Another bike trip across the country

February 17, 2017

Two Fridays from now I’ll be in San Diego getting ready for my next bike trip across the country. The following Monday, we start riding.



This trip is different than my Northern Trip solo trip. It’s a “we” trip. I will be one of two co-leaders with thirteen paid participants leading a van-supported trip from the Pacific to the Atlantic, ending in St. Augustine, Florida. For me it will be my debut performance as an Adventure Cycling leader. I am very excited.

Here are some trip logistics:

  • Follows the Southern Tier, Adventure Cycling’s southern most cross-country route for 58 days of riding.
  • 3054 miles through CA, AZ, NM, TX (lots of it), LA, MI, AL, FL (over 1100 miles shorter than on the Northern Tier)
  • Major cities we pass through: San Diego, Phoenix, Las Cruces, El Paso, Austin, New Orleans, Tallahassee, Gainesville (FL) and then St. Augustine.
  • My co-leader Jared and I will swap off cycling and driving the van each day.
  • We camp about 80% of the time.
  • Twelve of the participants are older than me, 59-71. One is younger at 54. Jared, my co-leader is in his early 40s.

Adventure Cycling’s bike tours are not high-end luxury bike tours. They are more about giving the participants a real outdoor cycling adventure. The leaders are facilitators who share the trip with the riders. We all share in cooking. It’s about letting the riders have their own experience and helping it be an awesome one, letting them figure things out, and only stepping in when needed to get things moving forward or keeping everyone safe and happy.


I will use this set-up for the trip. I will be not be carrying all my gear this time but will use the front two panniers for things like my rain gear, on-the-road food, and a first-aid kit. Many of the riders will be on a road bike. 

I have been a bit anxious about taking this all on but am feeling more relaxed and confident as the take-off date approaches. Physically, I feel in good shape. Leading this trip has been an excellent motivator to get me out riding and to the gym. I’m riding up to 150 miles in a week. So, I can check that one off in terms of being prepared. Thanks to my 2015 Northern Tier trip, I feel fine about the camping and equipment. I’ve continued volunteering at BikeAthens and though I am far from an expert bike mechanic, I have a much better sense of how to fiddle with bike parts to get things running smoothly. In the last couple of weeks, I’ve replaced a bottom bracket, repacked a pedal, replaced a shifter cable, and adjusted a back derailleur. As I said to Richard, I have a much deeper understanding about just how many small subtle things can affect gear shifting.

As ACA leaders on their “epic trips,” we work up the itinerary as well using notes from previous tours so I have been working on that a bunch too. I have more time than Jared, who actually works a job, to explore the route and am enjoying do so. As a novice tour leader, investigating the overnight stops has ended up being another task that makes me feel more confident going into the trip.

The big difference on this trip, of course, is that I will be part of a group in a leader role, meaning I can’t be the one to grouch or whine. In the Adventure Cycling leadership training (excellent program), much of the focus is on group dynamics. Makes sense. I’m hoping that my years teaching and being in an administrative position will work to my advantage. A couple of weeks ago, Jared and I split of the list of riders and called them all. I spent almost an hour speaking with each one. I got off the phone feeling very positive about my fellow riders. They were not reluctant students forced to take a writing course or overwhelmed faculty members or bullying upper administrators.

A few people have asked me if I will be writing a blog about the trip. Assuming that I have time, I will post, but I will not have a goal of posting everyday. Plus,  the format/tone will, I assume, be different since I will be leading the tour and this blog is an open public one.

One thing is certain – that preparing for this trip has provided some distraction from what’s happening with our 45th president.  And what’s happening in DC has alleviated any existential angst I have about life after retirement. For the time being, life will be a combination of fighting back, riding my bike, and being there for family and friends.


Thanks, Richard, for being such a supportive spouse. 





Posted in Bike riding, Bike touring, life transition, Travel | Tagged , , | 12 Comments

Riding solo on a sunny, cold December Saturday.

Riding along a winter day, an almost 30-mile loop into town and then east to Winterville and back home off College Station. What I like is that riding alone, you can feel strong, even when you probably wouldn’t feel the same riding with others, especially if your others are like my others.

