It finally happened: summer has returned to upstate New York. Riding a wave of heat and humidity, it arrived in full bloom this weekend. Ah, there’s nothing like that first bike ride in the stuff. Fragrances abound, cotton fluffies stick to your face and your breath gets hot. Huh?
In 1977, when I started riding in hilly Pittsburgh (finest city on the planet), my cycling club looked forward to those occasional centuries in (comparatively) flat Ohio. We yearned for the chance to just sit up and cruise effortlessly for 100 miles. And so it was that I found myself in the company of Dave, his son, Larry, and Henry, riding the roads in Ohio on a particularly warm July day.
Thinking back on it, Henry was organic when organic was just an adjective that described chemistry. Rumor had it he lived in a tent in his backyard, eschewing the comforts of indoor living until the weather drove him to it. He was a vegetarian, lean and sinewy, with a peculiar bow-leggedness that came from who knows where. He didn’t own a car, relying instead on his bike and friends when he needed to get somewhere.
We finished the ride happy but fried. I had to admit it was a luxury to climb into Dave’s air conditioned behemoth to drive back to the Burgh. (Don’t get bent out of shape — this was 30 years ago!) Dave conked out in the front seat, leaving the wheel to Larry, his 17 year old, who relished the job at hand.
Corn fields whizzed past in the late afternoon sun and Henry put his hand to his mouth and blew gently on it. He smiled and told me to do the same. “Hot, isn’t it?” he said. Yeah, amazingly so. I was surprised. He smiled again and looked out the window.
A cyclist in reasonable condition can tolerate a core temperature of almost 101 degrees with no ill effects. Hot breath is just one of nature’s ways of blowing off a little heat. To Henry, it was the merit badge of another perfect cycling adventure. Enjoy these days while we have them!