It was a beautiful day out - mid 70's, sunny, a bit of a breeze. It's probably one of the last really lovely days we have before the colder weather sets in. I had planned on taking a long ride after work - an early staff meeting had me coming in a bit earlier than usual, and going straight to work after 10-12 miles, no extra 45 minutes to do a couple laps at Hains.
I had planned on going home at the normal time and starting to smoke a few pork shoulders in my smoker out in back of the house. Somehow I got suckered into making Carolina style barbecue for the office picnic. The idea that we'd show appreciation for staff with frozen burgers... it struck me as not quite right.
Anyhoo, there's rain in the forecast for Thursday. So the Office decided to move up the barbecue by a day. "That doesn't cause any problem with the pork, does it?"
Well, as anybody who knows Carolina barbecue could tell you, of course it causes problems. Between marinating the pork shoulder in a rub and then smoking it - smoking it cold in my case, for 36 hours - it's a 24 - 48 hour timetable to get ready. So I had to knock off immediately at noon and head on home. There's a way to prepare it that requires less than 48 hours, but it is a bit of extra work and I had no time to lose. Well, except for an hour or two. It was still a really nice day.
So I hopped on the bike, headed south out of D.C. on the 395 bridge, and started to do a Reverse Muffin Ride, the backwards version of the Squadra Coppi Friday ride. Essentially it's the Mt. Vernon Trail to 4 Mile Run to the W&OD to Custis. It's about 20 miles or so.
As I headed to the 395 bridge, I passed Eric Governo, another Coppi, heading out of Hains Point after the noon ride. He caught me up at the end of the bridge and said he'd ride with me. He had to turn back at the airport. Not 30 seconds later, I ran into Peter Nicholl, yet another Coppi, doing exactly the opposite ride. So he joined me and we set off toward Arlington on 4 Mile Run Trail. We had a nice ride, remarkable only for the good weather and the fellowship. Peter is about as amiable a guy as you will ever meet and this makes him good company on pretty much any kind of ride.
We parted ways when we had looped around Arlington, and I crossed the Key Bridge to get onto the Capital Crescent, to head back to my truck and drive home to Pork-a-geddon. On the way up the Crescent, I thought about what it means to be an amateur road racer, in a racing club.
What it comes down to, is most of us struggling, middle (or approaching-middle-) aged racers are basically bike bums with an interest in trying to go fast. Most of us have decent jobs, nice families and friends, real lives in other words; but given our preference would probably cut out a lot of the complexities in our lives in favor of taking constant sojourns on our two wheeled zen machines. We seem to find something on our bikes that we don't have elsewhere in our lives - a simple struggle that is conquerable, a place to focus, or maybe to lose focus; and friends who are sharing in the same enjoyable struggle. Biking isn't the best place in most of our lives - everybody I've ridden with would give up riding if the choice came to bike or family. But being on the bike and straining up a little hill, or bouncing up a steeper hill in a nice climbing rhythm, or just ticking along at a steady cadence chatting with other bike bums is a very nice place, even if it isn't the very best place. Importantly, it's a very nice place we can get to quite regularly. I have a fixie that requires only that I swing my leg over the saddle, to take me to that place. It's possible to get there in 30 seconds, after basically no preparation. Even the worst, most miserable rides I've had, have been a lot of fun.
So we are saddle bums, living for that next little hit of bike-borne squishy. There are worse things to be. Along with the contentment of the ride, comes a contentment of being somebody who lives for the simple pleasure of the ride. Thoreau said "I have learned, that if one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours." That sums it up nicely. The direction of our dreams on a bike is simply forward. Going forward then, is a good dream realized, if you are fortunate enough to love riding your bicycle.