Back in late October, I got a nightly fever that didn’t go away for over three weeks. The cause was an overactive thyroid, which caused some other symptoms that limited my activity level. In the end, I should be back with a normal-acting thyroid and much wiser about how a thyroid controls lots of operating systems in the body.

Now, though, I have to work a little extra hard on getting my body ready for my debut Adventure Cycling leader experience at the start of March, another cross-country ride.  So, at the start of this month, I got the bike out again and tested my body out. After some shorter rides and days at the gym, I worked up to my ride today.

How do I gauge strength — riding up long hills and not thinking about them at all. My eyes look around, my mind follows some thread, and then I notice that I’ve gotten to the end of the hill. There’s no thinking about my legs and my breath and how I don’t have enough strength in either area. My strength today was not gauged by my average speed or how I was keeping up with others. I left my bike computer at home and rode solo on this perfect winter riding day. There were no comparisons. How much easier that makes life on the bike…and off.

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My October Sweet Spot

In Georgia, October is a sweet spot.  The temperatures are finally cool enough that being outside during the day is not an accomplishment in heat endurance. I put my bathrobe andimg_7202 warm slippers on in the morning and wear shorts in the afternoon. There is day after day of blue sky with green trees changing color day by day.

And for me, this October 2016 is a sweet spot personally. It’s been a little over a year since I returned from my cross-country bike trip and four months more than that since I retired from thirty-one years in higher education. It has taken me all that time to relax into being retired from Athens Tech. Last fall, I was anxious about how I was going to live the rest of my life. This fall I have a rhythm that isn’t based on an academic year, and that doesn’t demand that I have a plan for the rest of my years.

img_7197Yesterday, I got up around 8 AM and made myself a cappuccino. (Since our trip to Sicily and Morocco, I’ve stopped drinking regular coffee and taken the little espresso maker out of the cabinet for everyday use. Espresso has less acidic. The foamed milk is an everyday treat.) I read another section of the Sunday New York Times before moving upstairs to my office where I continued writing up my blog into a book manuscript, something I started in the spring but then paused over the summer of daughters and wedding celebrations. Yesterday it was Fourth of July in Gackle, North Dakota, something that involved not only memories but online research to know better the places I passed through and the people I met.

Around 1 PM, I had accomplished my writing goal for the day and did a few chores around the house, putting up clothes folded the night before, sweeping and quick-mopping the kitchen floor, and doing the picking up that makes the house feel calmer to be in. Then it was off to the outside world. I rode my Salsa bike up to the Omni for a lower-body workout, smiles of hello with the young dark-haired woman at the desk who checks me in and Jamal, the manager who was my student sometime in the last decade.

Afterward, I eat my hard-boiled egg that I had waiting in my bike bag as a snack and ride downtown on Barnett Shoals onto busy Lexington Highway and then off on a short stretch of the Greenway before climbing up from the N. Oconee River to downtown and then over to Hendershot’s. There, I meet up with Jesse, a young guy who’s committed his life for the timebeing to community activism. I ask him again why we are meeting up and he tells me that I have knowledge of the community he doesn’t have and similar motivations to those he has. We clearly both enjoy exploring the machinations of the local political scene.

Back at my bike, I have a Whats App message from Alessandro and Clare in Paris about a potential apartment they are interested in. I text with Sara about celebrating her birthday on Thursday. And then I am back on my bike in the 5:30 light, riding down Milledge through 5 Points and then out College Station.  By the time I reach our home on the eastside, I have ridden over ten miles.  img_7187 Richard is working in the garden which we have resurrected from overgrowth this past summer. I leave him to work more and start work on dinner, some chicken thighs sautéed and then simmered in a stew of leeks, onions, and mushrooms.img_7203 Over dinner, Richard and I talk about the apartment in Paris and Clare and Alessandro’s challenges with French bureaucracy, which is now more reality than a stereotype.  After dinner, we try out an episode of Spiral, a French detective drama that Rosemary has recommended, and then we read and go to sleep.

