Back in the saddle again.

Back in the saddle, and out on the road again. Man, it feels good, too!

A couple of early afternoons at work this past week left me with ample opportunities to load up on miles – at least 30 miles every day, 80+ yesterday, and 60-ish this morning. June is on the way, and that means summer break from school: everyday riding, finally!

I had every intention of commuting to work this spring but it always seemed like weather, commitments, and meetings added up to significant road blocks for that plan. The winter – even with regular workouts with weights and the boring half hour rides on the trainer – left me with nine pounds of pudge around the middle, and inner tube of fat that I can’t wait to shed: five pounds dropped like magic over the past two days combination of warmth, miles, and perspiration.

I don’t really want to over-analyze things, but it occurred to me yesterday afternoon that one of the things I really enjoy about cycling is that moment – that sudden realization – that huge chunks of time and miles have just disappeared. I love getting lost in the ride; it’s much like when I’m begin working on a painting in the morning and suddenly it’s dinner time! Where did the time go? Whatever happened, there’s a near-spirituality to the experience: entering the zone.

I don't know much about airplanes, but these were pretty cool.

Yesterday’s ride is a blur to me: lots of miles, lots of ups and downs through the hills, and past a small air strip where vintage prop jobs were being flown – but no wind, really, and what started out as an hour’s ride quickly evolved into an afternoon. I was even democratic about my riding, taking the Freschi out for a morning spin to the bank and for errands; the Shogun for the 80 mile afternoon ride; and the Peugeot P8, freshly adorned with barcons to (finally!) replace the stem shifters, for an additional ten mile jaunt to dinner and back. Other than to (ironically) deliver a mixte bicycle to a happy new owner, I managed to avoid using the car entirely on Saturday. I can’t express in words how good that felt, so I’ll leave things at that.

One nice thing about the trainer is that it left me in pretty decent riding condition after a winter of spinning in front of the television. For instance, my legs this morning felt a little tired after yesterday’s mileage, but not a bit sore at all. Today’s forecast called for gusty winds (of course!) and so I figured to get the best riding in early, right after I dropped my son off at work at 0730. Heading east, there was only a slight headwind, but it was consistent, and I averaged 15.6 on the ten or so miles coming into Excelsior Springs. Turning south and then west through the hills, I decided I wanted to ride laps on Old 210 Highway where there is a section of road that is nice and flat and – best of all – nearly entirely without traffic other than the odd cyclist or two and the occasional farm vehicle. I got in four ten mile laps and with the wind at my back I averaged 22.3, but much less on the return leg of the lap.

This section of road is lonesome, but not particularly lonely. I note four dead opossums, a dead armadillo (when did those damn things get this far north, I wonder?), a multitude of dead snakes. Turkey vultures scatter as I zoom past their feast of squashed road carnage. Freight trains pass alongside me and I’m able to keep pace – for a while – as they momentarily slow. There is a cacophony of sound as birdsong fills the air; wind rushes through boughs of freshly sprouted leaves and in the distance I hear the mournful wail of yet another train. On my final lap, with a gracious tailwind to assist, I am flying along. I pass one, and then another rider, coming from the opposite direction and fighting against the headwind. A pair of riders, and then another. They all raise a hand in recognition of a fellow cyclist – all except the last guy, decked out in tight green kit.

Dick. Too busy pretending to be a pro to wave at a fellow rider? I don’t get you and your ilk at all. (But I did like your kit.)

My vintage "Mondrian" kit.

I finished the first two laps – a distance of 19.89 miles – in a little over an hour. As the wind picked up, my speed slowed slightly and the second two laps took an hour and eleven minutes. I rested, briefly, at a softball complex, a nicely designed athletic site with numerous ponds surrounding the various ball fields, fishermen already nestled in place on their folding chairs. Most look up as I ride past them into the park, most raise a finger or tip a hat or wave an arm in a Missouri greeting. There is a tournament in progress and the parking is filled with SUVs. Disconcertingly, there are porky women all over the place, carrying coolers and lawn chairs and umbrellas, their frighteningly tight halter tops and string tops stretched to maximum capacity, dumpy loads of lard hanging pendulously from the underside of their upper arms. It’s like a coronary convention. As I take a long swig of water from my bottle, an enormous SUV trundles by, piloted by a short, piggy woman. To my disgust, a fresh Benson & Hedges is wedged purposefully between the tightly clamped lips of her vice like jaws, Men in Black-style sunglasses hide her eyes which stare straight ahead, oblivious to this beautiful day, her meaty paws clutch a tall can of PBR. It’s 10 am Sunday morning. Ironically, these people are here to watch their children participate in an athletic event.

My disgust wains as I clip in and remember I’m on my bike.

And I’m off again.

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