On the road.

I’m home tonight.

As I lounged around on the couch this evening and chewed on that thought, it occurred to me that I have slept in my own bed only six times since the first of June. Here it is, the last day in July, and I report back to work on the third of August.

Where, oh where did my summer go?

I’ve been fortunate to have had the opportunity to spend much of my school break on a bicycle saddle, and from that perch I’ve seen some splendid sights. The Shogun crossed Missouri twice and I gave some nameless Giant rental a workout through some of the highs and lows of Scotland. The Freschi logged a respectable number of Missouri and Arkansas miles, and even the PX-10 saw some summer action. And when I least expected to add a new bike to the herd, a wonderful Waterford-built Paramount found me; that particular bicycle, which tracks so perfectly and fits me like a glove, has moved into the number one road bike position in my stable. Apologies to the Cannondale, which along with some of the others have seen little or no mileage this year. It is with some degree of sadness that I have decided those bikes will need to go: my collection is comprised of riders, not wall hangers – and bikes are supposed to be ridden.

So, if the Paramount is my choice of road bike, then the Shogun gets the call when I’m touring. The P8 has become my commuter and works great for crappy weather road riding. The Freschi is, perhaps, my overall favorite – kind of the franchise player on my team. And the PX-10 is the sentimental favorite, one that I hope gets a bit more riding time than the infrequent tweed ride. The rest of them are all on the taxi squad, waiting in the wings for a player or two to get hurt so that they might get called into service.

The weather has been stiflingly hot for the past couple of weeks with no respite in sight. My early morning rides have gotten earlier and earlier and I’m frequently out the door as the sun breaks over the horizon. With temperatures of 100+ degrees, it’s not just uncomfortable to ride during the late morning and afternoon hours, it’s downright dangerous.

During my week long residency at the Kansas City Art Institute, we put in long hours and squeezing in a ride every day was a challenge. The first day there I broke a spoke on my front wheel. I’d brought along the Freschi for city riding but wound up pressing the Paramount into service for the remainder of the week. So the Paramount was already in the van when I left Kansas City for Table Rock Lake on Friday afternoon.

Along the Missouri/Arkansas border the heat was equally as oppressive so my rides over the weekend began quite early and wrapped up when the tarmac of the road became a late morning convection oven. There aren’t many choices for roads to traverse but those few are well paved and smooth, with lots of curves and plenty of hills. The climbs are often quite challenging and I welcomed the smooth shifts, low gears, and triple chainring of the Paramount.

This bike is the best climber I’ve ever ridden. I feel like I get an additional twenty percent out of my climbing efforts aboard the Paramount and I’ve yet to climb out of the saddle for any hill thus far – I have not, in fact, found a climbing limitation yet. I’m astonished at how much energy I have left in reserve following a steep incline.

One of the nice things about the roads in the Ozarks is in the way they seem to pass through small, interesting communities every five or six miles, places with unusual names like Lampe and Blue Eye, or comfortably familiar names like Maple and Oak Grove. Along the road are long, long chicken coops. The hills are steep and cows stand comically upright, seemingly at odds with the obtuse angle of the grassy slopes. Dogs lay at the end of gravel driveways, sometimes raising an uninterested eye as I roll past and occasionally rousing themselves up to give spirited pursuit. One passes through forest at times, but the rural landscape is mostly agricultural: too rocky for crops other than hay, the land is given over to cows and hogs and chickens – but mostly cows. The small towns have small stores and small post offices and small schools, but little else – including cell phone coverage! (But that’s ok. I rarely use my cell phone for anything other than as an “opportunity camera” on these rides anyway.)

So I’m home again. Perhaps I’ll be able to get back into a normal, more predictable routine. Perhaps the weather will cooperate, drop a few degrees, and allow me to comfortably commute to work. And certainly I’ll begin, once again, to look forward to the days when I get to ride at my leisure, whenever I want … next summer.


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