet experience and this year it is even more so. It’s been a bumpy year. While it couldn’t be helped, I do wish it could have been different. I can’t change it now. 11 more days and this school year is a wrap.
For the last seven years, I’ve been driving around an older SUV. I believe the life of this vehicle is nearing an end. When I look at the cost of insurance for my 18-year-old who drives it now, combined with the cost of gas, I am certain that my days of driving any SUV around are nearly over. In fact, this brings me to recognize a fun new beginning in my life: that of transitioning from the car as my primary mode of transportation to the bicycle.
It took me almost the entire year to figure out a routine and how to make the 2.95 mile commute to work feasible, but for the last month, I’ve successfully commuted by bike to work, then to radiation treatments, then out for some riding time, then back home most days of the week. This has been wonderful for so many reasons. Obviously, the savings in gas costs is significant. It also means that I am able to get a 20+ mile ride done at least 5 days a week. I no longer have to worry about fitting a ride in after school or dinner or before it gets dark. I’m looking forward to the day when I can say goodbye to the old SUV for good, replace it with a more fuel efficient economy car then drive only when absolutely necessary. This chapter of car insurance hikes, exorbitant gas prices and spendy car repairs is one chapter I can’t turn the concluding page on fast enough.
The best news this week? Monday, I went in for my radiation treatment thinking I had 11 treatments left. I was informed that I have only five treatments left and, if I double up on one day, I will be finished with treatments on Friday. So now, at the time of this writing, I have only two treatments left. My short, little journey with cancer diagnosis and treatment is ending. I’m going to miss the techs, the bike commute across town, and the great routine I had worked out, but I can’t wait for my skin to heal, my energy to return and summer to finally and officially arrive.
Some goodbyes are just good.
The first weekend in April was a three day weekend for me due to a school reduction day. It was also projected to be very nice weather so Saturday morning the SO and I were rolling out by 10:30. I had a plan in mind. I wanted to try to ride a hundred miles in three days. I wasn’t entirely sure we were going to be able to make it. After all, we hadn’t really ridden for a few weeks since my last surgery and I have a way of biting off way more than I can chew.
We rolled out. I’d made arrangements for us to meet up with the Southern Oregon Velo Club for our first group ride ever. The plan was that we would meet up with the Slo-Mo group (average pace of 9-12 mph) at 1:30 that afternoon. I thought it would be a good opportunity for us to learn to ride in a group without the worry of us getting dropped from the ride for being too slow. The problem was that the scheduled ride was not going to be long enough for us. So, the plan was that we’d just ride south toward Ashland on The Greenway watching our time in order to time our arrival back at Bear Creek Park (a large centrally located park in the area) in time to meet up with the other Velo Club members.
It turned out that this was a great plan. We rode on the greenway to Exit 19, at a nice leisurely pace. It was, after all, my first lengthy ride since my last surgery. Two weeks out of the saddle is too long. Once we got to Exit 19 we figured we should turn around if we wanted to make it back in time to meet up with the club members. We made it back in plenty of time and enjoyed a nice ride with some other cyclists. The pace this group rides is just a little slow for us, but it was a great opportunity to meet some other cyclists in the valley. After all, we’d only been club members for almost a year, but hadn’t ever done anything with the club. It was time.
Halfway through the ride, everyone stopped at the Bad Ass Coffee Company at the downtown location. We stopped along with the rest and had some refreshments. Instead of heading back to the starting point with the rest of the club members, we decided to head on back toward home. We had our 40 miles in for the day and were feeling great.
The next day we put in 37 miles, again, on the greenway. On Monday, my son joined us for a shorter, but brisker ride of 27.63 miles. My son took the pull home in some pretty strong headwinds. That was really fun. We clocked an average pace for the ride back of 16 to 17 mph. We were sore, but happy. 100 miles in three days. If I can keep up that pace throughout the summer, we should really be able to stack some mileage on.
Unfortunately, the rest of April wasn’t nearly as glorious as this one weekend was. We ended up riding 205 miles in April. Not bad for only being able to ride on weekends and for also starting radiation treatments. It is an improvement over March’s 129.59 miles. I’m definitely anticipating a better month in May.
One of the things I love about Southern Oregon is the mild winter weather. On one of these delightful weekends, the weather was warm, reaching the low 60’s at times. I took advantage of this wonderful winter climate and managed to log 63 miles on the Fun Wheels. We normally spend our time on the greenway, but yesterday, I wanted to try something different. We headed for the open road. On a bit of a whim, we decided to see if we could ride all the way to Jacksonville and back.
