I love riding my bike. That’s not a surprise to most of you, I’m sure. “Love” is not too strong of a word. Even the occasionally painful or tedious parts can’t dampen my ardor. Whether it’s spinning along on an easy weekend ride, putting my head down and pushing as hard as I can during interval sets, finding the maximum pace I can sustain during races, slowly grinding my way up a mountain, or flying down the other side . . . it’s all pure joy.
I just find such pleasure in watching the road unfold ahead of me and in the way the world dissolves into a blur in my peripheral vision as it slips by. I enjoy the way the air feels as my body and bike cut through it and the sound of the wind in my ears when I’m going fast. I have always liked seeing the world at this pace, and I love that my own body is the source of that motion. There’s something especially satisfying about the resistance my legs feel when I turn the pedals, and often I get into a rhythm that feels like meditation. Even climbing hills, canyons, and mountains has the feeling of overcoming obstacles, making the struggle feel worthwhile. Plus, I actually like that feeling of intense exertion—breathing so hard I can’t talk, feeling like my heart will explode when I stand to climb out of the saddle, willing the bike to move upward—at least for a while.
Alone or with a group, in rain, sunshine, wind, cold, or heat—it doesn’t matter. Of course, I’d prefer the ride with great weather in a scenic place with lovely terrain and friendly company. And that kind of really great ride is exactly what I had a couple weekends ago when Scully and Andy and I looped around Cayuga Lake.
Scully and I had been looking forward to this trip for a long time. We became fast friends during the March weekend of Around the Bay and had such a good time riding 100 miles around the Twin Cities that we picked a weekend for a camping and bicycling trip somewhere between Ontario and Massachusetts. I mapped a 90-ish mile route around Cayuga Lake, and Scully picked the campsite. (Lisa and I went to a wedding in the Finger Lakes area in 1998, and I had been hoping for a chance to ride here ever since I got back into riding in 2009.)
What can I tell you about Scully, other than that she’s my diabestie? (Not that I don’t love all the rest of you out there, but we just—I dunno—clicked in a way that I wasn’t expecting and rarely feel with other people.) For one thing, she’s a bit odd . . . but in a good way. She embraces the same kind of crazy that I seemed to find a lot when I was younger, even though it kinda stressed me out back in the day being around awesome people like that. (Hello, low self-esteem and teenage angst!) Yet, despite this crazy, she’s also down-to-earth enough that we can have long, wide-ranging conversations about anything and everything under the sun.
And talk we did. This was actually one of the things I was most looking forward to from the trip. Friday, the night before the ride, we huddled together in my tent for about an hour talking and waiting out the rain before she retired to her own “two person” tent. (Have you noticed that you can sleep two people into a “two person” tent, but only if no one needs any personal space?) We talked a lot on the first part of the ride from Seneca Falls to just outside Ithaca where we met Andy. We talked while chilling in the lake and toasting marshmallows around the campfire after the ride. And we still had plenty to talk about on Sunday morning while we packed up camp and Scully made coffee over her backpacking stove.
We didn’t talk the whole time, though. There comes a point in most long rides where it just gets a little difficult to talk. You forget what pace you should be riding, get caught up in the desire to be at the end, and find yourself pushing a bigger gear than you should. Or you get to a monster hill and have to just shut down the talking part of your brain except to say, “Shut up, legs!” Or you’re just in a bit of pain, talking means talking about it, and it’s better just not to say anything. Or (hypothetically) the two people you’re riding with don’t realize that you’ve fallen off the back and are happily chatting with each other as they ride away. Or (also hypothetically) every time your ride buddies catch up after you’ve slowed, you’re somehow instantly off the front again with no one to talk to.
Most—okay, all—of these situations came to pass on the ride. Leaving Ithaca we encountered some rather steep hills. Going up produced a healthy burn in the legs, and the ride down the other side had us touching 40 mph. Andy, who lives in the neighborhood, knew the route well, so we didn’t have to use my cue sheet or map to know where we were going. (Although I did pull out the map when we stopped at a state park just to see where we were and so that I could feel that the time I spent making the map was worth it.) Andy is a nice guy and does crazy long-distance rides on bikes that he builds himself from parts scavenged from other bikes. (It’s weird to draft off somebody with fenders on his bike.) He also knows the best place in town to get coffee, and for the record Gimme Coffee also makes a tasty chocolate/hazelnut croissant, which is a bit unorthodox but will be something I’ll seek out in the future.
Basically, it was a great ride. The weather was as close to perfect as you can get in mid-August. The scenery was beautiful. My riding companions brought the fun and good conversations. There were chocolate croissants. We even shot a little video at the end of the ride, which we will post once I get some time to add subtitles and bleep out an F-bomb when I almost ran into a mailbox while filming. I can’t think of anything else that would have made it better.
Where are we riding next Skullz? New England is beautiful in the autumn, you know?