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Saturday, September 12, 2009

On the sweet side.

Hands down, bicyclists seem to be the nicest people around. At least the ones that I have met, anyway. But I'm pretty sure that statement would hold true for any cyclist. I say this because, every single one of them that I have met on this journey has been supportive, kind, eager to help, full of advice, and very gracious. From the guys at Ski Hut, my local bike shop, who have done nothing but encourage 2 novices like Brad and myself, to the hard core cyclists who have shared training routes, insider tips, and even taken us on a grueling "Confidence Building" Ride (see my last post "I don't know which was harder"). Not a single one of them expressed shock or incredulity at what we were about to try to do; instead, they have been nothing but enthusiastic.

My belief that all cyclists are nice was further enhanced today when I took off on a longer ride. First I have to tell you that all week, Brad has been fighting a nasty cold and hasn't been able to ride. Plus he had to take a trip out of town for work. So, I've been left to train on my own. Some days it's awfully hard to force myself out the door, especially if I know I'm pushing myself to do a longer or harder ride. Today was particularly tough since with my spouse gone, I have been turned into even more of a taxi driver for the kids. Soccer, drama tryouts, more tryouts, more soccer, games, homework projects, grad pictures, the list goes on and on. (My hats off to every single parent out there. I honestly don't know how you do it.) Anyway, with Brad gone I am on constant high alert, which means I don't sleep well. Being on call 24/7 with no backup is definitely no picnic.

My training goal for this weekend was to go on two back to back medium-to-long rides. I was hoping to do 40 today and possibly 50 tomorrow. Of course, between a soccer game and driving Cory where he needed to be (with a stop to purchase alka-seltzer on the way: I heard something about rockets) I was left with only 2 hours and 20 minutes to try to ride 40 miles. I was very grumpy when I started out. I felt rushed and out of sorts. Not to mention the fact that today was hotter than it's been in weeks and I was heading out in the hottest part of the day.

So I started out, climbing up a street of hills when I saw a bicyclist ahead of me in the distance. I thought that perhaps it might be someone I know. I was in a hurry, so I was trying to climb the hills a little faster than usual. After a couple of miles I caught up with her. I was a little surprised to see another woman riding alone; usually I'm the only one out there. I was a little disappointed that it wasn't someone I know. Darn. I was hoping for some friendly company. So, being in a hurry, I passed her. After I passed her I realized she had caught up to me and was saying something. She was asking if I wanted some company. I couldn't believe it, and wasn't sure of the etiquette in these situations. I wanted company, but I wasn't too sure about a stranger. But I said "sure". It turned out she was taking the same route that I was, but she was almost done. Her car was parked a few miles up the road. We rode along together (at a faster clip than I was intending) and talked. She kept riding with me for quite a way even though we had gone long past her car. In the end she turned around and headed home, but not before she gave me her cell phone and email so I could call her for company if I wanted to another day.

I have to admit that after she turned around, the ride got harder. I had trouble keeping up the pace, even though I'd been breezing along before, talking all the way. But I managed to bike 38 miles (just short of 40, dang it!) in 2 hours and 24 minutes. I couldn't have finished so quickly without the company, of that I'm sure.

I spent the rest of the ride thinking about why bicyclists are so nice. I decided that it is because we're traveling at a slower speed. We're developing an intimate relationship with the world around us while everyone else whizzes by in their cars. (Me too, at all other times of the day!) It made me think about all the great things I've seen from the seat of my bike. I saw Spring finally come to the Northland. I watched the roadside, normally ugly and inhospitable burst forth with the beauty of lupines. On more than one occasion I startled nesting herons who took to the sky in a frenzy. I will never forget riding silently behind and then alongside a beautiful, patient gray wolf. I've seen turtles and watched Brad rescue more than a few from death on the center lines. I've seen ugly things too, like the heaps of trash people toss out their car windows, angry, rude drivers who want you to get out of their way, and the worst: all the small, seemingly inconseqential animals who have died on the road; possums, skunks, deer, a kitten, turtles, garter snakes, and even a hawk. Everytime I've passed by, I've said a small prayer. I say, "sorry, little animal, I'm sorry." Bike riding gives you the time to do that. To pray, even when you're normally not a praying person. To reflect on things you'd otherwise miss because of the fast pace of life. It forces you to slow down and see the world at eye level. And it gives you the opportunity to meet total strangers who become friends.

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