Summer heat and Sally’s numerous absences have put a bit of a damper on my cycling. Given the choice of sleeping in or getting up before dawn to do a ride is a choice best made the night before. In theory, the lure of the cool, pre-dawn trail is enticing; but the actual doing of the thing takes a bit of discipline if you don’t have a riding companion to shame you into it.
So, last night I determined that I would catch the group ride from Mountain Home Creek. With the best of intentions, I got up at 5ish but dawdled until it was too late to join the 7:00 ride. It was below 70 here in the valley so I decided to do a quick ride in the local hills and turn back when it grew too warm to climb. Mike went with me for the first few miles but turned back, saving his strength for his race tomorrow.
I continued alone, climbing the familiar trail at my own uncomfortable pace. I’ve always hated to climb and it’s probably because I’m not content to settle into a comfortable pace but instead push myself as hard as my aging lungs and legs can sustain. Truthfully, the difference in speed is negligible, not even noticeable to most, but the post-ride euphoria is appreciably better after a hard ride. I climbed until the heat under my helmet forced me to stop, don my downhill gear, and reap the reward of my efforts.
I overtook a woman who appeared to be my age on a beautiful, expensive bike and stopped to chat her up, thinking she might be a suitable riding companion. She recognized me and said we had ridden together years ago. From her expression, I inferred that I hadn’t been especially nice to her then, and I tried to make it up to her today. She was clearly a timid rider then, and remains so decades later. I admit that I have little interest in riding with women who take classes on how to ride and then fail to apply the skills on the trail due to their fear of losing a bit of skin. In her defense, she had lovely skin!
Parting company, she to ride sedately down the road and me to careen down more canyons, I was treated to the sight of various birds and rodents. The beauty of riding alone is that you sneak up on creatures that normally evade detection.
I followed a roadrunner for a ways before slowing down to allow him to slip off into the brush;
a red-tailed hawk circled, low, overhead as I pushed my bike up a hill too steep to ride (I swear I heard him chuckling); an unknown, white, hawk-like bird left his perch in a tree at my approach; and a juvenile Cooper’s hawk surveilled my passage from atop a utility pole. A couple of hoses stretched across the trail in the sanctuary gave me a start, but I quickly realized they were too uniformly black to be rattlesnakes and didn’t bother to bunny hop them.
Later I went to Trader Joe’s, all energized and eager to go provisioning. A ride-inspired appetite will do that. As I approached the entrance, an old, heavy-set man with white hair tumbled from the curb, onto the “you could fry an egg on it” parking lot. Naturally, everyone around him rushed to his assistance, one woman having the presence of mind to provide him with a cart for him to use for stability once he was helped to his feet. I was gobsmacked by a wave of missing my own dad who died almost two years ago. The kindness of strangers and his resemblance to “Old Flip”, my dad’s nickname in the assisted living facility, snatched away my euphoria and in seconds I was weeping. I wallowed in the moment of self-pity behind my N95 mask and sunglasses. Later, I saw him in the store, shopping with dirty knees.
On the way home, I stopped at the local fruit stand to buy avocados and my brand new, California Real ID fell, unnoticed, out of my pocket. I’d lost my drivers license somewhere between Denver and Grand Rapids in May, probably in the same way, and had to go through the rigamarole with DMV of replacing it. I called both the fruit stand and Trader Joe’s but nobody had found it. I was en route to Trader Joe’s to look for it in the parking lot when the fruit stand clerk called to say that they had found it. My sense of well-being was instantly restored.
People are kind and good and they die. It’s mostly good.