The Bikin' Fools


Middle of the Road


Sometimes the motivation just isn’t there. It can take a heroic effort to get the bike out, mount the thing and start pedaling. More often than not, the experience quickly becomes self-sustaining. Once slightly warmed up, the body responds with an overlay of generally good feelings. The only issue after starting the ride is how much to do and where to go.

The other day I was somewhat in a funk, but wanted to get out on a bike. I selected my old touring bike with the distant notion of going to Middletown. This ride is 17 miles and about 2000 feet of climbing. The return is still 17 miles, but has only about 1200 feet of climb. As I started up the Old Toll road, I was already beginning to think of an alternative. 34 miles and nearly 4000 feet of climbing seemed a bit much.

I dutifully processed the Toll road. This part of the ride is delightfully out in the sticks and sees virtually no traffic. The views are awesome. The climb is steep but shorter than going on Highway 29. I was a little surprised when I found myself at the top of the Toll road and about way up the mountain. I reasoned that I could deal with the rush hour traffic and proceeded on the highway. That was about the only mistake I made. The traffic was unrelenting. On this road one must either accept that mayhem is close at hand, or pay such close attention that it becomes tedious and distracting. The good news is that this part of the road is only a couple of miles long. At the top of the terrain, a cyclist can rip with traffic downhill and not feel so vulnerable.

As I approached the top of the hill, I decided that it would be OK to quit right there. To get to the top of the climb is a notable feat unto itself. It is a great workout. But I made the mistake of looking at my time thus far. Holy Mackeral! I had made it to the top in 50 minutes (good for me). The sun was getting low in the evening sky and the likelihood that I could make it to M-town and back before dark was sketchy. But something inside called to press on. To make it to M-town in less than 75 minutes is an accomplishment. I rocketed down the hill and thus sealed my fate. It is "all downhill" though it levels considerably for the last five miles.

I was able to maintain an easy 25 mph for the last miles into M-town. I stopped at Perry’s Deli for a groovy drink, sat for a minute then contemplated the return to Calistoga. There was no longer any decision making to be done. I had only to journey back to home knowing that this ride would earn a ticket to sleep well that night. More than that it represented a huge victory over lethargy and the inertia that keeps one from moving. It is easy to ride when you feel like it, it is not so easy to venture out when the mind, body and spirit are stuck in low gear.

The greatest rewards from cycling will not come from those glory runs, but from the rides that started from the pits of low energy, gained strength and went on to complete a decent ride. The sport can truly be transforming, but you must be the hero that starts the ball rolling. That is the hardest part. But once rolling the sport is generous with gifts of physical well being, mental cleansing and spiritual rejuvenation.

Dang, sounds good, but I really feel like taking a nap...