I plan well in advance and keep a strict schedule of 5am wake times the week before. The day before is all about the ride: a new bicycle seat*, seat post adjustment, pumping tires, new handle bar stem to bring flat bars closer, shopping for food – I’m celiac so I generally have to take care of myself on these rides – and shopping for clothing, which is in the experimental phase for me as a cold-weather-riding newbie.
At 6pm, I notice my adenoids acting up. Uh-Oh. This is never a good sign. It means a cold or worse is on the way, and I never sleep well the first night of a cold. I gargle, take Emergence C and hope for the best. I can always bail.
By 7:30pm I am packed for the ride. I take a chip of Attavan and get into bed by 8. Two hours later, my eye lids pop open like a flapping shade, and I know my sleep is over. I read till Midnight, text L with regrets and turn off my 3am alarm. Damn!
At 4:15, my eyes open cautiously. I look at the clock and begin to calculate – I’m only 10 blocks away (the meet up point is at 33rd between 11th and 12th Aves). I’m already packed (Will I forgive myself if I miss this?). Did I sleep enough? (I think so). Am I sick or getting better? And what if it’s only allergies? That last thought gets me bounding out of bed. I pill one cat, feed them both, shower, grab my backpack, helmet and Janet and am out the door by 4:30. If I miss the ride it won’t be for lack of trying. Janet and I barrel up 8th Avenue at break neck speed and arrive with time to spare.
Lots of time as it turns out. I could have stayed in bed another two hours. By the time the bikes are all stowed, the caravan doesn’t hit the road till 7.
Ah well. This gives me an opportunity to text L of my arrival, and get to know my seat mates. They are: a group of 4 female Tri-Athletes in their 20s and by coincidence, a woman I had met at Paragon Sports the night before, as we tried to anticipate the correct clothing for the ride. The Tri-Athletes already know each other – one of them is doing the “Iron Man,” training - and immediately resume what seems to be a continuing and involved conversation about fitness, and training. They show no signs of coming up for air.
Ah, to be young and self absorbed. I can’t say I was any different at their age (though not in that kind of shape I can tell you). During the course of their conversation my mind drifts off and I opt to talk to the driver.
We fall into a conversation about 9/11 and he turns out to have been a first responder. He tells me a horrific tale of being both sheltered and trapped under his ambulance as the first tower came down, not freed until rescuers heard his banging 8 hours later. As we talk, the Tri-Athletes have not stopped for breath in their conversation. Unbeknownst to me, My Paragon friend is listening spellbound from the back of the van.
The ride is easy, and we see lots of cars with multiple bike racks en route to join us. We arrive at Bard College. First stop, well you can guess:
That said, Bard is the most beautiful college campus I have ever seen.
We have maps:
As for the weather. You can check it 100 times before leaving, but until you’re in it, you just can’t know what it’s like. The forecast is for a temperature of 55 with a feel of 47. I’m not quite sure what that means, but take my best guess with a wool sweater, light down vest, windbreaker and full-finger gloves. I wear bicycle pants, but they are knickers left over from my Summer Loire Valley trip and only go mid calf. Fortunately, I locate a pair of leg warmers to cover the difference.
Ultimately, the three of us have all dressed just right. Which isn’t true for everyone. My Paragon friend is cold (you warm up when you ride at least), but there is another rider who is completely unprepared and has actually shown up in shorts and a T-shirt – which wouldn’t have been adequate back in NYCity for heavens sake. L loans him a shirt which out of desperation, he never even contacts her about returning.
The ride itself is glorious. We ride past towns and beautiful houses.
It's approaching Halloween though, and some of the locals are already in the spirit.
The roads are smooth, the colors gorgeous, the hills gentle and rolling. But they would have been neither with Lucille.
Hills like this:
But a confession here: even with the indomitable Janet, I walk part way up the final “killer” hill. After 40 or so miles, I have used up my reserves. If I had met this hill right off, I would have made it. But by now I am running on fumes. I can tell L is surprised (and a little disappointed).
I’m disappointed too for awhile, But later, I think - I can improve in this area! Part of riding endurance (I’ve learned from Fiend’s Hill) is knowing your adversary: what to expect. Becoming familiar with obstacles that may occur. And as much as physical, part of training is mental: widening your approach as to what you may encounter, and gradually allowing it to expand. I bet those Tri-Athletes could have told me plenty about that, if I’d had the sense to ask. Well, you can’t talk to everybody I guess.
There are still some bugs to be worked out with Janet too – that’s what this ride is about really. I’m still getting used to her gearing and to terms like “cross chaining” (which I catch myself doing a few times), not even in Lucille’s vocabulary. I lose my chain once (my fault of course), but now know how to recover it. The flat bars need an angle adjustment, the front derailer gear is increasingly difficult to shift for some reason. But all in all, a great start. And I can’t say enough about the Selle Lady Saddle. By the end of a 50 mile ride, there are sore spots but - ahem - not “there.”
We miss the 3pm return van due to our late start, but a quick dinner is included, after which I hop on the 5pm van, hoping I will be able to sit with the same driver, but he must have driven the earlier route. We cross one last landmark which the 100 milers rode, this amazing bridge.
I luck out, and when we arrive back at the starting point, Janet is the first bike off the truck. I’m in no mood for a bike ride at this point, but that’s where Janet is not Lucille - no taxis for us. No complaints however. We hi-tail it home along the greenway and arrive exactly 12 hours after we began our ride at the Gehry building.
Next day, my cold does materialize – it wasn’t allergies after all, I'm rather glad to know - it's a real cold. But after that 50 mile ride in Annandale? It’s nothing.
*Selle SMP Women's TRK Lady Saddle.