It occurred to me recently that I’ve been so busy riding (and riding long) that I haven’t had time to introduce the new mistress.
You have to be there. Really.
Here’s the thing about Death Valley. Photographs don’t do it justice. Video doesn’t do it justice. There is no photograph that I’ve taken or seen that conveys the feel of the place, which is what made the valley so special when I first encountered it and which made me so eager to return. Sure, the images look spectacular, but you don’t have to be in the valley very long to realize that your eyes constantly betray you, and it is really through feel that the valley conveys its substance and scale. It feels huge. It feels old. It feels weathered and trampled by human commerce and still somehow untouched.
You look around and you think “I’m in a valley” and your mental frame of reference slots in a convenient image of some other ordinary valley you’ve encountered. What you can’t quite grasp is that the valley is the size of the entire state of Delaware, and that the hills framing the valley are some really big ass mountains. People get lost in this landscape, and lost quickly. If we’re thinking historically, they sometimes get lost permanently.
I lost count of the number of times when we were biking through the valley, on a portion of long, straight road where you could see forever, and I would glance up ahead at a scene framed by mountains that seemed only an outstretched arm away. With a shock I would then see in the foreground, a tiny black wire strung with slowly shuttling beads, that I realized was the road yet to be traveled, and those tiny beads, moving like the world’s most exhausted ants, were my fellow cyclists, miles ahead.
Plenty of road, but plenty of time?
We had all been through a lot to get here. Now, as I turned out the light and settled in for what I hoped would be a better than usual restless-night-before-the-big-event sleep the only question was: would we be able to get back here again tomorrow?
The Year of the Century: Ride 4
Ride: The Salvation Century
Place: Riley’s Lock, MD
Date: January 20, 2013
During one of the many interminable hours driving back from the complete fiasco that constituted my first effort at randonneuring, I got a text from my partner letting me know that my friends Bob and Dana were planning on doing a 100 mile ride out of Riley’s Lock the next morning. While I was supposed to be doing the brevet, they were also diligently upping their mileage for the 150 mile ride we have coming up in March. Yet, given my recent experience, I was less than enthusiastic.
The Year of the Century:
Ride: 200K Brevet
Place: Athens, Georgia
Date: January 19, 2013
If you’ve been following the story so far, you know that the big obstacle to my campaign has been the dearth of people in any place other than California doing long rides over the winter. Or at least that had been my perception. Finally out of desperation, I took the advice of my friend Damon Taaffe and looked into a group that I had always in the back of my mind regarded as the lunatic fringe of cycling: randonneurs. The more I read about randonneuring, however, the more I began to suspect that I might have been on the fringe of that fringe for a while now.
The Year of the Century: Ride 3
Place: Boyce, Virginia
Ride: Festivus Frolic
December 8, 2012
December is always a crazy time of year for me. Not really because of the whole Christmas thing, because we don’t tend to get sucked into much of that madness. Christmas presents for those overseas need to be mailed early so we tend to get it done early. So the whole Christmas shopping frenzy is a bit of a mystery. Although this did give rise to one of our treasured holiday traditions which is to go out on or near Christmas Eve to a nearby mall, buy a holiday-themed Starbucks drink, find a comfy chair, and delight in the schaadenfreude of everyone else who left their shopping until the last minute. Someone else’s toddler and/or spousal meltdowns never get old. The two of us don’t tend to get presents for one another, mainly because we are so very good at getting presents for ourselves. And we especially don’t get presents for one another when we’ve just bought a new car. I know, very un-American, showing some restraint during the holiday season.
The holiday season tends to be a blur because I’m finishing up classes for one semester, reading final projects from my students, submitting final grades, and trying to get everything organized to teach the next semester starting in only a few short weeks. Oh, and trying to make some headway with all the research and committee work I’ve put off because of teaching. This is the rhythm of my the academic life; about as inconvenient (but a lot less productive) than the rhythm method of contraception. One of the inevitable casualties is my birthday, which falls right in the middle of the chaos; rare is it that I get a chance to celebrate on my natal day.
So all of that explains why I was heading out into the wilds of northern Virginia with friends for a ride that was in part a birthday celebration, on a day that was nowhere near my birthday. The dearth of outdoor riding activities during the month of December in any state of the union apart from California and Hawaii meant that very early in my campaign I decided that it would be best to keep this one local. Riding weather is typically still pretty good in the DelMarVa area in December, so I was pretty confident we could get something in. With my partner’s help we put together a route around one of our favorite areas in VA that would give us some familiar terrain, but also something a little new.
Posted in Bike Rides, Life, and Other Ephemera
Tagged biking, Boyce Virginia, Christmas, cycling, December, Locke General Store, Locke Store, Millwood, Virginia, winter bike riding
The Year of the Century: Ride 2
Place: Orangeburg, South Carolina
Ride: River’s Bridge Ramble
Date: November 3, 2012
Given that December’s century has already come and gone the fact that I haven’t yet supplied a report on November’s ride is starting to look especially sad. So let’s see what we can do to rectify that.