Wednesday, May 03, 2006
Bicycling Season Has Begun
Last Wednesday, I got home from work a little early, it was a beautiful sunny day, and my wife wasn’t due home from her nail appointment for at least an hour. Rather than hibernate in the den and surf the web, I pumped up the bicycle tires and went for my first ride since I got the new knee. Sunday I went out for a twelve mile ride and gave all the atrophied muscles in my derriere a wake-up call.
Ever since I was I kid, I have lived on a bicycle. Two wheels and a gear chain meant freedom. My first biking memory was when I was in kindergarten and I follwed the older kids past the end of the block where I was allowed to ride. They ditched me and I was lost and had to find my way home. That is a pretty good metaphor for a lot of my life.
In junior high I lived on a military base and our bicycles were our tickets to all the off-limits places we weren’t allowed to be. Once I got my driver’s license, my biking life took a long sabbatical. It wasn’t until about ten years ago I even owned a bicycle again. At first, I could barely make a four-mile loop through our fairly hilly neighborhood. Now I have a good half-dozen regular rides I take that range in distance from 7 miles to over 25 miles (the longer one includes a short break at a bagel shop).
My favorite rides take me down to old Ellicott City, which is a quaint not quite fully gentrified mill town on the Patapsco River that was the original terminus of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad. What goes down must come back up. There are about 4 ways to get back to my house from Ellicott City, all of them uphill. I usually take the gently sloping New Cut Road, which is about two miles of scenic woods back to the main road. Sometimes I go along College Avenue that has four rollercoaster style hills. When I am really in shape, I go for Ilchester Hill. This one mile stretch of Ilchester Road has a sign claiming an 18% grade for part of it. That will be a true test of my donor ACL when I am up to it again.
Bicycle clothing is some of the dorkiest looking athletic apparel ever devised. I have tried to make peace with my inner bike geek and I own one pair of the ultra-tight biker shorts that look good on nobody this side of the USPS bicycle team. I tend to wear padded mountain biker shorts instead most of the time. I also have two of the garish bike jerseys that are inexplicably de rigueur. One is black and gold with Georgia Tech’s Buzz on it. The other is Jelly Belly logo’ed with jelly beans patterned all over it. I love the only mildly ironic statement it makes. If I ever stumble across a Ben and Jerry’s jersey, I’m snapping it up.
Two years ago, as part of the denial process over turning forty, I rode the Seagull Century, which is a 100-mile ride around Maryland’s Eastern Shore including a stop on Assateague Island of the wild ponies fame. When the weather is nice, as it was that year, it is a very pleasant easy ride that over 6,000 bicyclists do annually. That’s me holding the souvenir tee-shirt in the picture. They give out the shirts at the end of the ride, just to make sure you really do the whole thing.
My riding season last year was pretty much shot between summer vacation and medical crises of various varieties. This year I have high hopes and the spreadsheet is all set up to log every mile in the saddle. My dream regimen would include about 50 miles a week of riding, but most of the time I am lucky to fit in half of that. I would love to do some sort of charity ride in the fall, but that is smack in the middle of my son’s marching band season. We’ll see what I can fit in. Even if I can’t get myself a $30 dollar shirt from some organization, I’ll have a fun summer.
And if you see me on the road, try not to hit me. At least not on purpose.