The plan is that next June I will take a long distance bike ride. That is the plan, or was the plan, I’m pretty sure it’s in the plan still… somewhere. Yet, one cannot hop on a bike for the first time, cross the country and satisfactorily check off one more item on his bucket list. No, I learned that the hard way and my butt was reminded of why training is important, because not even the most comfortable of bike seats is all that comfortable after 70 miles.
I’ve been talking about it for weeks, yet always found an excuse not to ride my bike to work. It was only 26 miles each way so it shouldn’t be too bad, besides I’ve taken a few test runs in the past on 20+ mile rides before so I can do this no problem.
It was Friday, I had a work meeting at 8am but if I didn’t make it, I could make it up at the second meeting slot which was at 1pm. Other than that my first appointment was at 9:30 so I should be OK no matter what, right?
After not touching my bicycle for two weeks I got up at 4:45am and was supposed to be out the door on my bike at 5am, it ended up being more like 5:30am. Twenty feet into my journey I realized that my front tire was a little flat, no problem I can do this, a quick pump and back on the road.
I had my phone playing Jack London’s Call of the Wild. As a book that is from the perspective of a dog, Buck, there were some scenes dealing with dogs fighting. At one scene in particular as they get into the gruesome details I hear a barking, I couldn’t help but think wow this is realistic until I heard a jaw snap next to my ankle. PEDDLE HARDER! I was off like a fart in the wind and cursing myself for not taking the dog repellant out of the bag underneath my seat, all snug and secure. Mile 26 came and went and I still hadn’t made it to the office, my phone battery died, my legs felt like Jello and the back road route was more hilly than I recalled. Somehow it seemed that it was so very much more uphill than down. At times I would push my bike walking alongside it, my legs sore, knees tight from the work and cold air around me and my water was long gone. I did not prepare for this trip well.
It wasn’t until 9:45 that I pulled up to the bike rack, legs wobbling underneath me like a drunk baby. My odometer said 31 miles, it was going to be a long ride home. Why did my wife have to go to Chicago today? There was no one to take me home, only my bicycle and the two rubbery things beneath me that some call legs.
I left work early; no students come in to see me on a Friday afternoon so I decided to save myself from riding in the dark. I took a slightly different route home to avoid the construction and torn up roads that was the last leg of my initial journey. I was fresh, I amazed myself at the energy I had; maybe the ride home wasn’t going to be that bad after all. Besides, I brought an extra bottle of water so I was good to go. I zipped along country roads lined with corn, the cool breeze and open air had me feeling refreshed. I came across some twist and turns that I did not anticipate but figured as long as I head south-east I was good to go.
My energy was waning but I was on mile 45 so I should be no less than half way home when all of a sudden dogs. Big dogs, not like the little ankle biter that came after me this morning. No, I’m talking bite my bike in half big dogs and they spotted me. There is that freeze frame second when a dog stands up and looks at you where you wonder OK should I run or is he a friendly dog? I should have never slowed down because in a flash these four horses turned from inquisitive to hungry and I was their dinner. Too afraid to stop and use my dog spray I was off and peddling away till they were called back home by their owner or tired of chasing me, I’m not quite sure. My heart was pounding out of my chest and through that adrenaline a single thought came ringing to my head, where am I? I turned on my phone hoping for enough battery juice to get my bearings, I was off track and I had two options backtrack or zig-zag out of my way before I loop back. I wasn’t heading back towards the dogs so I memorize my next few twist and turns shut my phone off in case I need it for any more assistance and headed off. I finally made a turn onto a road I knew, but it was not a road that I wanted to be on, true I’ve been heading south but somehow veered west, way west. I peddled along the busy road until I found a road I knew would lead me home, little did I know that after the 5 miles of road that I regularly ride on this fun road turns into a dirt and gravel road.
Mile 70, I’m still somewhere between 5 and 10 miles away from home and I have no energy left. It is getting dark and cold, my phone is officially dead and the few trucks and cars that kick up rocks as they fly by me muffle my quiet plea – help. I swear off biking like you would swear off alcohol after a long night of drinking. I just wanted to be home. A truck going the opposite direction slows down to pull into their driveway, stops rolls down their window and asks, “Are you OK?”
I didn’t have to swallow my pride, that left me at mile 55. I quickly accepted the offer for a ride home. The gentleman pulled into his driveway, switched out his SUV for his work truck and came back to pick me up. We talked about his cement company and his children, one of whom attended the University, where I work, a few years back. I pleaded my gratitude but was mostly silent as I didn’t know what else to say other than thank you.
It probably would have taken me a few hours to finish that last 10 or so miles of my trek, but that was more so than I could have managed at that point. I feel ashamed to say that I don’t remember the man’s name but I know which house he lives in and I plan on dropping off a thank you card as a sign of how truly grateful I was. Yes, this is a bit embarrassing on my behalf and I sat sheepishly in his truck as I accepted the ride home but it also once again showed me, that deep down you humans are a good bunch.