Snow today bringing back memories….
I lived in Erie, PA for four winters. I loved it. I took up cross-country skiing while living there and spent most of my winter weekends at Wilderness Lodge fumbling and bumbling around the trails. I never really got “good” at cross-country but I always had fun. Even the time I sprained nearly my entire left leg (hip, knee, ankle, and big toe. Yes, seriously, my big toe) didn’t take away from the fact that I had a great day with a good friend up until my little ouch…
It is snowing today. Not enough to get in any cross-country but it does get my mind wandering in that direction. Last year I got out on the trails exactly once. At High Point State Park here in New Jersey. Some of the trails were sheets of ice and it made for quite the adventure but the fact is I did it. I skied. I had fun and I didn’t kill myself. I went alone which at first I was disappointed with but after spending some solitary time, I felt better about it. I enjoy being on the trails alone with just my thoughts and my wonderment at the beauty of the world around me.
I remember one morning while living in Erie I drove off to wilderness lodge early in the morning after a night of snow. I was one of the first people to get to the lodge after they opened for the day. I strapped on the skis and I went off. I don’t ski smoothly, I kind of shush along in a sort of crazy halting uncoordinated way but it gets the job done. I crossed the field, being the first to break the new snow and then entered the woods.
I normally would turn right and head along the wider trails before circling back, about 5 kilometers total. After a cup of coffee in the lodge I would then head out again.
That day, for reason I do not know, I turned left and went up the narrow, steeper trail. I entered a section lined with pine trees weighted down with the nights snow fall. The boughs were hanging low, the snow a couple of inches thick… I stood still and took it all in. The quiet was amazing. My breathing, the sound of something scurrying through the woods and the lights whisper of the breeze was all I could hear. I stood and marveled at just how beautiful my world was at that moment in time. A few moments of reflection and I started skiing again, slowly, carefully, trying not to knock snow off the trees, trying not to make too much of a mess of the unbroken trail. I wanted to leave it beautiful for the next skier to enjoy.
A couple of hours on the trails and I was ready to head in. I made it back to the lodge, had my cup of coffee and a fresh blueberry muffin. I sat by the fireplace and absorbed some warmth and heard an older couple talking about the beauty of the snow covered pine trees…
I hope to get in some cross-country this winter. I could use some time among the pines.
I was never a good athlete. My brothers and sister were blessed with the athletic skills in the family. I was not.
I was eight-years old before I learned to ride a bike. Once I learned it was all I wanted to do. About the time I was ten my parents bought me a Schwinn Suburban ten-speed and I soon learned to ride it no-handed throughout the neighborhood. I remember the neighbor lady telling my parents that I was going to get myself killed riding that way. My father recommended I not do it but he didn’t forbid it so I kept right on. I think whatever bike handling skills I have I developed riding the neighborhood around Lorraine Terrace no-handed…
I had poor circulation in my legs as a boy. Maybe my brothers remember how slowly I walked up stairs or how my legs would start to itch if I stood still too long. The doctor told my parents I should keep riding my bike, I should walk and hike and when I reached my teens it would be a good idea for me to work on a weight machine to build my legs up.
I did all of that.
It was riding I loved the most.
I have drifted away from cycling several times in my life and I have come back to it each time.
The first time was when I went off to college with a 38-pound Schwinn Collegiate. I had BEGGED my parents for one of the nice light-weight Japanese bikes at the local shop but they knew Schwinn. To them, Schwinn was QUALITY and durable.
I found every reason I could to not ride the Schwinn. I walked instead of rode. I thumbed for rides in cars rather than ride the Schwinn.
Slowly cycling faded to the background and cars replaced them in my transportation world.
I was wooed back to cycling by a friend who was rehabbing from an injury and needed a cycling partner.
And I drifted away again.
Now I am back to it with a passion. It is again my focus.
And I find I am too rough on myself. I expect to ride as well as people who never left the sport and who are 15, 20, 25 years my junior. This is not going to happen. Accepting that I am a pretty good rider capable of the occasional burst of power and that I have come a very long way from where I was just last March when I was returning from the knee injury and getting back to serious riding for the first time in nearly a year…
I let the Black Dog grab my rear wheel.
I need to enjoy what I have accomplished. I am a cyclist. It is something I am not just something I do. I ride bikes, I think bikes, I talk bikes.
When I am not riding I am thinking about riding and when I am riding I am in bliss.
There comes a time on my solo rides, nearly every ride, when I am so deeply focused on the ride and my rhythm is nearly effortless and I am so attuned to all that surrounds me that I am almost floating as I ride. I really don’t have quite the words to properly describe it I suppose. I can only say that the miles disappear along with everything else except the focus on the ride.
I let this escape from me once. I let cycling fade away. I got lazy and I became obese.
I ride. It is what I do. I am not going to allow myself to think that I am not good at it. I am. I can ride.
I am going to drop the Black Dog on the hills.