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Archive for September, 2012

Husband Tom, BFF Sharry, on an Adventure Cycling trip in Idaho

While I love my cycling partners—my best friend, my husband—and even like them most of the time, there is something to be said for biking alone, even on long journeys.

There is the zone, the long silence of the mind when the rhythms of the body dominate and the pounding of the blood has only birdsong or traffic noise for accompaniment. There is the freeing sense of having only yourself to care for, feed, entertain, encourage. There is the ease of your natural cadence, unencumbered by someone slower, unpressured by someone faster. And there is the satisfaction that comes from meeting challenges on your own terms, conquering them unaided, unsupported except by the memory of your friend’s parting encouragement.

Finding my silent cadence

My first ride up Thompson Pass was one such challenge.  One of the local doctors had committed suicide, a shock to the community. He was famous and notorious there, loved and hated, a man of extremes. White water rafter and author, fanatic cross-country skier and ice climber, he was a disciple of the “quit your whining” school of medicine. His memorial service was crowded and more than 20 people spoke. What moved me that day was Joe Roth, Andy’s friend and fellow physician. “It’s a rare beautiful day in Valdez. What the hell are you doing indoors? Get out there and challenge yourself—Andy would want that.”

I walked out of the civic center high on his missioning.  I’d been riding my bike again after a long hiatus, training for a tour. I had nothing to prove, or so I told myself whenever a friend wanted me to ride Thompson Pass with her. Truth? I was afraid of it. What if I don’t make it? How would that look to my friend, as she powered past me? What if I wanted to turn around midway? Then boom, Andy and Joe kicked my ass and I went home to get my bike.

My only choice for that first attempt was to ride alone. No pressure, no expectations, no responsibility except to myself. No conversation to rob my breath. I took the scenic route around Blueberry Lake, running into some climbers who had taken Joe’s message to heart also. I stopped to watch for a while, then slogged on up the final stretch.

At last

2678–the magic number.  2678–the summit of Thompson Pass at mile 25.5 on the Richardson Highway. Nine miles of 7% grade, another four of flatter stuff before that. It might as well have been Everest for the elation I felt. And the long downhill run after. No brakes, all smiles and cold sweatiness. What the hell had I been doing indoors?

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I am caught off guard, over and over, by the stunning beauty of the place I live in.

It’s the end of the season, my favorite time of year when every green leaf changes into its holiday clothing; scarlet, gold, pumpkin orange adorn every field, forest and glade. Sandhill cranes, Canada and snow geese, black-capped chickadees, ravens and magpies join in a rollicking, avian version of “On the Wing Again”, and my heart leaps into the air with them. I want to GO!

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