Thursday, May 15, 2008

The Ride...and the Partner in Crime

When I was in Bellingham, I spent a disproportionate amount of my road miles by myself. I had riding partners in crime, but logistically it was difficult to arrange rides with these folks with the frequency I'm able to now. It is also more necessary to ride with others in Iowa, as the terrain isn't nearly as exciting--sorry, love Iowa, but dirt and red winged black birds ain't gonna cut it by my lonesome on a 50 miler!

My boyfriend at the time hated it, but more often than not when I rode by myself in Bellingham I'd ride out to Lummi Island, one of the San Juan Islands near my house. There is a ton of broken glass on the reservation roads, few to no services, and crazy drivers. He hated the idea of my breaking down coupled with my subpar bicycle mechanics skills. I was lucky and never flatted out there. I also found that when I was by myself the drivers kept a very respectable distance.

I kept going back to Lummi because if you could get over the litter and broken glass, the ride offered majestic views of everything that makes Washington magical: salt flats, high and low tides, some great little climbs, fresh wild berries on nearly every road, a few lovely decents and the sweet reward at the end, Gooseberry Point, to make it all worthwhile. No matter what route I took I always ended it the same, climbing up that hill, rocketing downward and at the bottom, hard left at the Point; and boom--there was Mount Baker and the twin sisters, a full panoramic of Bellingham Bay, maybe a sea lion, a view of the other islands, a smattering of birds I could rarely identify and a few sailboats.

There was rarely a day when I didn't nearly crash watching some bird, usually a bald eagle, as it would skim across the water, diving down to pull out a fish. Riding by myself became this near spiritual experience; I didn't have to pay much attention to anything but each crack in the road, the clouds, my breath...or lack thereof. It was a great excuse to be wholly present and go as fast or as slow as I wanted, whenever I wanted.

Riding with others is totally different. Anyone who has ridden previously, and then begins riding with a partner will likely appreciate my saying that riding with aanother person is a whole other adventure. I have come to believe that you can learn more about a person on a bike than you can about anywhere else.

I will use this space from time to time to pay tribute to my biking partners and try to shed a little light on what I learned from these fine folks as they each, in their respective ways, made me into the cyclist I am today. I don't want to get all mushy and stupid, so I will try to reflect on the little moments that somehow stick out. I found myself on my bike. It is only through the collective experiences of those I've piled on the miles with that I can say this.

Here, I'll thank them each in this small way.

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