Monday, November 17, 2008

I want to ride my bicycle...


Ha, ha!  Now you have that song stuck in your head.

Friday, I had a really bad day.  My knee was really achy all night so I didn't sleep very well.  As a result, I was grumpy and tired.  After running a quick errand before lunch, I went to Longbottoms to grab lunch and ran into the PV crew who was just returning from a glorious Friday morning ride.   I ate my lunch and listened to their banter.  I was mad at my knee.

The weather was more than you could ask for this time of year.  Sunny, crisp, cool, little to no breeze.  It's the type of weather that makes you don wool arm and leg warmers with your kit, and maybe pack a light wind vest.

It reminded me much of my youth and the cycling I did in the North East.

I grew up in Andover, Massachusetts.  The school system was such that upon entering your freshman year in High School, you knew half your graduating class for 2 years, a quarter of it for 8 and a good chuck of it since you were pre-school.  Add into it the mix of a huge youth soccer program and friendships were formed at a very early age.  One such friendship was formed with a pair whom I just recently got back in touch with through the magic of this new fangled "internets" and Facebook.

Jim and I became friends through soccer, which his dad and my dad co-coached youth teams together for years and formed a friendship.  Brian and Jim were classmates and friends from school, and eventually Brian and I became friends through Jim and a variety of other activities.  Through much of our grade school and middle school years, the three of us hung out frequently on weekends and in arranged after school get together's.  As we grew older, the introduction to one key thing added a whole new dimension to the adventures we could have.  Transportation!

The bike was the first mode of transportation the three of us would consistently have access too.  No longer would we need to wait for a parent to get home in order to go to one or another's house.  Many a autumn or spring afternoon or entire summer day would be spent on our bikes riding where ever our legs took us.  No hill was too steep, no road too busy for us to travel on, no distance was too far to ride (as long as it was in town limits).  We rode hard and fast, and traded nuggets of cycling wisdom learned from watching the TDF on Wide World of Sports during July.

Jim:  "Guys, we should ride in a peloton."

Brian and I:  "What's that?"

Jim:  "It's when you ride in a group and the people up front do the work and the rest don't have to!"

Brian and I: "Sweet! We can do that with the three of us!"

Ah, the naiveté of youth.

We'd watch American Flyer to the point where we'd recite dialog during our rides pretending to launch attacks too early or sprinting away from dogs, all of whom were named "Eddy".  I clearly remember my first experience with a "lead out train" ending in a narrowly avoided disaster.   I can still see Jim flying through the air after high siding his bike, walking away with nothing more than skinned hands and knees.   (We learned that day that when you corner at high speeds you want your inside pedal up.)

Brian and I undertook one of the most memorable events of my life together.  In the spring of 1990, we participated in the "Commonwealth Classic" which was a 2-day 150mile bike tour to benefit the American Diabetes Association (pretty ironic that 5 years later I was diagnosed with Type 1 eh?).  Brian and I were the two youngest participants and finished with the lead group of ten riders on the second day.  It was on that ride that I learned pace line skills, and how to point out debris in the road.  Simple lessons for skills that I take for granted these days.  The people we grouped up with were impressed with our strength and eagerness, but admonished us on our safety.  I remember being called out for pulling out of a pace line and not looking back to see if there was traffic coming from behind.  Again, the naiveté of youth.

It was many of these memories that drew me to cycling in my youth, and drew me back for good in the recent years.  It was with those fond memories that I geared up Saturday morning and tested the knee out.  I'm happy to report the knee was okay with letting me ride, and the body was happy to have the opportunity.  I went slow on the flats, and glacial up small rises in the road, but I felt better on the bike than off.  What mattered the most was I was riding my bike, the sun was warm, and the air crisp and cool.

I had a smile on my face the rest of the weekend.

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