The day dawned bright and clear, but soon clouded over. A quick check on The Weather Channel’s app told me that rain was likely beginning at 3:00. We decided to get in gear and get a move on before the rain prevented us from heading out. Our anxiety was wasted; we experienced mild weather and got in a great ride. We even stopped along the way for lunch.
On another such weekend ride, we headed in another direction over some hilly terrain to another nearby town. It was a windy day and there were moments when we wished we’d just stayed on the greenway because it is so much easier than the hilly stuff we experienced that day.
Most of the time, though, we stay on the greenway, mostly because we don’t really have to think much and our biggest decision is how far we can go in the time have. I’m sure this will change as time goes on and as we become stronger riders, but for now this works for us.
Lately, I’ve noticed that every ride is different, even if the route is the exact same as the day before. Some days the ride is mostly effortless and I can ride forever. Even as we end the ride I feel as though I could go another 10 miles. On other days it is an effort to keep a 9 mph pace (slow for us) and it seems to take forever to settle into the right cadence. On other days, I never can find the right gear, though this happening is less and less. This Every-Ride-Is-Different phenomenon is exactly why I love cycling instead of heading to the gym. I like the gym. Don’t get me wrong. Strength training is important and I definitely need to do more of it. A trip to the gym always makes me feel a little like the hamster on its exercise wheel. When I’m on my bike, even a bad ride, makes me feel carefree and strong. Rolling out on two wheels helps me clear my head like nothing else does. I’m hoping my health and fitness last so I can enjoy My Life In Gear for a long, long time to come.
March 11 was the last day I rolled out without kids in tow. It was the day before my last surgery. Kids on a ride, while enjoyable, slows the pace significantly. My 17-year-old son keeps up very well, but he doesn’t always pay attention to his use of the path. It can be alarming the way he weaves around. He’s also been known to stop without warning. I hate that. My 11-year-old daughter, can’t keep up. With her, we slow the pace significantly and we shorten the distance. She’s able to make a 20 mile ride, but it has to include lots of stops, a plodding pace, and the promise of a park with a playground somewhere along the way.
Since my surgery, I’ve been out on a couple of rides, but they haven’t been long ones, because the kids ended up going along. The weather has also been nasty and, while I ride in just about any weather, pouring rain is one forecast I’d rather not encounter on my bike.
On Saturday, there was a break in the weather and I was able to get out and ride to my heart’s content and until my legs gave out. It was the most mileage in a ride ever. The SO and I logged 42 miles in 3:34:00. That’s a pretty steady 11 mile an hour pace. It’s not the fastest we’ve ever ridden, but considering it was my first long ride since surgery and in a month, I don’t think that’s too bad for an ole gal getting back in gear.
The fun thing about this ride is that it also included our first group ride with the Southern Oregon Velo Club. We’ve been members since last May, but have not felt confident enough in our riding skills or in our endurance level to attempt a group ride. A month ago, I found out that there is a group that rides shorter distances at a slower pace so I got on the email list in order to be notified of upcoming rides. Yesterday it finally worked out that we could attend a ride. The only problem is that the ride scheduled wasn’t going to be nearly long enough for our purposes.
To remedy that, the SO and I got up early and headed down the greenway on our own. By the time we met up with the other club members, we had almost 27 miles in. We rode 10 miles with the club, and then after an enjoyable stop at the Badass Coffee Company, we parted ways and headed home. It was a very positive first group ride experience and we learned some cool stuff. We also learned that as soon as we are able to get those road bikes. We’ll be ready to join the group that rides a little further at a bit faster pace. Without the road bikes though, we will slog behind the faster group.
By the time we got home, the SO’s legs were cramping up. I’m doing fine so far and am only mildly sore. Just lucky this ride, I guess, because that’s not always the case after a long ride. I hope we can head out for another long ride again today. Putting in 80-100 miles on a weekend would be a new milestone to celebrate.
As much fun as the surgical party was, the time spent convalescing wasn’t nearly as smooth this time around. More pain, more fatigue, less weather that cooperated with me getting out on the bike, and more of the daily stuff of life that can just get in the way of feeling 100 percent. That being said, I’m sporting a pretty wicked looking 4-inch scar. I can, at least, still proudly announce that I do have all my original body parts. I’m certainly glad that it wasn’t worse than it was.
