Leaving my house, I turn out of my neighborhood and onto a lightly traveled, recently chip-sealed suburban road which makes me really appreciate the comfort of wider tires and a compliant frame. Within a mile, it’s decision time. Continue straight on a flat-ish route or turn right up a small hill. Wondering whether a recent week of riding on pan flat roads in Maryland has made me an even worse climber than usual, I decide to take the chance. With a flick of the handlebars, right it is. If I’m lucky, I’ll hear Paul Sherwen’s voice in my head, “digging into her suitcase of pain.” Without luck, I’ll hear something along the lines of “no power in the engine room.” But today I’m lucky! Up and over.
From there, I pick up a convenient four-way stop at a usually busy road which will lead me out into a more rural setting. But since today is Sunday, there are very few cars and I feel as though I have the road to myself. A few more miles of pedaling and I’m surrounded by corn and soybean fields. And let’s not forget the flora. What better time than fall to enjoy the muted colors of hawkweed and aster — New York and New England.
My halfway stop is a small park. This time of year, it’s the home base for school football games, but today it’s deserted. Just me and a handful of American crows. They put up with my poor imitation of their near cousin, the fish crow. Overhead, a line of Canada geese chime in just for good measure. Perfect entertainment while I enjoy some snacks.
By now, the sun is high and my wind vest and long sleeve base layer are no longer necessary. Since it’s just me and the crows, I have no inhibitions about shedding the base layer while exposing a little flesh. Ah, that feels better. The wind vest folds neatly into my jersey pocket and the base layer just makes it into a very tiny handlebar bag.
The second half of the ride rolls a bit more. For a seemingly long north to south slog, I’m on yet another chip-sealed road. I don’t know why, but there’s always a nagging head wind on this road. Always. That, combined with the roll and the rough surface, gives it a heavy feel. I can never seem to find a rhythm that suits me.
But it soon ends, and I turn onto a delightful road that runs along a ridge, winding past old farms and houses. Eventually, it flows downhill over a small emerald green stream and leads me to the finishing stretch. Another uphill, but this one very, very gradual with unfolding panoramic views of verdant farm fields. Open space at its best.
If every ride can’t end with a tailwind, then I’ll take a downhill, and so it is with this ride. There’s no feeling quite like swooshing onto my street, thoroughly exhilarated, hungry and ready for a mellow afternoon catching up on cycling news. What would have happened in the Vuelta if Sky had decided to support Froome instead of Wiggins? Today, that’s about as complicated as life is going to get. Long live the bike!