On my way up to the gym yesterday, I met a neighbor, Chris up the road, who was out chatting with another neighbor, Gigi, a recent transplant from the Northeast, another Yankee my age down here in the South. Chris is a decade or so older than me, a widow with grown children up in Connecticut. We three chatted together for a few moments in the glory of the day that yesterday was and Chris chuckled saying that her children in the far north felt reassured with her living so far away because she was in Athens, a world they called Disney World because of the way it compares to so many other places.

Yesterday as I rode my bike around, I did feel like I lived a Disney World life, the Disney life of an early-retired 58-year old woman, no longer driven by the structure, demands and politics of a 40+ hour work week at a community college. I was and am able to create my own life and to make it meaningful. I don’t have to have it all figured out. For now, I have the months through next May planned, and that’s fine. From there, we will see where things go.

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Why I ride

Teardrop Metric Century, Sept. 17, 2016

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Bike Sadness

All of us in the Athens cycling community are thinking about the cyclist killed Monday night and the other one critically injured. It could have been any of us. This one involved a 31-year old woman driving a truck under the influence of drugs with a young child in the car with her. There was a cell phone involved and she crossed the center lane and ran into cyclists going in the other directions. People get killed in cars like this all the time too.

This is the third local death while cycling this summer, each story a little different. This morning, I think of how many of us are affected by this recent news.  We may or may not know the cyclists personally but we all can put ourselves into their places too easily. We’ve ridden those roads. It could be us dead or critically injured. It could be our families and close friends in shock and grieving. Here in the Athens cycling community we know it’s only two degrees of separation between ourselves and those cyclists run down yesterday.

My reaction runs to deep sadness rather than the anger that arises in others I know. We all react differently. I think about Ashley and how she spent her last day yesterday. She was 25, the same age as Anne.  A second year graduate student, she probably had a Monday class. The weather was a little cooler, a better night to go out on the Monday night Hub ride. I look at her Facebook site to know her better and see photos of her camping this summer. Smiling, having fun. Her parents got a call last night that changed their lives forever.

I don’t know what to do. I do an Amazon search for some high visibility nylon fabric and find some orange and green that I order; it will be here in two days. I will make some more ribbons, like the ones that Bob has given me over the years. My orange ribbons fell off my helmet some wIMG_0133.jpghere in the Adirondacks last summer. I will put them on my helmet and wear them on Saturday’s Teardrop ride. I want to be with my cycling community doing something good like raising a bit of money for the homeless. Mostly I just want to be with them.  The ribbons wouldn’t have protected me last night. But maybe the drivers like the one who ran into Len one Saturday morning in July will see me from further off in the distance and then wait to lean over to get something off the dashboard until after they pass me.

The woman driving the car last night is at fault. She’s been charged with first degree homicide and serious injury by vehicle, a DUI high on drugs, driving with a minor while DUI, reckless driving, and improper use of cell phone while driving. There’s no bond on the DUI charges because she’s a repeat offender. I should be angry with her but she just makes me deeply sad as well. She’s from Hull, and I imagine her as a student of mine sitting in class at Athens Tech. How do you become someone with a young child, a history of DUIs, and then find yourself driving once again high on a Monday evening around dinner time, the sun still shining in the sky. I find her address on the jail listing and search the address on Google maps. There’s her house in front of me. I’m imagining she lives with her parents since the house is well landscaped, the driveway newly blown off, and two cars and an RV parked by its carport. This is not the house of an always-high 30-year old.

This all makes me sad. I think I’ll go do chores around the house and just be in this sadness for a bit. There’s not much else I can do and the feelings won’t go away for awhile.

Update: Update on Mitchell Enfinger, the cyclist who was hospitalized in Monday’s cycling tragedy. Raa, his good friend and a Nitty Gritty rider, reported, “He’s expecting a full recovery. He did fracture his T1 but the doctors say it’s negligible.” Wonderful news.

