Veteran’s Day Weekend Ride

Veteran’s Day weekend and it’s 70 degrees? Unheard of! This is supposed to be November — but what the hell, I decided to try and ride the rubber off my Paramount today. Despite the wicked head and crosswinds that quickly emerged after only about fifteen miles, I had sort of mentally committed to logging in a century today.

Roughly calculating in my head (which is far from a precision instrument, let me assure you!) I figured the distance to Smithville Lake to be around 25-ish miles, another 40-ish miles for the round trip on the various paths around the lake, and then the twenty-five or so back home again.

Dammit, I thought, I’m going to come up short of my goal.

I hoped that by taking all of the various side paths along the lake trail that I might add enough extra miles on to nail the century. The trail around Smithville Lake is simply terrific, with a fair number of side paths, great views all year round, and a more than moderately smooth paved riding surface. Relatively flat, but with enough rises and falls to keep the ride interesting, this hiking and biking trail is a people magnet in the spring and summer. Today — and especially early on a Sunday morning here just north of the Bible Belt — I have the trail all to myself.

I love flying down a descent, autumn leaves crunching in my wake, and then zipping around a couple of tight turns immediately at the bottom of the slope. It’s far from technical riding, but it feels good, and with literally no one else using the remote side paths I can safely careen along with reckless abandon. Within minutes of hitting the trail I’ve stopped checking my computer for mileage and speed and time: I’m lost in the exhilaration of the moment.

Early morning shadows reach across the tarmac of the path, blanketing the surface with all manner of organic shapes. My thoughts, as I ride, wander and I begin to plan out my lessons for the week. I make a mental list of people I want to include as panelists for my student’s semester portfolio review. I begin to consider ideas for an anniversary gift; the date is, after all, less than a week away. Poetry, of all things, crosses my mind, as does a favorite line from a book I haven’t picked up in years. A squirrel, huge and fluffy and red, dashes under my front wheel, narrowly averting a sudden demise by the slimmest of margins. My heart skips three or four beats as I automatically slow. In my mirror I see that he’s safe and in the leaves beside the path, cheekily standing up on two legs, chitting furiously and scolding me for scaring the hell out of him. We both have soiled britches, it seems!

Completing the out-and-back of the trail, I pull out off the path and into the trail head parking lot. It was empty when I arrived but there are now a dozen cars; people unload mountain bikes and heavy commuters. A glance at my computer confirms that I will just miss logging a century on this ride, so I ignore it and pull out of the lot and into the head wind, pointing my bike roughly in the direction of home.

After a quick bite, I discovered I still felt somewhat fresh. I put away the Paramount and got out my Bob Jackson for a short tour to the historic Liberty Square, figuring I'd get in the last couple of miles needed to legitimately say I'd completed a century today. Being Veteran's Day weekend, it seemed fitting to stop for a moment to acknowledge the memorial to WWI vets on the square. Made me think of Dad and Uncle George and Uncle Ralph for a moment.

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