Sometimes I lie awake in bed at night, hoping against hope for the dawn to bring a morning as beautiful as this day’s morn. As the light was just beginning to peek over the horizon and through the trees, cycling shorts were pulled on, the Paramount was rolled to the drive, gloves were stretched across splayed fingers… and I was off and down the road.
Ten minutes from the house is a building with golden arches gracing the front. Although I despise McDonald’s, it’s Sunday morning and nothing else is open in this direction; I won’t allow Ronald and his ilk to darken my mood so a fast food breakfast is ordered and consumed, the water bottle is filled with crushed ice. Stop and then go.
I ride west at first, with the rising sun at my back. The road is flat for now, but will soon give way to rolling hills. As I peddle out of town, riding through neighborhoods of new homes, runners are beginning to fill the sidewalks. Chubby wives bounce along, huffing and puffing; most wave as I ride past and I return the gesture. I’m warming up now and the slight rise in the road feels good and I chug forward, clicking into a higher gear, and then a higher gear again. Golfers to my left; horses to my right. Nary a bicycle in site and before long even the pudgy joggers are just a memory.
A series of tall hills comes into view, the road before me rolling up and down like an amusement park ride. Pausing for a long swig of icy water, an elderly man and his wife stroll by and then stop to chat.
“Iss riding far?” he asks in an accent that I cannot quite place. I respond that I really don’t know how far I’ll ride today, carefully enunciating each syllable in case his English is shaky. His wife notices my jersey, which I got in Scotland this past summer and wants to know if I rode on the Isle of Skye. I reply in the affirmative.
“You see race in Colorado? Top three Tour riders compete there… two are my countrymen!”
His face lights up when I say, “Ahhh! You mean the Schleck brothers… I have a good idea what country you’re from!”
Before we part, he confides to me, “I vass once a racer many years ago.” I wish now that I’d found out more about him.Stop and then go.
I’m enjoying myself. Without a thought for the time, I turn down roads I’ve never been on before. Dead ends are simply a turnaround point for investigating the next mysterious turn down the road. As the rural miles begin to merge into a more industrialized setting, I ride along the length of the Ford plant in Claycomo, Missouri. Thousands of cars are in the lot of a factory churning out thousands of trucks. Waving at a security guard it strikes me that he must think a cyclist is a real anachronism. As if in answer to this idea, a man peddles up to the gate from the opposite direction. Bungie cords hold a lunch box firmly to the rear rack on his mountain bike and I’m momentarily distracted by the ironic sight of a bicycle commuter heading in to work at the Ford plant.
My water is no longer icy; in fact it’s rather tepid. A few miles further on I pull up to a convenience store and replenish my ice. Stop and then go.
I’m back in town now, debating whether to dog leg south and ride a familiar route of river bottom highway. My stomach begins to rumble; there are no places to eat south of my position and my decision is made: turning back toward the town square, I go in search of a late morning refueling.
I can never force myself to bypass the historic Liberty Square. For one thing, my studio used to be located here and so it’s a little bit like home. For another, it’s an interesting place, with lots of interesting little boutique stores and eateries.
Just off the square is Ginger Sue’s. The proprietors are a young, athletic couple who sling a healthier version of hash during the breakfast and lunch hours. They also look as though they run marathons all the rest of the day. The menu has lots of carb-loading, energy-packed items but I love whatever magic it is they do to breakfast potatoes. While I await my sausage links and magic potatoes, a pair of cyclists come in and grab a table. They, and I, are kitted out in cycling gear; we nod at one another in recognition of fellow riders.
Bagging my leftover potatoes, I give a final wave to comrades of the road and head outside to my bike. As I secure the small plastic bag to my water bottle, I notice that the other riders were also on vintage bikes; the one next to mine in the bike rack is a Bridgestone touring bike. Maybe should’ve taken a moment to talk shop I suppose. Oh well, life seems to be a series of missed opportunities this morning, but I’m on a quest, I decide.
I just have no idea what the quest is in search of… or maybe I really do.
I turn my bike in the general direction of home. Stop and then go.