When Jason and I travel hither and yon to participate in long, organized bike rides, I often find myself riding alone. We don't really have a group to ride with, so once we get going it is usually just me and Red Sass on the open road. Most of the time this is fine, but after a while I get a tad bit bored. Sometimes my boredom leads to silliness, talking or singing to myself, and sometimes it leads to deep (ish), pensive thoughts about all kinds of things. And sometimes I can enjoy the wind on my face and the beautiful surroundings in which I find myself.
This past Saturday, Jason and I participated in the W.C. Handy 3 State Bike Ride, although I think I stayed in one state while Jason rode through parts of Alabama, Mississippi, and Tennessee. I rode the 40 mile portion and Jason did the 100 mile. He tried to start with me but I told him he couldn't. He rides a tri-bike and rides WAY more than I do, so I refused to hold him back for the first 20 miles. It is more peaceful for me to feel that I can do my thing at no inconvenience to him. After sending him on his way, I settled in for a long, quiet ride through the country.
And what a beautiful country it was! As we rode out, we had nothing but shade so the temperature felt cool and comfortable. There were fields of corn and some other crop on both sides of the road, and when I was high on a hill, I could see all the crops below and the mountains behind them. It was lovely. The air was so fresh and green-smelling that I could not get enough of it. I saw some of the biggest butterflies I have ever seen and they were everywhere.
The hills were gentle and rolling, and before I knew it I had reached the rest stop that was also my turn around. I was excited by the prospect. My shoulders, neck, and girly bits were a little weary of the ride, but the rest reinvigorated me, along with the fact I got to head back. I refilled my water bottle, munched 3 pretzels and headed on my way.
At one point in the ride, I contemplated my shadow. Shadows, in my opinion, are always more attractive than the person to which they belong. Blue-ish in tint, my cycling shadow looked long and lean - much longer and leaner than I am or will ever be. I was at peace with that, however. It was, after all, my shadow and it was okay if I imagined, during this ride, that it was an exact reflection of myself.
There were also moments when I was struck with such awe at the beauty around me and so grateful to be out in it riding my bike, I was almost brought to tears. I was thankful to be outside, glad to be spending my morning riding through the countryside surrounded by the songs of the birds and cicadas, and I gave full credit and praise to the Creator of it all.
And then there were moments when I really wished my shoulders and neck would get used to my cycling position and give me a break.
When I had about 10 miles left of my ride, a lady named Amanda caught up to me. She said hello as she rode past and I said, "HEY THERE!" as if she were my long lost best friend. I was pretty tired of my own company by then so I picked up my pace to stay with her. We chatted about riding, where we'd traveled from, the heat, and whatever else came to mind.
Once we reached our starting point, we stopped and chatted some more as I ate a banana and she had an orange. She and her party were staying at the same hotel we were so I followed her on the bike over to the hotel. There was a huge hill we had to climb to get there and we both groaned at having to climb it after 40 miles of riding.
I had a while before Jason would show up, so I decided to eat something and then run a few miles while I waited for him. I looked down at myself and thought, "where do I start?" I was soaked with sweat and covered in grease. And when I say covered, I mean covered. I had it all over my legs, all over my cycling outfit, on my hands and face, it looked as if I'd rolled around in it. Obviously my bike needed to be cleaned.
I stripped off my wet clothes, wiped myself down with a rag, put on a t-shirt and watched a little of 27 Dresses while I ate a peanut butter and jelly bagel. I then packed up all of our belongings, put on my running digs and drove back over to the park to begin my run. I had planned to do 5-10 miles, but once out in the heat, that quickly shrunk down to 3.5. It was 97 degrees and not a sign of shade to be had.
I waited and waited to see Jason ride by. He told me it would take him about 6 hours to do the ride. I assumed this included rest stops. It did not. So when 6 hours past and then 6 and a half and then 7, I began to get nervous. I tried to call his phone, but it went straight to voice mail. When an ambulance drove by with its sirens blaring, I hopped in my car and went to find him.
He was fine, of course. I found him about 6 miles out and so I rode ahead, parked and waved him by, repeating this all the way to the finish. He said seeing me gave him the boost he needed to finish the ride. His ride had taken him 5 hours and 55 minutes, but that did NOT include rest stops. Good to know for future reference.
We headed home, stopping to pick up our pup and some well-earned BBQ on the way. I was so glad to be clean, in my comfies, sitting on my couch with a plate of BBQ in my lap.
It was a good day. The thoughts of this lone cyclist were probably not as deep as the title might lead you to believe, but I thought it was a good title so...there you go. I think I prefer running as my all time favorite activity, followed closely by the triathlon. But there is something wonderful all the same about a long, lone bike ride through the countryside and I was grateful for that.