Two days ago, the weather relented, and I ventured forth on my first ride after this last surgery. My significant other, my son and I logged 17.04 miles in an hour and 26 minutes. Not too bad for a first day out. The SO kept asking how I was doing and telling me not to push too hard. After my typical sucking air for the first 10 minutes, I was fine. After the first 30 minutes, I was fully warmed up and having a great time. The weather was perfect. Of course, there are some who would not consider overcast and sprinkling weather as perfect, but I was ecstatic to be on two wheels again, with the wind in my face. The ground was mostly dry, large puffy clouds scudded across the sky, every now and then we were hit by a few sprinkling drops of rain, but nothing significant. Fruit trees are beginning to blossom and trees are beginning to leaf out around here. It was beautiful. I was disappointed only by the fact that we started out late and due to time constraints had to head back much earlier than I wanted.
It was good we headed back when we did, though, because my body was screaming at me for going out that far and that hard after two weeks of complete inactivity. I was pretty grateful for a few of the remaining pain meds that night.
It was shaping up to be a disappointing Saturday. Face it, during the school year, for a teacher, the best and most wonderful day to ride is Saturday, weather permitting. Sunday rides have to be shortened due to getting ready for the week. Rides during the week must be shortened due to running out of daytime.
This Saturday, was beginning to look like it was going to be a wasted one where riding was concerned. The weather was perfect, but the night before, my Significant Other broke a spoke on his back tire. We both thought one or the other of us had hit a rock, but no, it was his back wheel. It shortened our ride that evening significantly. Since we were six miles out with no other transportation available he rode the six miles home on it. On the return trip I watched his rear wheel wobble more and more with each mile. We definitely needed to head into the Bike Shop for that repair.
To make matters worse, my bike was creating all sorts of annoying rattles, creaks and squeaks. In particular, there was this loud and very irritating click, click, click on every down stroke of my right pedal. My bike most of the time, is entirely silent when I ride, so I was fairly worried that it was complaining so loudly to me on this first ride off the trainer.
The combination of these woes, cut our ride short on Friday night. It also meant that our first objective Saturday morning was to get the bikes into the shop to see what and how serious the trouble was. We feared the worst, that our bikes wouldn’t be back out of the shop until Monday.
I can go into all the details of what exactly was wrong, but that’s boring for most people and I don’t yet have all the vocabulary to adequately convey what was wrong. In the end, what we thought was going to mean missing a weekend of riding really only ended up delaying our Saturday ride, by a couple of hours. The guys at Marty’s Cycle and Moore literally dropped what they were doing and fixed both our bikes right there on the spot. They didn’t have to do this, but we are so grateful they did. About an hour and $47 later, we were walking out the door with our bikes healed.
We wasted no time getting on the road, since we heard rain was on the way. I figured we still had about 20 miles to go to make our hundred for the week, so we needed to get on the road quickly. After some waffling about whether to take it easy on the greenway or hit the hilly road and head out in the country, we opted for the road. We definitely took the more difficult option. The roads between Central Point and Gold Hill are not for the weak. In fact, there are several really intense, long hill climbs on Old Stage Road between Scenic Avenue and the I-5. These climbs weren’t made any easier by the presence of a very strong headwind and the fact that we were riding hybrids instead of road bikes. Even in our marginal fitness condition, we would climb those hills faster on a road bike. Which, makes me really want a road bike very soon. This in turn depresses me, because I don’t believe that will be my reality for at least another year. But I digress.
We inched up those hills at a whopping 5-6 miles per hour. It was the toughest 5-6 mph I’ve ridden to date. Every muscle in my legs burned (this is good), I was fighting for every breath, and I even felt as though I might vomit at one point (yeah, that’s probably not so great). Then suddenly, about halfway up the climb, I hit the right gear and, crazy as it seems, I was able to almost rest while I climbed. I was still pushing hard, but I caught my breath and kept going. I felt a small amount of comfort when after glancing back I realized the Significant Other was suffering just as much as I was.
The downhill on the other side made it all worthwhile. Except that the headwind slowed our descent significantly. We were still having to push even when going downhill.
It was a crazy ride.
Upon arriving in Goldhill, we stopped in at a little dive bar called the Longbranch Saloon. It clearly was the place to be on a Saturday afternoon. We tied up our mechanical horses and stepped into the local watering hole to quench our thirst and gear up for the ride back.
Instead of coming back the way we came (read, we chickened out and tried to get out of facing those hills again) we opted for the Blackwell Road route home.
I’ve heard that one of the cycling rules of the road is that you always have a map and a repair kit with you. At minimum, you should know where you are going, shouldn’t you? We had the repair kit, but we had no idea where we were going. All I knew was that if I took Blackwell Road in far enough it was going to come out somewhere near I-5 and Central Point and I could probably find my way home from there. The SO was following me blindly, trusting that I knew where we were going. Little did he know…
Blackwell Road proved to be just as challenging as Old Stage Road in its own way. The climbs weren’t as steep, but they were longer. Trying to avoid the work, and really wishing by this time that we had some more level terrain to deal with and no wind, we turned onto Tolo Road. Around the corner, there it was, another hill and beyond that one, another. At this point, my entire body felt like mush and I wondered seriously if we were going to make it home without having to get off and walk…or call for help. Just as we wondered if we should turn around and head back we saw Scenic Avenue in the distance and knew we were within 3 miles of home. From the intersection ahead, the ride was going to be a nice downhill ride leveling off once we reached town. We knew we were going to be okay.
