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Monday, May 31, 2010

What time on the bike can do...

Those of you who have followed my ramblings on this blog from last year and (admittedly sporadically) this year, you know that I tend to get philosophical in my posts. But I have found that, for me, this is the outcome of riding.

Normally I end up doing my riding solo. Brad and I are sometimes able to coordinate our schedules so we can ride together, but it's hard with work, the kids, and well, life. But this weekend has been different.

I have had the pleasure of riding the last two days with friends. First on Saturday, I took my friend Julie out for her first training ride for the Tour de Pink. Julie is a breast cancer survivor. She was six years out from her diagnosis and was supposed to ride in the Tour de Pink last year when she found out in early summer that she had a new breast cancer. She has spent all year since then having a bilateral mastectomy, taking a second trip on the joy ride that is chemotherapy, and generally kicking cancer's butt for good. But Julie had never had a chance to ride the donated bike that she received last year, at least not on the road anyway. (And let's face it, if you're not on the road, it doesn't really count.) A bike is like a horse...it wants to ride free!

So Julie and I rode up the shore of Lake Superior on Saturday. It was an absolutely gorgeous day despite the fact that the wind off the lake was pretty formidable and cold. Julie did great. We rode a little slower than I'm used too, but she learned how to use her toe clips like a pro, how to start and stop without falling, and generally got used to her bike on the road. The big payoff was feeling her excitement at finally getting to accomplish something she's been dreaming about for over a year. I got to celebrate vicariously what I can only imagine was a big step for her toward wellness, empowerment, and away from cancer. I also get to anticipate what is to come for her as she gets stronger, feels the joy of having an open road before you with nothing but your own steam and intent driving you forward. Here's to many great rides ahead, Julie!

Yesterday I was invited to ride with two of my favorite people, Lynn and Bill. Bill is a true phenomenon. He is in his fifties, but is seriously the most fit person I have ever known. He does it all with style and class: biking, running, swimming, whatever. I have lost count of how many Ironman events he has done. He is literally a walking reminder (or guilt inducer) to get out an DO something!!! But he is also incredibly generous, thoughtful, and patient. He will ride with lesser beings such as myself and chat along the way.

Lynn is like pure sunshine. She lights up everyone and everything with her presence. Just seeing her or hearing her voice instantly makes you happy. She giggles, and I love that. She knows how to have fun, seems to never stress, and always has the right mindset: to enjoy yourself no matter what. She has great priorities which I would say include: fun, family, friends, and fun.

We went on one of my favorite routes, a 30 mile ride. Normally when I'm riding I don't stop. Not even to drink. I usually just keep powering forward. But this time, we stopped halfway at one of my favorite vistas: a beautiful lake that I always enjoy from the seat of my bike. But we stopped! And then we did something truly unexpected: we had a beer!!!! We sat on the little deck of a bar, sipping a cold beer, and enjoying one of my favorite spots that I had never taken the time to slow down and really see. It was heaven. The whole ride was great, but I definitely learned a lesson about stopping once and a while. I need to remember to slow down, soak it in, and enjoy the roadside as much as the road. Thanks, guys, for another great ride. There is talk of making this a regular summertime treat, and I will be the first one geared up and ready to roll!

So today I am planning a longer ride. I don't have any plans to be riding with anyone else as Brad won't be able to fit it in his schedule. It's Memorial Day and we have no picnic to go to, no celebrations. Cory is marching in a parade this morning, but that is the only planned event we have for the holiday. And it's really fine with me. I find that these holidays are best spent reflecting, and you guessed it: I'm sure I'll be doing that on my bike. I will be thinking about Ron, my brother-in-law, who is in Afghanistan, and Maureen (my sister) who is trying to survive without him in Pennsylvania. I will be thinking of friends, sons, daughters, husbands, wives, mothers, and fathers who are doing our nation's work. I will honor them in my full appreciation of the day, one in which I am free. Free to ride, to laugh, to love, to have a beer, to watch a parade. Free.

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