To continue an unlikely trend, I rode outside again, on November 6.
This time it was with two old time ex-teammates, riders that I hung out with mainly in the 90s. One bought the bike from my one and only "pursue and recover" incident, where I chased a thief for a bit and got back a bike he'd stolen from the shop. I'll call him Ranger.
The other guy is a musician first. He's since moved about 4.5 hours away, and, yes, he made the drive just to do this ride. I'll call him Blues.
Ranger, to my delight and astonishment, showed up with the theft recovery bike. I quickly snapped a picture of it in all its glory. It's virtually unchanged since back in the day.
The bike I recovered from a would-be-thief in a different life.
Other than a change in tires I think the bike is pretty much original.
While we got ready it was raining a bit, a cold, windy, damp, grim, grey, day.
A perfect day for a Belgian style ride.
What's interesting, and we all commented on it after the ride, is that none of us ever suggested just skipping the ride and catching up over coffee at the local breakfast place, a favorite in the area which Junior refers to as "The Waffle Place". Instead we set about dressing for what seemed to be a pretty grim ride on the bike, each of us putting on differing amount of gear.
With the temperature just about 50 degrees, a chilly wind, and the drizzle, I had on knickers, booties, a short sleeve jersey, a thick long sleeve jersey, a wind vest, and my winter gloves and hat. My helmet of course, and shoes.
My bike, this time with a saddle bag, rear light, a pump in my pocket, bottles.
Blues had on everything, tights to jacket, and looked to be the most prepared of the trio.
Ranger, true to his hard man style, opted for shorts and just two t-shirts. With his toe clips and straps, sneakers, and non-lycra gear, he was by far the least pretentious of the group.
Our motley crew headed out. It was so cold I started getting a massive headache because of the cold and a slightly tight helmet (I loosened it later when I realized it was too tight). I could feel the wind blowing through my jersey arms, my shoulders and upper arms feeling the piercing chill. My glasses got wet from the misty rain, the tires looked slick as ice, and I found myself wondering how long I could keep this up.
I figured both Blues and Ranger had driven quite a bit to ride with me. Blues had initially arranged to meet up by me so I could take a short break from looking after my dad. Since my dad passed that wasn't a concern anymore but still, they made the drive here. At any rate I figured they both had too much vested into the ride to quit after 15 or 20 minutes.
So I plodded along, trying to shift my helmet around to get my cold-induced headache to a minimum.
Then, as we moved along, the clouds started breaking up, the sun peeked through, and things got a bit better.
We tried not to go too fast so our pace heading out was, shall we say, "conservative".
Along the path
Let me go on a tangent here for a bit.
Along the Canals
In the book "The Dog In The Hat" that spoke to my core in some absolute and indescribable way, Joe Parkin talks about how a lot of riders train by riding along canal bike paths. These paths are meant just for bikes, they don't have motorized traffic on them, and it allowed a group of riders to pound out the hours without getting too distracted by cars and such.
I realized that here, along this "Multi Use Path" (MUP), we were riding along our version of the "canal paths". In a different life, perhaps a future one, I thought it possible that I'd be rolling along these paths, maybe in the off hours, doing base work.
For now though, it was just for fun.
We generally stayed together although Blues went ahead when someone passed us. Even on easy ride it's easy to get pulled into little informal competitions. However, after about an hour, with Blues ahead maybe 20 or 30 seconds ahead, Range admitted he was done. Blues was still in sight over these flat and straight trails. I told Ranger to turn around (it was an out-and-back ride) and that I'd catch Blues and we'd turn around and catch up.
I did a little effort to bridge the gap and quickly realized I was blowing up. I looked down and saw 26.7 mph.
Yeah. Not very impressive.
I eased because, um, there were some people walking a dog. That's it, people walking on the trail. Actually, there were people walking, I eased to pass them without scaring them (smiles and waves all around), and then, with 20 seconds of recovery, quickly bridged the remaining bit to Blues. I told him Ranger had turned around and that we'd catch up to him.
We looped around, passed the people walking (more smiles and waves), and then I started pushing a bit. Normally I think going sort of fast on these trails is really bad, but that's in the summer with lots of people and such. When there's no one around, in dreary conditions, 20-22 mph seems pretty reasonable.
I was leading much of the time as Blues was on an off day. At the beginning of one of the many long straights I realized that Ranger was totally out of sight. Like absolutely totally out of sight.
"I think Ranger dropped the hammer when he turned around."
"No, he was hammered already."
"Well, he's pretty far ahead."
We went on for another 15 minutes, not a glimpse of him. Finally, at the end of a really, really long straight, I spotted him just disappearing out of sight. After a minute or two along the straight, the end of said straight still off in the distance, Blues admitted that, wow, Ranger had a big gap on us.
I started making calculations. We'd been chasing "hard" for about 15-17 minutes and he was at least 4-5 minutes ahead of us. I couldn't go much faster and we might have closed a minute on him, based on previous straights. At this rate it'd be an hour before we caught him, meaning we'd only see him back at the cars.
I started pushing as hard as I dared, Blues clinging to my wheel.
Unbeknownst to us Ranger had pushed super hard until the end of that exact straight and then blew sky high. Just 7 or 8 minutes later we caught him. He had a big grin on his face. He'd tried to pull one on us but had shattered himself in the process.
We slowed down a bit then, with the three of us sort of working together, we upped the pace slightly.
The only incident of note happened when we were clearing yet another set of gates meant to keep cars and trucks off the path. Blues clipped the gate with his bars, got flung to the side, and basically karate chopped through two of the three poles of a wood fence. He was fine though, as the wood was totally rotted.
He got up and we got going again. Our little incident blocked the path for a minute or two, holding up a few riders. I saw them, called it, and we got into line. I was pleasantly surprised by our ragtag group's fluency. Everyone got in line, we were in tight formation, all that, no fuss, no muss. I pulled at a reasonable pace for a bit, I asked if the riders were still back there, and Ranger and Blues replied that they were gone.
We got back okay and then headed to the Waffle House (aka Harvest Cafe) for lunch. We, meaning the family and myself, hadn't been there after 8 AM for a number of years, so I went in thinking they just served breakfast all day Sunday. When the manager (a funny character) walked by I asked him if they were serving lunch because the lunch menu was in our breakfast menus.
"Yeah, we serve lunch. Why?"
"I thought you only served breakfast on Sundays."
"Well that changed, I don't know, like TWO years ago," he grinned.
"Oh. I guess we haven't been here for lunch in forever."
I realized later that we hadn't been there for lunch since long before Junior was born, so a solid 4-5 years ago.
I got home and felt absolutely wiped out. I realized that riding outside, especially when it was chilly out, made the riding a lot more fatiguing. Probably burned more calories also.
My epiphany that the MUP was sort of like the local version of the "canal paths" also came as pleasant surprise. I could see myself going out there and doing some steady work, maybe even on my mountain bike. I need more than anything else to do some uninterrupted, high-steady work, and the MUPs are perfect for that, a semi-long effort separating the road crossings. If I rode them at night, or maybe early in the morning, I imagine there'd be little or no traffic.
And finally... When I drove by the broken fence the other day I noticed that the remaining log in the fence was moved to the middle spot, which makes sense. High enough to keep people from spilling out onto the road, low enough to keep kids and dogs from breezing through the posts.