Sunday, October 3, 2010


(Photo: Fresh off the MoPac with 20.4 miles under our belts and awesome helmet hair)

"Yeah, I get by with a little help from my friends."

Fighting a cold for most of the week, I decided to bail on my long-anticipated return to Shelf Road for what can only be described as a climbing and beer extravaganza. It was hard to let go of the dream, particularly after scoring a freakishly good deal on a sleeping bag earlier in the summer and amassing my own gear. My maternal instincts directed inward, I decided that the trip (however fun) would be too much. I didn't want to get sicker on the road, or experience sleeping in a tent with lows hovering in the 30s when I just didn't feel good. Whiny? Probably. But when you've got a comps portfolio to work on, a demanding teaching schedule, and three major projects looming above your head, it pays to be cautious. I can't afford to get so sick I have to delay deadlines.

By Friday night, I was feeling much better and decided to try to round up a group for a ride out to Eagle, Nebraska on the MoPac trail. Three of my friends joined me, and I think we couldn't have asked for a better day. WIth the high hovering at 65, with a crisp fall breeze to our backs (except one brutal stretch two miles outside of Eagle when the wind was angry and in our face), and with great joy, we tackled the trail.

Since moving in June, I've been a real bike commuter. I barrel down busy streets like a bike messenger wannabe. I wear my cycling clothes to handle weather and pack my work outfits in a saddle bag. It's easy for me to rack up 15 - 20 miles of riding each week as I work and play. On the weekends, I like to take on a long ride to clear out the cobwebs. I usually listen to music while mulling my week, thinking through difficulties of the heart, and just enjoying the simple act of moving and breathing.

Until this weekend, riding has always been a solitary, meditative act for me. On occasion, my son would join and we'd ride out on the MoPac so he could tell me stories. He moved to California a month ago, and I miss him. This, now that I think about it, is probably what urged me to ask my friends to go on a ride. It's all too easy for me to remain comfortably within my own insular existence, to do my own thing and go my own way. I'm glad I didn't do that this weekend.

I've been feeling a bit disappointed in the workings of my own body lately. My metabolism has slowed, making weight loss difficult. Turning forty, it turns out, is like hitting a caloric brick wall. Just this month, I added circuit training to my weekly routine three times each week to increase my activity while building muscle - muscles that will (Lord willing) burn fuel. When I woke Saturday, I tried to push this frustration from my mind. I was marginally successful.

I'd be lying if I said I wasn't missing the Colorado crew and the climbing opportunity. Since my first trip to Shelf, I've wanted to go back just to prove I could top a rock route and enjoy the view. I also miss the Boulder gang very much - I think about them every day. Getting out with Lincoln friends helped to assuage my feelings of disappointment that I didn't go to Colorado. As we loaded bikes into the back of a truck, as we all joked and teased each other, it felt good to be with my Lincoln crew, to be together doing something outside of our bimonthly beer binges.

Out on the trail, riding the crushed gravel trail covered in fallen leaves, the scent of fall aroused my senses. I love the smoky, earthy tones of autumn, the crisp air, and the colors that seem to burst forth from tired trees and trail-side plants. As we rushed past thistles topped with cotton and farmers' fields turned to golden rest, it felt damn good to be alive. Though two-thirds of the route to Eagle is a steady uphill grade that burns the thighs, I was still grinning like a village idiot. As I pedaled, I found my thoughts wandering through my memories; through the years before I discovered just how fantastic my Trek I named Old Blue is, and how much fuller my life has been since I shambled into the bike store and laid down some cash.

Life on a bike, I think, takes me back as it brings me forward. That's why I like it. I'm at once the best parts of childhood and my grown-up life, wheels turning, spokes shining, pedals moving ... it's glorious, this biking thing.

After we descended upon the bustling main drag of Eagle, we stood in front of the One Eyed Dog bar and ate our snacks. I chomped down a Kashi bar and a navel orange. A friend ate some yogurt and an apple. We rehydrated then made the mad ten-mile rush back to the trail head. As I rode ahead, I felt the weeks of commuting had paid off. I wasn't overly tired. I didn't feel as though I wanted to give up, either. Instead, I felt very efficient and relaxed - cycling nirvana.

The day itself was full of laughter and smiles. We ate together at a local pizzeria, then headed to my house so the gang could meet Scooter, my 9-week old kitten and P'UP mascot. When everyone had gone and I was alone in my apartment with Scooter purring on my lap, I felt very lucky. Somehow, despite all my poor choices, I've ended up with good friends in two states. And though a part of me still wished I'd gone to climb in Colorado, it was the selfish part - the one who wants everything right away, in an instant. There will be other trips, other climbs. I miss those special people, but even as I do I know they would have been very proud of me had they seen the gang and I on the trail, living our lives, in and on cycles.