Let’s rewind a bit. Monday night was a night of excitement and but also nervous stomach butterflies. Tomorrow was the big day and I felt unprepared for the trip to Rochester. In the past week I had tapered off my mileage a bit so I could have super-fresh legs for my journey, but it didn’t seem to be helping. I was feeling less energized on my bike than I had felt for a while. My confidence in my ability to pull this thing off was ebbing.
But I remembered what John had told me on Sunday.
“We all have those “what if” worries before our first tour. I can tell you from experience that within a quarter mile of your ride, all those heebie jeebies will be replaced by a huge smile. It’s only a bike ride fercryingoutloud.”
So I held tight to those words of experience, not knowing how startlingly accurate they would turn out to be.
I left the house just before dawn, feeling very shakey and jittery. From the moment I pulled out of the driveway, I knew that something was wrong. My front wheel was clicking with every revolution. Oh dear. I went into full-panic mode and pulled onto the grass, searching desperately in my mind for what the problem could be. Maybe it was the brakes? Sure enough they were slightly off-center and thanks to my bike professor I know how to fix that. But when I spun the wheel after centering them the click was still there. Was my bike tour was over before it had even begun?
Then my jittery self calmed down enough to actually think. A smile spread across my face. I knew that click! It was the click of the computer’s sensor against the fork, I hadn’t straightened it after washing my bike the night before. I rolled my eyes at myself for panicking so easily. With a laugh, I hopped on my bike and sure enough the heebie jeebies were gone within a quarter of a mile.
The weather was perfect, low 50s with a light wind. I climbed out of the river valley and onto a plateu. I passed a few kids waiting outside for the school bus and they waved and said hello.
“Have a good day at school!” I called out to them.
“You too!” One of them replied, ever so sincerely.
I knew I was about to have a great day at school.
The paved back roads turned into gravel, which made for slower biking but I didn’t mind. My bike and I were going through a quiet forest together in the chill of the morning and there were deer and owls and pretty colorful leaves. As I went on the state of the roads got worse and worse. The fine gravel turned to chunks and potholes and random huge rocks were everywhere. Why, oh why had I trusted Google Maps?
But then my heart sunk. Glaring at me from the side of the road was a dead end sign. No, it couldn’t be! I was on the right road it was supposed to take me through to another road in six miles! I decided I didn’t care, I was gonna make it through this forest somehow. Dead end, ha!
We continued on.
Sure enough the road soon ended with a huge locked gate with a giant NO TRESSPASSING sign. Gulp. I didn’t have a choice so I went up and over the fence and pulled my bike underneath. If anyone yelled at me I would just explain the situation and apologize profusely, somehow it would work out okay.
I went down the trail gingerly for three reasons. First, I was breaking the law. Second, this route was ideal…for a mountain bike. I kept praying that my road bike would not be ripped to shreds on the rough terrain. Third, there were lots of weird signs everywhere.
“ABSOLUTELY NO RACING”
So I didn’t race.
“USE OF THIS TRAIL IS A PRIVILEDGE NOT A RIGHT”
Oh, I know!
“STAY ON MAIN TRAIL”
“PLEASE TREAD LIGHTLY”
I am, I promise.
For 4.5 miles I treaded very carefully, without racing, down the main trail past campers and RV’s. It was extremely eerie. I began to breathe again when I didn’t see any cars or signs of current activity. No one was around to stop me. And I didn’t even get a flat tire until I walked my bike around the locked gate on the other side. The joy of being on a public road once more was so overwhelming I didn’t mind the few minutes it took to swap out tubes.
Within a quarter mile, I saw a glorious sight. Paved road! To top it off the next ten miles were downhill. I flew down those hills, elated to have made it through the most remote area of the forest.
I went on through morning, stopping now and then to eat and take bathroom breaks. In the early afternoon I went through Oswego and once I made it across the city, I found myself on the SUNY Oswego campus. Oh Google, what have you done to me now?
But the road on the campus took me directly to Lake Ontario. I have only been to the Lake a few times but it is a true friend. Most of our snow every winter is lake-effect snow. And what would I do without snow? So I hung out and got wet and stared out into the water and watched the gentle waves for a while.
Then I said goodbye. I biked south down twisting country roads, my favorite kind of road. A sense of complete elation came over me. Every new turn in the road felt like an adventure, or an important discovery. There were fields of corn, apple orchards, lines of grape vines everywhere I went. I spotted all kinds of birds: ospreys, kestrels and falcons. I felt alive and young and free and bold and strong but mostly just happy.
The afternoon sped by and before I knew I only had fifteen miles left to get to the hotel. My body was getting a bit sore from biking all day, but my legs, which I was so worried about stayed strong to the very end.
I pulled into the hotel parking lot at 5:02 with 116 miles on my odometer and a rather flat tire. All my flats have impeccable timing.