Athens Banner Herald article at

From current list of inmates, Athens Clarke County Jail:


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Sometimes my head gets so, so busy that I know I am over stimulating it and need to calm it down. In the long run, I think this is fine. It only happens because there is too much going on. I like the fact that there are so many things I like to do and am interested in learning more about or trying out and that for me the world is full of strangers who are opportunities to connect with and experience. I need a good dose of that to keep happy but sometimes my head gets too turned on and needs to relax.

At work, this would happen because there was too much to do, too much I was responsible, or too much that was stressful, too many situations and people to navigate. I would know I needed to close my door and just work and get things done and calm down. I didn’t need to talk it out. That would just get my head moving too fast again, my emotions lit on fire. Sometimes I would need to just straighten my office up to feel a little bit in more control.

Since leaving my career job, there’s less pressure– no classes, term schedules of classes, meetings, policies, work power politics that I have to manage. But my head still gets spinning too quickly sometimes, too full. At those times, like now, I have to say to myself, “less.” Don’t go into that store for one more chore; don’t reach out to someone for a cup of coffee; drink less coffee, in fact; don’t check social media; let someone else respond to that email;  resist starting a conversation while on a group bike ride. Be quiet. Take care of what you’re doing now. You are getting too stretched out.

The goal is not for a life of “less.” I like the full life. “Less” is a strategy for coping and calming my mind a bit so I can less frenetically navigate the week. So that when I go to bed, I fall asleep and when I wake up after a full eight hours of sleep, I have that nice morning feeling of rest. Fortunately with age, I’m now better at observing what my body and mind need, so when I start waking up after only six hours and my head goes directly into awake mode, I know I need to say “less”.

I’m not sure that this really happens to everyone else, and I have no complaints really. It’s the flip side of feeling very much alive. Just something I have to manage.

And I didn’t really know it would happen when I was “retired,” but it does. And so I sit in my chair and read a book and drink a cup of camomile tea.




Posted in Ordinary life, Retirement, routine | 4 Comments

Summer of Daughters 

I am back again. It is the start of September.

2015 was the summer of the bike trip. 2016 has been the summer of daughters and family. Both have been significant life event periods and brought transitions of their own kind for me, the mother, as well as the daughters.


On their way to SF City Hall, July 6, 2016

In early July we traveled to San Francisco where we spent a week in Berkeley, meeting Alessandro’s Canadian-Italian family for the first time. We had family outings to pools and parks and ferry rides across the bay and shared meals, all to build bonds and connections between the two families. After five days together, a ceremony at the SF City Hall where Clare and Alessandro were married was followed an intimate, elegant and very special reception at the Berkeley City Club.

Anne who had travelled to SF a week earlier than us from Fez, Morocco, returned to Athens with us and helped tremendously with chores in preparation for our end-of-August celebration for the newlyweds here at our house. She helped replace a carpet floor with bamboo, emptied more boxes out of the basement, and sorted through her own boxes, throwing out and sending piles to Good Will and Habitat. Throughout that time, we got to know her sweetheart Abdelletif back in Fez, through the texts and photos they shared daily and video chats that we occasionally were part of. We had already met home in March in Morocco. Richard tackled the outdoor jungle around our house; he and Len, a hired helped, spent two weeks in 100 degree weather clearing out brush that had grown up around our house to amazing heights along with the wall of brush that had grown up over the last few years blocking our view of the river with the exception of a small window through which we could see the shoals out back. The house was undergoing a transformation just as we were.

While Richard worked in the heat, Anne and I road tripped up to NY spending one night camping on the Blue Ridge parkway before descending northeast to the NY metropolitan area and a visit with my mom on the south shore of Long Island, about a 20 minute drive from JFK. Anne only had 6 days before her flight back to Morocco on July 31. We relaxed some but we also had good visits with an old family friend Carmen, Anne’s Peace Corp best friend Anya, my cousin Clare, and then with my brother Charlie, his wife Julianna, and their three 10-16 years old kids, Ella, Hagen and Ford. That week also included a hyper state induced by prednisone I was taking for poison ivy and the non-stop watching of the Democratic convention on the days before Charlie arrived on Thursday night. Charlie’s eldest, Ella, who has Down syndrome, stayed up late with me watching the whole of Hillary’s acceptance speech.

