I climb (post-massage) into a waiting bus and we head back to Manhattan. You notice I did not say post-shower. My shoes and calves (I wore knickers) are studded with road sand. Not exactly sand, not exactly oil. The worst aspects of both. But I am flying, way beyond caring.
Meanwhile, the conversation behind me is too spellbinding to sleep through. One of the conversationalists, who lives in Alaska, cycled the 150 miles from Manhattan today. Says he used to be a runner but is now missing some leg strength, after having accidentally come across a mama grisly bear and her four cubs on a casual hike. He yelled to scare her, but that just pissed her off. He pulls up his biking pants and shows us the damage to his thigh (yes, there is muscle missing). Then takes out his phone and shows us the hospital photos: five claw marks an inch deep - and four inches long - cover his entire chest, cutting into within centimeters of his heart. How did he survive? Making a tourniquet from his shirt around his leg. How did he get help? Slid down the mountain until he could get cell service. This was a year ago.
Well, I've just ridden 70 miles, which for a New York babe of a certain age is kind of impressive. But that doesn't really compare to an adventure like this. And tomorrow, he climbs 1 World Trade. Sigh.
There are extremists in every field. There are always people who will be more involved, do it better, do it longer; people who build their life around an activity. It's pure obsession. And if you want to find obsessives, you will definitely meet them cycling.
Still, I am pleased.
This month marks an anniversary of sorts. May 8th, I bought Lucille, and walked her home from the shop, too uncertain to ride her yet. May 15th, I took my first ride in Central Park - and (according to my blog entry, which seems like ages ago) walked her half-way up Harlem Hill, proud to have gotten that far. Just a year later, I've done 70 miles in one day. Well alright!
Next day I am still basking. I get on the subway to pick up Lola at the designated place, and see a guy in the station with a road bike sporting the unmistakable Montauk necklace. We chat. He's just picked up his bike from the corrals on 33rd Street. He did the 108 mile ride (maybe longer cause he got lost for awhile). The feeling of community is particularly strong this morning with the Montauk riders. We all experienced the rain, the exhaustion, the beauty - and the distances.
Meanwhile, what do I do with Lola? Last time I saw her, she looked like this:
As I'm leaving, J calls out to me. "You know, you've opened a Pandora's Box with this right? Now you're going to have to do longer and longer rides."
Is that what life will be like? Will I join the obsessives, become a "Century Rider," and measure life by the mile? I ponder this on the walk home. Just where I fit into bike culture, I'm still finding out. It's only been a year.
But I don't have to have the answer now. For now, I have two great bikes. For now, I can just bask in the afterglow of the Montauk ride. It was rainy. It was long. But you know what? It was kind of wonderful.