We rode the hardest 25 miles we’ve ever ridden since beginning our cycling adventures. We hit our highest speed on a downhill of 29 miles per hour, which means we were flying on our bikes, and dead if we’d fallen. We returned home tired, but happy, because we’d pushed ourselves way out of our comfort zone and succeeded.
We stepped up to a new level in our riding. Hill work is now going to be a regular part of our riding. It has to be. There’s nothing more painful at first, but it is so rewarding when you crest that hill knowing you still have gears left to shift and energy left to ride.
When we got home, I turned to the SO and said, “You know, that was a really hard ride. How many people do you know that could have stayed with us on that? I think, other than the guys at the bike shop, I know about two. Those two would have dusted us, but other than that…I can’t think of anyone who could have done 25 miles uphill both ways like we just did.”
Not too bad for an ole fat lady pushing 50.
I lived in Albuquerque, New Mexico for a brief couple of years in the early ’90’s. During that time I fell in love with the Southwest and with Byrd Baylor’s books, The Way To Start A Day, being one of my favorites. This last weekend, due to school budget cuts, ended up being a three-day weekend. Since we had Monday off and since rain was forecast for later that afternoon, the Significant Other and I decided to try something new. We avoided the ease and predictability our beloved greenway and ventured forth on the open road. It was an excellent choice for so many reasons. I’ve documented our ride in words and pictures, with Baylor’s book as my inspiration. I’m calling this The Way To Start A Week.
The way to start a week
is to get up early on Monday morning while others sleep,
and greet the sunrise with a smile and a cup of coffee; cream, no sugar.
Revel in in the cloudless blue of the early morning sky,
feel the chill March morning air,
inhale the fresh scent of dew and cedars.
Give thanks for being alive and having the ability to enjoy it.
Take your time dressing, but not too much time, the day awaits.
Find your favorite bike shorts and
slip on the Bontrager tights that were well worth
the hundred bucks you spent on them.
Slip into the cold weather gear given to you by a friend
since she saved you hundreds
and extended your riding season significantly.
Fill the water bottle,
grab the camera,
select the playlist,
and with your favorite riding buddy, find a road you haven’t traveled before.
As you ride, be glad that you can.
Even if it is cold. Even if it is hard, with the cold air biting through your
Balaclava, freezing your nasal passages and numbing your fingertips through gloves.
After about a mile stop,
take some pictures,
and take off the first outer layer.
Things heat up fast on two wheels.
After about 4 miles, stop for more pictures, a water break and to take more pictures. You’re in no hurry.
Decide to head to a historical old town.
It isn’t far now.
You’re over halfway there and feeling good.
The hills that you could climb a year ago are nothing to you now
You’re stronger and less fearful.
The occasional car whizzing by no longer intimidates you.
You can do this.
And you enjoy it.
select a place to enjoy a leisurely lunch while gazing out the window at passersby.
Laugh and enjoy the fact that you have overcome
caring about how you look in public places when
wearing padded pants
and sporting helmet hair, though you still quickly check
the rear view mirror of the nearest car to make sure
you don’t have bugs in your teeth.
During your meal, you laugh and smile,
enjoying delicious sandwiches with thirst-quenching beverages.
The miles make them taste all the better.
You observe the retired ladies, dressed up for lunch…
they must be in their 70’s or 80’s.
You think of your grandmother, who always dressed up
It’s not a given, but you’re on the right path.and you hope you live long enough to do the same.
so you decide to live life…
to the fullest of your ability and today is part of that plan.
On the way home, you skip the easy road,
and you opt for the one ahead
that sports a rather long hill.
You take it.
You make it. And you’re not even riding your fastest bike.
A year ago, you had to walk up stuff less daunting than this.
Not this time.
You feel the burn…
you inhale each breath and
experience the pounding of your heart
Nothing feels better.
You’re healthier than you were.
You’re happier than ever.
You are your own person.
At the top, you celebrate this realization.
You take in the valley you call home.
The rest of the ride is almost entirely
You’re riding in the right gear,
no matter what the road
and it is an exhilarating adventure.
This, you whisper to yourself as you ride up to your home,
is not just how you start a week…
It’s how you live a life.