On the Road
The sun's up, the temperature is rising, and the hills are getting bigger.
My mind’s always spinning. Constantly keeping a list of things that I’ve gotta do in my head. My bicycle commute in the morning becomes a traveling zen moment. At my best I weave the three and a half miles to work in an unstopping spinning of pedals, dissecting my movement into inches at traffic lights, near-motionless in the balancing act of a track stand, sliding behind buses, waving to friends on foot, smiling at the other bicyclists. Every block of so a bubble of analytic thought rises to the surface of awareness, and I slip past it, immersing myself again in the sound of the early morning city around me, slipping around potholes, sliding around parking cars before finally parking my own bike and stepping into the corporate elevator, a box within a box designed to take you to yet another box.
Then it’s rush home to Abby, her cooing smiles and yelps of joy, wet diapers and furious wails from the car seat. Make dinner. Walk the dog. Wash the laundry. Hang the laundry. Fold the laundry. Store the laundry. Soil the laundry. Wash the laundry. Laundry, laundry ad nauseum, ad laundry.
Somehow in the past month I’ve
"Hey man, want me to take a picture of you?"
managed three of my four qualifying rides for Boston-Montreal-Boston. With a couple of 200 kilometers brevets, a 300k and a 400k all tucked under my saddle, I only have the 600k to go. I’m planning on riding with Nick Bull, who’s finished at least one 600k in the past. The thing is about Nick, even though he’s slower on the bike than me, he almost always finishes before I do, passing me while I snore away during my late afternoon power nap. So I figure if I ride with Nick, my chances of finishing should be greatly increased. Plus he’s got handlebar-mounted GPS, and I have no desire to ride anymore “bonus miles.”
Jenn’s back at work in Labor & Delivery now, and now the baby gets passed along every 8 hours to another pair of loving arms: I work first shift, Jenn works second shift, and Joan works third trick. Between the three of us, plus a neighbor or two, Abby stays at home.
Meanwhile, my biggest client has me working on some really satisfying projects that are keeping me on the road for a week or so every month. It’s great to work for a client
in a profitable, growth industry…
The brevets chew up my weekends…Two weekends in a row this month I was out of town: up to Maryland for a 300k (185 mile) ride, then down to North Carolina for a 23 hour, 250 miler, my first 400k brevet.
23 hours, 21 of them solo. I made a series of avoidable mistakes that compounded into a mostly-solo ride. I didn’t follow my host and organizer of the ride from his house to the starting point of the ride because it was “just around the corner.” But I turned the wrong way, and by the time I figured out I was wrong, and turned around, the last of the riders were leaving the parking lot. I signed in, received my cue cards, maps and control booklet, then took off.
But not riding with the group, I missed a turn ten miles into the ride: the street sign had been removed from the post and a temporary “Detour” sign erected in its place. I followed the arrow, vainly searching for a turn marked at mile 12 that wasn’t there…By the time I finally got myself back on course, I’d ridden an extra
10 miles, while my fellow randonneurs had ridden an additional 10 miles, putting me a good 20 miles behind. At the halfway, turnaround point I was only 13 miles behind a large pack of riders, but I never caught up with them, stopping instead for a thoroughly refreshing nap behind a Primitive Baptist church in the Carolina hills. At sunset I caught up to a rider who was trying to sort out some gastro-intestinal issues. For thirty miles we rode together, rousing easily twenty unchained dogs from their threshold slumber. In the moonlit night I swiveled my LED-clad, helmeted head towards the baying hounds, their eyes gleaming silver and green while my companion and I sprinted through the gauntlet and towards the rest of the pack, lying just in wait around the next bend. By the next town the gastro-intestinal issues became so all-consuming that my companion abandoned the ride, while I pushed on into the early hours of the morning.
1, 2, 3 o’clock in the morning. I’ve only got 60 miles to go. 60 miles! That’s nothing. Two hundred down, Fifty miles to go. Fifty Miles! I’ve got it now. Turn right on Big Sandy Creek. Stop
Sign. Turn right on Big Sandy Creek. Stop Sign. Stop Sign. Stop sign at mile 202.5. That’s less than two and a half miles to go. Keep going, keep going. John Henry told his captain, ‘A man ain’t nuthin’ but a man,’ Lord, Lord, A man ain’t nuthin’ but a man. Push down, pull up. Pull up, push down. The wheels on the bike go ‘round and ‘round, ‘round and ‘round. The pedals on the bike go ‘round and round…The thoughts in my head go ‘round and ‘round, till finally I reach my destination, an hour and five minutes shy of a complete day on the road.
So I drive back on Sundays, physically and mentally drained from reading cue sheets late into the night and spinning for dozens of miles without taking my feet off the pedals. Then I try to find the energy to feed the dog, walk the dog, carry the dog, pick up after the dog, feed the baby, burp the baby, rock the baby, sing to the baby, sling the baby, walk the baby.
And once in a while I get to see Mrs. Cheney, who points to the child suckling at her
breast and says, “We made this with love.” Yes, yes I think to myself as I hug her over the spilled oats in the kitchen floor, laughing at how domesticated we’ve become, yes, yes, we made this with love.
“Tak fur alle,” Garrison says in Danish, “Thanks for everything, it could be worse.”
Tak fur alle! It could be worse. And maybe, just maybe tomorrow will be the beautiful day it promises to be, and we’ll ride the tandem down to the museum on the bay, listen to the symphony play Handel’s “Water Music,” and watch the fireworks light up the late early summer night.
Tot: 1.536s; Tpl: 0.049s; cc: 10; qc: 50; dbt: 0.0257s; 1; m:saturn w:www (126.96.36.199); sld: 1;
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