It's been a while since I rode outdoors, let alone solo. But on Thanksgiving Day, just about the time most people were sitting down to their enormous feasts, I set out on a spontaneous ride. With no clue of the route I'd take or how long I would ride, I inflated the tires of my trusty Trek, jammed some gel & shot blocks in my pocket, filled the water bottles, and set out into the cold. The sun was out earlier but I quickly discovered that it was much colder than I had anticipated. Clad only in a Sugoi baselayer, long sleeved jersey, vest & knickers, but with 2 pairs of wool socks, I didn't warm up as much as I would have liked. But I figured that would just make me ride harder, make it count. Right?
Thoughts invade my mind as I pedal, across TV Highway and onto River Road. Got the pump, spare tubes. I have my cell phone. Does anyone know where I'm going? No, even I don't know the answer to that. Wow, there's a lot of gravel and stuff in the bike lane, good thing there's not much car traffic. I'm cold. Pedal harder. I'll be fine, because I trust my bike. It's like an old friend, when we get together, I'm reminded of all the good times we've had. I remember my first ride on this bike, a 70 mile LiveStrong challenge, then my first century. Good times. I smile.
What's great about riding solo is that you can go as fast or a slow as you want, without having to wait for anyone else (or have them wait for you). No forced listening to conversations you have no interest in. No worrying about yelling "car back" to people in front of you or having it yelled at the person who continues to ride next to you and talk to you as you wish for solitude.
Solo. That word has come to define part of who I am. On holidays, and sometimes, on bike rides. But it's a good thing. It's okay. I'm okay with it. I do some of my best thinking on these rides.
So I decide to pass the time thinking of what I'm grateful for. Seems like a good tradition on a Thanksgiving ride. First I think of my lungs, as they fill with air and oxygen to fuel my body. Lungs are good. Then, my legs, working like pistons, knees up, light on the pedals. Then I'm grateful for the turkey bacon and pumpkin pancakes I made for breakfast, for a kitchen to cook them in, for the ability to ride and to enjoy this day.
On Burkhalter Road, I stop to eat some gel, as I'm getting hungry and wishing I had eaten a bit more before leaving so late in the day. I look up at the sun filtered through hazy clouds and give it credit for at least trying to shine through them to bring some warmth. I don't want to wait long because I'm still cold. I consider crossing Highway 47 on Simpson Road, riding past the golf course and back through Cornelius and estimate how much time this will take. On a warmer day, maybe starting earlier, or wearing another layer, this would be a no brainer. But on this day, I decide to cut the ride short and continue to Hillsboro on Minter Bridge Road. I know this is the right thing to do.
I stop to talk to some pygmy goats along the road, who are bleating at me through the chainlink fence. They are incredibly cute! I feed them some handfuls of grass until the dogs start barking at the unwelcome intruder, and I continue on. I get to Main Street, which turns into Baseline. I consider making the ride longer, but at this point I can only think about hot chocolate.
Arriving home, I patiently enter the code to open my garage door but it refuses to comply. I consider how miserable it would be to spend hours shivering on my front porch, and contemplate breaking into my house. The thermometer on my porch says about 38 degrees if I read it right. Just as I take a tire lever to pry the screen off a window, I try the code once more and the door opens. Warmth, hot chocolate, a down blanket, a hot bubble bath. Then a delicious meal.
This is my Thanksgiving.