The Winding Road

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I’m ready for Spring. I’m ready for some packed dirt trails, some single-track goodness. I am mildly amused at this stirring of skeletons (or bikes) in my closet. Padded shorts and jerseys and helmets galore. Bike tubes of all sizes, computers, hex wrenches … Say no more!

Recently friends decided to ride the RAGBRAI, a 400-600 mile bicycle ride across Iowa, and borrowed my road bike in order to do so. What a delight to see my good buddy, a Cannondale R3, put in a few more miles! It was with terrific enthusiasm that I pulled out all kinds of gear for my friends to put to use. Road riding doesn’t appeal to me like it used to. After about six years of rather aggressive riding in Michigan, I reached my personal best. I put my road bike on the rack several years ago. Single track still interests me a great deal, and I’ll likely pursue that, however humbly, for the rest of my life.

Though I’m a new cyclist to this area, I’m going to look into the Midwest Cycling Community in the next couple of months. I had some work done by High Gear in August, and they did a great job rehabbing my knobby kneed mountain bike. That ride simply needs to be replaced. But, if you have a minute, check out the work being done by THOR and some of the trails they highlight! They are much more difficult than any I’ve ridden but they’re beautiful, and their work is a credit toward maintaining our natural resources.

Anyone who encountered me during my road riding years knows how passionate I was about riding. I loved it! I loved being outdoors and always came away refreshed, if I hadn’t put myself in the ER as a result of forgetting to hydrate! I loved being so physically disciplined, and able to push myself to reach different goals. I didn’t mind having a rock solid physique either, but there were always people who were thinner, more disciplined, more energetic. I never competed with other people. My fierce competition was to ride more efficiently, go further faster than I did the last ride.

One of my favorite stretches of road is up in northern Michigan, near Harbor Springs. It’s along Route M-119. It’s known to cyclists and tourists as The Tunnel of Trees. It’s a winding, hilly, breathtakingly beautiful single-lane highway that overlooks Lake Michigan. Year after year, I would join a thousand or so riders for the DALMAC, a 400 mile ride which occurs on Labor Day weekend. That stretch of road has curvy hills which spiral downward and, if ridden well, a decent cyclist can reach 40-44 mph. All I remember thinking was that there was nothing between my face, the gravelly pavement, and an oncoming car, should I miscalculate. And yet, I never did wipe out …not there, at least. Part of the beauty had to be in the realization that I’d just ridden 350 miles and I was on the homeward stretch to the Mackinac Bridge. There’s been no substitute for salty sweat running into my eyes, the rain hitting my face, oftentimes blistering heat and a few tears all swirling beneath my Raybans nearly blinding my ride…and then realizing that all is right with the world. That’s a passion! It’s also contentment amid the most trying of circumstances. It’s being able to rest, even though you are exhausted, usually soaking wet from the rain. When you ride you are either on fire, cold or freezing but never, ever just right.

I’ve reserved some of my more earthy stories for another day. But remember this… find something that you are passionate about, and do it. Find a stretch of road that takes your breath away, and ride it. Give yourself fully to your sport, your craft. Don’t be afraid to shed a few tears or a few gallons of sweat in order to see your dream come true!

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