Saturday, April 21, 2012
Although we’ve experienced a few weeks of rain, the ride season began in earnest in March, giving me over a month of riding that I normally wouldn’t have. It has allowed me to meet up with other friends who ride sooner than usual. I’ve gone from being secluded in my home watching movies, to RIDE club dual-sport rides and bike church Sundays. This has been the third season I’ve gone to bike church - the local coffee shop around the corner from my house where other riders meet for
conversation and coffee. I like seeing the same people again year after year. It makes me feel like I have a lot of friends on the road. When I wave at a passing rider it might be someone I’ve met at bike church; it makes the world seem smaller and more friendly. Along with these riding opportunities, early warm weather has brought other gifts with it. I’m walking, doing home repairs and taking stock of my work life.
Pia met me at bike church. We talked until everyone else was gone. We sat so long, a few people I had visited with earlier in the morning rode by again and we exchanged waves. We decided to spend the afternoon riding and then stop for lunch in Richland, which is about an hour away as the crow flies. We took the long way around, though, with me leading her there via favorite roads. Once we left Grand Rapids, I found myself committed to the happenings on the ride. The sights and sounds of the trip flitted past me, registering not only in my mind, but in my body. True to the spirit of riding, I was no longer thinking about our destination, but instead, was taking in the details of the areas we passed through.
We took Fulton into Ada where we drove through town and past the softball field and the covered bridge, under the railroad tracks and around the edge of the lake. From there we turned onto Buttrick, a road that links one subdivision to another. It is edged by a paved path and we passed runners and bicyclists and young couples pushing strollers. We came to Whitneyville road and headed south. Here, houses are set far back from the road – we passed a man on a riding lawn mower tracing neat lines in his front yard and sending the scent of freshly cut grass into the air. We turned east and hit winding roads past a man who had pulled off to fish in a near-by stream. He wore gators and was sorting through a tackle box with his pole perched against his car. We turned south again and passed a road-side park. I saw two pair of flip-flops sitting on a picnic table before spotting their owners peering into the creek. We picked up speed as the houses spread out. Dirt side roads appeared as tributaries on our route. With another turn, we were in farm country. We rolled up and down hills and wound around curves nestled among fields, riding from one barn to the next. The sky was robin’s egg blue with clouds floating so low over the land, we passed through cold spots as we rode underneath them, the sun’s warming rays just out of reach. Fields were freshly plowed into neat rows and the smell of rich loamy soil rose up around us.
Every ride is an opportunity to practice, but early season rides remind me why- some of my actions felt stilted after so much time off during winter. So I refreshed my cornering skills amid the freshly-tilled countryside: slowing to a safe entry speed then rolling on the throttle as I reached the apex of the curve. I loosened my grip, dropped my right shoulder and shifted my upper body toward the right mirror, preparing my body for the sweeping right-hand curve.
This week I have awakened each morning and walked for an hour. I take a different route each time. I walk to the end of each street then turn, walk and turn, letting my feet guide me. Sometimes while walking, I get a picture of a part of the city in my mind’s eye and I start heading in that direction. This is a microcosm of my motorcycle rides. I let the route unfold. I watch my body loosen up as it wakes up. While walking, I practice different strides- first short quick steps then longer while lifting my knees higher. I move my arms like windmills or hug myself or stretch both arms behind me and clasp hands. Walking like this is a meditation for me. I am not timing my miles, not aiming for distance travelled. I only want to feel my body and discover what it’s capable of. I am preparing my body for the day.
Pia and I continue our ride into Middleville and turn on to M-37 for a short stretch until we find M-43. This road takes us past a Goodwill and a turn-off for Yankee Springs, toward tiny towns. We ride through Cloverdale and into Delton past two cruisers parked outside a bar. We follow behind a small red car going much too slow, past a fun trio of curves between Gull Lake and Little Long Lake. Finally, we arrive in Richland at the Blackhawk Inn where we stop to talk and lunch. This is the ideal way to spend an afternoon- riding with a friend whose company I enjoy off the bike as much as on it.
Our conversation at lunch was just as varied as the roads we’d traveled. We talked about our careers up until that point and what direction they’re taking. We talked about relationships we’ve had and how disappointed we’d been. We talked about new people in our lives and the possibilities that exist with them. We shared fears of loss and sought answers to questions we didn’t know were there until we started talking. This is the way of women- discussing, divulging, discovering. The ride down was a chance to escape our histories, the lunch a chance to review it and the ride home was a new beginning. She is deepening in relationship with another and I am deepening in relationship with myself. I am preparing myself for a new life as a writer.
I’ve been following the urges to move everyday through my morning walks. I’ve also been doing some work around the house. I feel driven to do this. It’s had me sorting and discarding, raking and sweeping, digging and planting. It’s made me find tools I haven’t touched in many months- a hammer, drill, screwdriver, wire brush. I’ve pulled out gallons of paint and bottles of spackle. I hear the faint sound of my father’s table saw and see his pencil caught behind his ear. I see parts of him in me as I work. I am engaged in other work here- inner work, it finally occurs to me, as I move my desk into position in a new room. I am setting up shop. I am rearranging and repairing- all in preparation for a new beginning. I am preparing my home for my new life.
Some roads have become as familiar as old friends. I return to them year after year to reset. I gauge my riding skills since the last time on that route, make adjustments to my body position and break habits to find newer, safer ones. The riding season is another way I tell time. Another way I take stock of my life. I return to the ritual of Spring cleaning to sort through old belongings, repair what is broken and discard what isn’t worth saving. I look at friendships that have worn thin and new ones that offer support and guidance. In all I do- whether on a ride, in a relationship, in my home or in my body- I am finding a new way. A way that enlivens, enriches and encourages me. This year holds much promise- I look outside at the daffodils and see this promise reflected in the bright faces of their Spring blooms nodding in the breeze.