Saturday, November 20, 2021

A Day Ride on My Bicycle

I was lucky that I hit the last warm day of the year with the time to ride the sixteen-mile bicycle loop trail that circles my home town. Having some experience with bicycling and with cold-weather bicycling, I dressed in layers, including a lightweight wool undershirt, and headed off.

I don't know how it happened, but this was the only time in the entire year that I've ridden the loop trail. Well, actually, I do know that city maintenance has closed parts of the trail for quite some time because of rebuilding the city water drainage system. Beyond that, at the beginning of this month, I did ride about two thirds of the trail prior to meeting my grandchildren at school and walking them home. Missing a whole year without riding the loop, though? That was an unacceptable trend I was determined to rectify.

The ride would take close to three hours, depending on how many times I stopped to snap photos. Also, of course, my stamina would be a factor. I hadn't been riding regularly, so even if I took it easy, I imagined that my legs would probably start feeling the miles on some of the steeper trail hills as the ride progressed. To make the trip more enjoyable, I packed a lunch, including leftover hot winter squash soup, which I'd made the day before for lunch. Hot soup, apple, cheese, crackers, energy bar, and water. Layered up with my clothes. I was ready to go!

The first quarter of the trail was unchanged, the section from my home along the city's two small lakes, past a golf course, and down a hill to a city park. One of the nice things about a familiar ride is those old, friendly sights, but also the pleasure of new sights is real, of noticing the small details and changes, such as how the fall season had carpeted portions of the trail with leaves and how the county had added a new prairie and walking trail to abut the loop trail. 

It always takes me a while on a day ride to get out of my head and to settle into the routine of just being with my body and its physical motion. I'm thinking about this and thinking about that, and then after a while, I just settle into the physical routine and allow my attention to be on the ride, the sights and smells and sounds. I didn't stop at the quarter mark at Chautauqua Park but continued on through the Lamson Woods State Preserve section of the trail, which had been shut down with drainage construction. It was rehabilitated, although there were sections along the road where trees had been removed and new grass planted to cover where drain pipes had been buried. Most of the area was untouched, though, included the ponds used during waterfowl migration. 

Stopping for a couple of times for water, I engaged the section of the trail that skirted Interstate Highway 34, a series of long hills with some fun downhill runs and uphill slogs. This is probably the noisiest section of the trail because of the interstate noise, but in some ways it is the most remote part of the trail, even with the traffic, which is busy speeding along, fenced off with a tall steel fence to keep the deer away from the traffic. I go my way and the cars and trucks go theirs. This is the most open section of the trail with more sky and fewer trees, and in the spring there are quite a few wildflowers that decorate the path of the trail. 

Witham Woods
During this section I pass the county hospital and stop at a bench for a rest, water, and half a protein bar. I'm enjoying myself but notice that my legs are getting a bit weak, nothing major but just an awareness that the muscle tone is sheering off and that the steepest hills are not as much fun as at the beginning of the ride. I end up walking up the last steep section to Witham Woods, a former tree farm and nursery that is now a part of the county park system. This is where I eat my lunch, taking a twenty-minute break. The hot soup is a real treat, and since I had blended the squash soup, I could just drink it and didn't even have to use a  spoon. 

The last segment of the trip home wanders through more city vistas--business and residential areas--and ends with a rails-to-trails segment that passes along the south section of the subdivision where I live. There I meet a neighbor who is walking his dog. He's impressed that I've ridden the entire loop, and I make a point of not mentioning my less-than-tiptop physical condition. After all, it was an easy ride, even if I could be in better shape. I walk with my neighbor for a while, chatting about this and that, and then I hop back on the bike and make my way home. 

It was a good ride, and I am reminded of why I take my folding bike along when I camp with my trailer. Bicycling is a good complement to hiking. Hiking takes me to places that I cannot reach on a bicycle either because the trail is not conducive or because bicycles (and usually also horses and snowmobiles) are not allowed on certain trails. Bicycling, though, allows me to travel longer distances more quickly, and it also allows me to include roads as a part of my daily travel and exercise. 

Montague Allston folding bicycle from an earlier trip
I've bought a folding bicycle that I take with me when I camp with my Airstream Basecamp. I'm considering buying an add-on rear bumper to the trailer that will allow me to bring along my non-folding bicycle if I want to or if both my wife and I are bicycling. I like the options and consider bicycling a part of my camping experience. After all those years of teaching school inside the classroom, I enjoy the extended physicality of a nice day ride on my bicycle. It's a pleasure to experience my body doing the work of getting the bicycle down the road--and doing it well. I'm old enough to appreciate the gift of still being able to enjoy physical pleasures such as bicycle riding, and so I intend to continue to get on my bike and get out of my head. This sixteen-mile day ride was not only a pleasure; it was also in its way a resolution to do this more often in the upcoming year. Whether on my bicycle at home or when out camping, being able to increase my health and happiness is something well worth doing.

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  1. What I enjoyed in this article is how you get out of the house and get with nature. Being in my 70's I appreciate people who get with it rather then being a couch potato. Everyone retired should look for activities that involve nature.

    1. My wife and I are lucky to have hiking and bike riding trails that route right by our subdivision. The world has much beauty. Thanks for commenting, and I wish you health and many walks this upcoming new year.