After another emotional goodbye, sending Anne back across an ocean to Morocco to a beloved boyfriend and a new full-time job, I had a few days of calm with my mother, helping around the house, cleaning floors, weeding her garden, and watching TV together at night. Packed in there was more visiting with close friends and family, and then a drive to Buffalo via a visit to my cousin Nancy and Peter to pick up Richard at the airport there to drive up and attend the Colavecchio’s Italian family celebration of the marriage, a special event on the short of Lake Ontario, 125 people and endless delicious Italian food. The next day after lunch with the family, Richard and I drove down to Niagara Falls where I spent part of my birthday for a second year in a row. Two important summers had led me to those falls I had never before seen.

The following day on our way home driving south of Erie PA, Anne called and Abdellatif got on the phone and asked for Anne’s hand in. Yes, it will be an intercultural marriage, but their love for each other is very strong and something I have no doubt at all. Life is a struggle, marriage is a challenge, hopefully their love for each other will sustain them. We gave them our blessing. My head is spinning. My life last year took a huge turn retiring form Athens Tech. It takes another huge turn this summer with Clare and Anne pairing their lives with another. Fortunately for both Italians and Moroccans, family is more than important. They honor family in a way that goes deeper than for those of us with northern European roots. Luckily too for Clare and Anne, spending time with family is a priority, despite their not having any Mediterranean heritage.

For two and a half weeks after returning to Georgia, Richard and I worked at warp speed preparing our home for one more celebration. To be honest, we used the occasion as a motivation to get a lot of things done — basement closest and window wall built, lounge redone, new sofa bought, carport cleaned of mildew, driveway pressure washed of dirt and algae, overgrown bushes manicured, kitchen floor removed of layers of deep dirt that had become its new color, etc. Many people can relate to the effect of a deadline on home maintenance projects. Clare and Alessandro joined us a week early and helped out; we fit in two games of Settlers of Cataan and a few episodes of Orange is the New Black. Alessandro’s parents joined us from Canada for Clare and Alesaandro’s third marriage celebration as well as Texas cousins, a few old friends from out of town, and an array of Athens friends dear to our family. The party and family/friend reunion weekend were all that we wanted — some exhaustion but more happiness and eating and talking and building new memories than anything else.

Clare left on Wednesday to fly back to SF to pursue her French visa for her research position in Paris. Alessandro stayed until today, Saturday. This evening they will rendezvous in New York and visit with my mother for a week. They have more transitions to go through this fall, a new city to make into their home, a new apartment to find and set up, and for Clare a new laboratory university and colleagues to adapt to as she pursues understanding the nature of the expanding universe. And a marriage to grow and navigate — perhaps just as daunting a task as understanding supernovae and dark energy.

And here I will be, a year and two summers away from retirement and at a much more solid place to move forward from than last September when I came off the high of the cross country ride to the reality of creating a life post retirement, confused by my loss of identify and structure, full of ideas of what to do but at a bit of a loss knowing how to shape this new life. The shape is not exactly there yet, but that’s okay and there’s a whole lot less anxiety about it all. Meanwhile life keeps coming full blast at me.


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A year retired

This week my Iphone 6 Plus slipped off the stove top on to the throw carpet on top of the kitchen floor. I was in the middle of a phone call and picked it up. It looked like someone had taken an ice pick and jammed it into the the home button.  I spent the afternoon researching replacing the glass and ended up paying $140 to do so.

It is grey outside this week, wet and cooler than expected. My writing on my bike trip manuscript isn’t going as well as it was. I’m still sitting down everyday and writing but the enthusiasm isn’t as strong as when I started. The floors keep getting dirty and needing to be vacuumed and swept. The desk table gets cluttered up again and again.

It’s been a year since I retired. I do not miss the feeling of working against a wall that makes its so hard to do what needs to be done. I don’t miss the power politics. I do miss the everyday routine. The pleasure of having a cup of coffee and saying my good mornings and then getting to work, the rhythm of the day with a cast of characters, some friendlier than others. I do miss my closest colleagues whose offices I could pop into for a quick chat. I do miss the array of students whose questions I could answers and whose problems I could often easily fix. I do miss the purpose that my work gave me.

