I had an odd day.
My morning started out great, I got to sleep in until 3:05 am! I am finding out that getting out the door takes less time when I don’t have to don a gazillion layers and tons of face gear paraphernalia. Plus, biking to work takes less time because my legs are actually free to pedal properly, the roads are clear and spring is having this weird “you should go faster” effect on me.
The ride into work was calm and peaceful, just the way I like it.
But mid-morning one of the waitresses told me to come out into the dining room, as one of the tables of customers wanted to see me. Instantly, I was nervous. I really dislike going into the dining room when there are lots of people around and I had no idea what this couple wanted. Did they have a complaint about their food?
They had seen a crazy cyclist biking in a ice and rain storm in early January (from what they described I think it was this night) and had been wondering all winter who I was. This morning they had overheard a few of the “regulars” talking about me, put two and two together and found their mystery biker. They exclaimed that I was tough albeit insane. After chatting for a few minutes I went back to the kitchen.
Along the way home from work I stopped into an adorable country store to buy cabbage and some goodies to surprise my brothers with at church tomorrow since they just finished the last game of their basketball season. I went inside, snapped a picture of the candy shelf only to have the owner of the store (a sweet Mennonite lady) pull me aside.
“So you are the girl who rides your bike all the time!”
Apparently, she and all the store employees have been keeping a close eye on me and my travels all winter long. She curiously plied me with many questions, which I was more than happy to answer. As she chattered on about the various conversations she, her family and employees had been having about me throughout the winter, I began to feel my stomach start to turn just a bit. When we ended the conversation, she happily told me that she was so excited to tell all her sisters (there are 16 siblings in her family) that she had finally talked to the winter biker!
I bought everything I needed, left the store and started packing my panniers. I was going to take a picture of the cute storefront, but when I turned around, camera in hand, several people were watching from the windows and I completely chickened out.
After getting back on the road, I had to take a few deep breaths and calm myself. All of a sudden the scrutiny of being the crazy girl biker felt overwhelming. I felt threatened and creeped out when I thought of all the cars that have passed me over the winter and wondered, maybe for months, just who I am and what I am doing on the road in the snow. All the times friends and family have told me about times they have overheard others talk about me came flooding into my mind, haunting me.
Obviously, the dread that had settled over me had been triggered by the day’s events and the shy, introverted side of myself was making me cower. Fearful thoughts started to bog down my mind. I had take those thoughts firmly in hand and remind myself that the people I had spoken to today were just friendly, kind people who were concerned about my welfare (and sanity). The curiosity and concern of others is nothing to be afraid of.
And then I thought of an exchange between myself and a coworker that happened just before the end of my shift. She is considering buying a bike and riding to work because she wants to have more drive and energy while she is at work.
It is pretty amazing to know that I can maybe inspire people to ditch their car and pedal to work. Or maybe seeing me will remind them to dust off an old bike and go for a Sunday afternoon ride sometime this spring. That makes any scrutiny worth it.
Plus, this was my first winter biking, by next year I will lose my novelty status. Two winters from now I will be a standard part of the landscape and hopefully joined by other winter bikers. That would be downright awesome!
To work (10 miles)
3:30 am to 4:30 am
33F, 16 mph Southeast wind
From work plus store stop (10 miles)
3:15 pm to 4:45 pm
40F, 8 mph Southeast wind
Errand #10 Country Store (Store)
Distance: 4 miles