Yesterday was one of those weather gift from God days. I saw it coming, quivering with anticipation all day Friday as I saw the predicted weather pan out on my phone, temperatures reaching into the upper thirties by noon, sunny. There was a bit of wind predicted, but not enough to be an issue on the bicycle. That was the reason for my quivering — I couldn’t wait to get outside on my bicycle. Cabin fever is always at its pitch in late January, this year no exception. The dirt trails were not going to be rideable, I knew, since the melting snow and ice would leave them muddy and soft. It didn’t matter. I felt like riding my road bike.
Saturday morning greeted me with beautiful colors as I stuck my head out the back door at 8:30, a late morning for me. I felt a satisfied smile move my lips as I felt the chill of a winter morning on my sleep warmed face. Nick the sheltie slipped by me, his tail held high and bushy as he leapt from the back deck, chasing whatever he always anticipates to be outside. He stopped a few bounces from where he started, realizing there was nothing out back but a few startled birds, now chattering at him in the safety of our silver maple’s limbs. Nick sniffed carefully around the icy snow around the base of the tree, daring the birds to come down to challenge him. None did. Satisfied that he had established his ownership once again, Nick cocked his leg towards the trunk of the maple then turned to trot back to where I leaned in amusement against the jamb of the sliding glass door.
“Feel better?” Nick sniffed at me as he reentered the house, checked his food dish, then took his position at the foot of the stairs, guarding the sleeping inhabitants upstairs while keeping an eye on my movements. I shut the door behind him, shifted my attention to preparing the morning coffee and my breakfast. Quiet. Wonderful quiet. Mir and Nate would be asleep for a few more hours. My plan was to enjoy a fresh omelette, toast, and coffee, ease into the morning while I waited for the close to optimum riding temperature at around 10:30. I would catch up on reading blogs while eating breakfast, maybe write one, then pull my bike off of the indoor trainer and replace the rear trainer tire with a tire for outdoor riding. My riding clothes — base layers and tights, fleece lined long sleeve jersey, bibs, vest, and wool socks were laid out for my ride. I knew I had to take Nate to his driving class at 12:30, so a 10:30 departure would get me a nice relaxed 20 mile spin with time to spare before we had to leave.
My PC would not connect to the internet. Later on in the day I would discover that a failed Windows 8.1 update was preventing my PC from connecting. I began to frown a little. I don’t like my revelry routine to be interrupted. So I cleaned up my breakfast dishes, emptied the dishwasher, scrubbed the omelette pan, then retreated to the couch to catch up on Words and read a book (Team 7-Eleven by Geoff Drake for those who want to know).
Mir got up early. I heard her footsteps upstairs and the shower go on as my cheeks hit the couch cushion. Nick rushed upstairs, his job now to guard the bathroom door as Mir showers. I had 10-15 minutes of peace left, I thought.
5 minutes was what I got…nothing more. I won’t bore you with the details. Let’s just say my peace was disturbed, replaced by hastily measuring for carpet that apparently we need before next Thursday but can’t afford. I wasn’t shopping for the carpet with her, my wife at least realizing that she is not going to get me out the door with her most Saturday mornings.
I finished the measuring and greeted Mir’s sister as she came in the door. They left. It was 9:30 and my bike wasn’t ready. I turned my attention to the bike, replaced the rear tire, put the wheel on the bike, climbed the stairs to change into my riding clothes.
“DAD!!! Can you take me to the golf course driving range? I have a team meeting in fifteen minutes.” Arggggh.
My revelry was gone. I changed into jeans and tshirt instead. As I put on my shoes, my phone rang. It was Mir. There were a few commands she had forgotten. I was not pleased. I was going to miss out on a January ride opportunity. Disappointed, I turned into a spoiled adult male brat. Stomped around. Pouted. Maybe I could get an hour if I took my bike with me when I dropped Nate off at the driving school. It would be a short spin west to open country, to Johnson’s Mound, a destination I knew would be a treat to ride this time of year. That helped my peace of mind, but I still didn’t like my Saturday being packed tightly in between tasks and responsibility. I whined. I complained.
Then it all changed. Nate’s team meeting at the golf driving range was cancelled. In the car on the way home, Nate informed me that his driving class was optional for the day. He wasn’t going to go to class.
I swear that the sun actually brightened at that moment.
“Dad, ride as much as you want. I know you need to.” I about ran off of the road. This could not be my son talking.
As soon as we got home, I was in my riding clothes and out the door with my bike. Freedom. I spun around the corner, pedals turning easily with the wind at my back. Up ahead, another rider flashed by in the direction I was about to turn. A few blocks ahead, he stopped at the traffic signal at the entrance to my neighborhood. That rider just happened to be Jon, one of my best riding buddies.
“Where ya headed, Steve? I’m meeting a few friends at the taco stand in Wheaton.” That was a bit more than I wanted to do. I just wanted to get a quick 15 or 20 miles in, an easy spin. Jon looked at me with anticipation. He knows that I don’t back down easily.
“Aw shucks, Jon, I don’t think I am up for riding with anyone today. I am just planning on riding my short loop.”
“Ride with me a bit and see if you change your mind.”
I felt better than anticipated, especially as I warmed up. Jon and I are good friends, the chatter making the riding seem effortless, a conversational pace. We came to the spot where I should have turned for the next leg of my loop, instead I stayed with Jon. There was a little voice in the back of my mind telling me I was probably making a mistake, but I felt good and likely would stay that way.
We were early so we rode an extra five miles while we waited, then met Randy at the taco stand. We rode a few blocks to pick up another friend, Bruce, a guy I have never met before.
“Hey, guys, you up for a group ride?” Bruce asked after Jon and Randy introduced him to me, “Rusty Chain has a ride starting in a few minutes.”
Dang. The Rusty Chain group, fast and strong. But I was already partially committed, so I followed them to the start a few blocks away. I counted 12 guys as we pulled up. I was not ready for a group ride.
One guy on a Motobecane, a very nice titanium bike, complimented my Serotta Legend Ti with sincere appreciation. At least I had that going for me.
The route was discussed and we rolled. The pace picked up as the riders began to warm, still conversational at around 20-21 mph. We snaked around until we hit the circuit for a popular early season crit, one I have raced a few times. I knew the back end of the circuit has a killer hill, one that even with momentum takes a strong effort to crest. Instantly I regretted not watching my weight this winter season.. either that or for letting myself join this group ride. I dropped off the back as we neared the crest of the hill. It would take a huge effort to rejoin the group.
And I made it, my breathing heavy as the group hit a rolling straight and picked up the pace. Into the wind, the group maintained a little over thirty mph for a 2 mile stretch. I was at the back of the group, happy to be in the draft and glad that I have at least kept enough power in my legs from mountain biking to survive the surge. It didn’t hurt that I was close to home and would be bidding adieu to the group shortly
I made it. 32 quick miles on January 24. A gift.
Had to take a crazed selfie with my bike after returning it to its place inside, both of us glad to have the pleasure to ride again.