There is not lack of things to do, but there isn’t that overarching main idea that my work and raising children gave me.

I do not regret retiring but I am still working on this new part of my life.


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Perspective Shifts

When I went and looked for the $150 wad of cash that Bob had paid me back with, it wasn’t on the sideboard in the dining room. He had flagged me down at the end of the Athens Savannah Double Century ride on Sunday as I was leaving the Jittery Joe’s Roster parking lot back in Athens on my way to return the borrowed First Presbyterian van. He handed me a pile of $20s and a receipt for the Wadley Inn so we could get Richard’s lodging reimbursement and told me not to lose it. I had already lost the $150 check he had sent me back in January. I had transferred my Ath-Sav registration to him after deciding not to do the ride this year.

It was Tuesday morning when I discovered the missing money. I searched the house thoroughly, recreating my steps on returning to the house Sunday. I followed every step in the house, every chair I had sat in. I tripled checked the pockets of anything I’d worn in the last two days. I searched in every nook and cranny that I could have absentmindedly stashed the cash, including refrigerator drawers and pantry shelves. I recreated my climb up on the back deck to see if the cash had fallen out of pocket when I went up there to try to get into the locked house. I had given my key to Leannah, our dog sitter, and so didn’t have one when returning to the house sooner than Richard. Tuesday afternoon, I drove back to the First Presbyterian Church where I had returned the van on Monday. No luck. I found my brown vest still in the van, a water bottle rolled to the back, and my dollar store reading glasses but no wad of cash.

By then, my mood had blackened. I was already feeling sorry for myself that I hadn’t received the adrenaline rush of the 200-mile bike ride. I felt disconnected from the biking community because I had become their servant for the weekend. There were certain stresses associated with rooming with both my husband and sister at the same time. And now there was more proof that I was losing my focus. Where had that cash gone too? My mind ruminated on the negative, spiraling down in a way I would rather avoid.

Then this afternoon after having a rather dark morning, I started pulling together the receipts for reimbursement for our expenses accrued while helping support the ride this weekend. I looked down at one of the receipts and realized that I did indeed have the receipt Bob had given me with the pile of cash. If his name was on the Wadley Inn receipt, then maybe I had put the money in my wallet. I had gotten $200 from SunTrust at the the start of the ride on Friday and I barely had that much now. But then my memory started working better and I realized that I had given Richard half the bank withdrawal money so that meant I should only have $100 minus any cash I had used over the weekend. I had more than that. Bob had only given me $120 since the money back from the Wadley Inn reimbursement would cover the other money he owed he.  That meant I should have about $200 in my wallet. I had $199. That meant I had had Bob’s cash in my wallet the whole time — the whole entire time I was getting more and more frustrated with myself and everything else in my life, the money was right there.

What does this mean? The metaphor becomes so obvious. We sometimes have in our hands just what we need but events, perspective and our mood keep us from seeing it.  We want more than we have, we want to go back and redo things, we think if only so and so, then I wouldn’t be in this situation. We dig ourselves into bad spots.

Sometimes the money isn’t there, in the pocket or the wallet. It is gone, or it was never there. But we want it so bad that it keeps us from accepting and loving what we do have. These lessons are so darn hard to learn.  I guess that’s why there’s a new sermon each Sunday.

Afterthought: Perspective shifts are easier for some to achieve than others. For people with severe depression, finding a set of lost keys or a missing wad of cash doesn’t do it.







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Homage to Bike Community

I cannot exaggerate how much biking adds to my life and a gigantic part of that is my bike community.

Let me first clarify that I thrive on time alone as much as I do on time with others. I am the person who chose to ride alone cross country last summer. I asked Carmen who is riding across the country in a month, but with a large group, if she is a person who needs alone time. She looked at me funny for a moment; she didn’t seem to know what I meant. People who need alone time know what I mean right away. People think of me as a social person but I need my space. Many cyclists have no interest in doing a long bike ride alone as I did last year. If they had company, maybe they would consider it. I had fears related to being alone on my bike ride last year, but they had to do with safety. I was not fearful of being lonely and without sufficient company.

And the same goes for now as well. I love not being with other people all the time.

But I love having my bike community so much. Cycling and my bike buddies are bright colored threads running through the fabric of my life. This past week was full of the richness of those colors.

On Sundays, I started a slower and more social ride back in January. Richard and I needed to get in shape for our bike ride in Sicily. These rides are continuing post-Sicily trip. At 12-15 mph, they are easier than some of the other Nitty Gritty Bike Band rides these days, and so are perfect for those looking for something slower that encourages us all to socialize while we ride. These “slocial” rides, a term Diane created, have been delightful. Last Sunday after the ride, a bunch of us went for a beer and some food afterwards at the Blind Pig Tavern. It had been a while since we had done something like that and so spontaneously.  This Sunday we rode out to Watson Mill Bridge park, where we hung out on the park office deck for quite awhile in the middle of the 30-mile ride . On Monday nights, Diane and I are volunteering at Bike Athens learning to fix up bikes that are then given to those in need. We started in November, and though we are very far from being master mechanics, we are enjoying the camaraderie of Don and Scott who provide the expertise needed for us to do anything.

On Wednesday, we gather at 6 in Winterville or at Whit Davis for an evening ride  . As I did for years, many come from work. This year the Wednesday ride has started out faster than it has in years past, but for me, keeping up with my bike buddies is fun. I feel myself getting faster again. We end the evening chatting by our cars before the fading evening light chases us home. Thursday night Richard and I hosted Warm Showers bike travelers, young Steffan and Annika from the Netherlands; they started in Miami on their 6-month bike adventure and are heading to the Blue Ridge Parkway. After that, they aren’t sure. I advocated for riding out west. We gave them clean sheets and a tasty meal; they gave us their youthful ease and openness and showed us photos of their wedding six months ago.

Saturday was the AL Pless Ride, a charity ride to raise money for the Athens Land Trust. Al was a cyclist about my age who died too early a few years ago from brain cancer. The Land Trust is an impressive local organization that does more good things than its name implies; they help preserve land but they also help with affordable housing and community garden projects. It was an organization that Al supported. The day’s weather was perfect, starting in the high 60s and then up into the 70s. The magic came, though, from my fellow cyclists on their shiny bikes and in their colorful outfits. There were about 75 of us, some riding 18 miles, some 38, and some 60. How much fun to be in our thirties, forties, fifties, sixties, seventies and even OC in his eighties, spending the day riding bikes — starting out fresh, winding up and down along the Greenway and then out Peter Street and through the new bypass underpass, and then the little climb out Olympic Dr. We push ourselves, we anticipate the day, we climb and descend, we smile and chat and introduce ourselves to someone new; we move at our own pace or push ourselves beyond. On some days, you might end up riding mostly alone; on others you are with a group all day long. For me, Saturday ended up being a social ride as I cycled much of the 60 miles among a group of 6-8.

All of these bike relationships enrich our lives. In the photos I take, we all look happy out there. And in fact, we pretty much are when we’re out there. That’s what is amazing. None of us don’t have our problems. We have stressful jobs, challenging relationships, depressed moments or days, friends and family we worry about, bodies and minds that don’t function like we’d like them to, lives that we struggle to make meaning of or that disappoint us. We are imperfect humans courageously trying to move forward.

But we are so, so lucky, because we’ve found cycling, and with all the good it does for our bodies and all the fun and outdoor adventures it provides, it gives us each other too. How lucky we are to have our bike community, our church on two wheels. We don’t solve each other’s problems, though sometimes we do listen. The act of doing something so pleasurable together, the shared challenges of a long ride, the small conversations, it all bonds us together in a way that makes our lives better. Sometimes it seems like a small thing; other times it seems like it’s what really matters and makes all the difference.

An April week of bike community (click on the first photo and you can scroll through them all, that is, if you’re interested in looking more closely)

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