Liz, Duff and Jean Marie picked me up at 6:45 a.m. on Saturday, popped my bike on the van’s rack, and off we went to Krause Springs. I will tell you: I was worried! And a little bit scared.
Fifty miles of riding a bike was starting to sound like crazy business…
We got to the site, and it was chilly cuz I had on my hugely-padded biking shorts and riding shirt…I now know: bring a windbreaker! Lesson #1. Rode my bike over to where all the action was starting…the breakfast tent! Ate a breakfast taco, just one, cuz I didn’t know how strenuous the first part of the ride would be and didn’t want to throw up…Man, that taco was tasty. Anyhoo, walked around and saw a TON of friends…I had no idea! And saw people who had on funny costumes, folks who had decorated their helmets…What a wonderful community of folks! Everyone smiling and positive and telling me how proud they were I was doing this…Heaven on earth, I tell you!
Finally, almost 8:30, so everyone starts taking their bikes over to the starting gate (yes, we actually did pass through a gate to get to the starting point! Tee-hee) I lined up on the “slow” side, and everyone on my team lined up on the FAST side. I was thinking…Hmm. But, Jean Marie stayed by my side, so that was a positive plus. David Smith got on the megaphone and told us wonderful things about why it was important we were riding our bikes, and to remember who we were riding them for. Of course, that made me weepy….I started thinking about Victor…and David…and Kim…and Lance’s father (he didn’t have AIDS, but the anniversary of his death had been the day before…)…But, I felt EMPOWERED and NOTHING was going to stop me from completing this race! Suddenly, boom! Everyone is pedaling and were are all whizzing along….
Almost 1/2 mile in, my chain came off. I thought I was in a bad gear, until I realized that was what had happened. Jean Marie had already gotten ahead of me, and she became a pinprick on the horizon. Fortunately, the volunteers on this race are INCREDIBLE and PERFECT and APPEAR OUT OF NO WHERE! and two women in a truck jumped out, one of them popping my chain on in seconds flat. I was back on my bike!
Then, my sunglasses went flying somewhere, but I didn’t stop. I just kept riding. It was a beautiful, overcast and quiet morning…so, I figured by the time I needed sunglasses, I’d just deal with it.
We came to a water crossing, and that was the last time I saw the hundreds of bicyclists…We had to walk our bikes across, while waiting on the other side were 6 spooked horses and their riders…Finally through all the splishing and splashing, I crossed under the dappled light of the trees, the cool water splashing up on my shins, the spinning of water from bike wheels making a lovely “shhhhhhh” sound. The horses, I hear, made it across after all the cyclists finished. Patient creatures!
I rode…and I rode…and I rode…The first “pit” I came to was a big relief for my bladder. (11.5 miles) Jean Marie was waiting and gave me a big hug…I ate some peanut butter and drank some very cold apple juice!
At one point, I was out in the middle of no where, completely alone, peddling and singing a new song out loud, when I decided I needed to go a little faster. As I stood up on my bike to shake out my tail feathers and get serious, a huge white heron appeared from the tops of a tree and sailed directly over me. I felt I had been blessed to go faster! “Thank you, Heron!” I hollered out.
I was smiling to myself, and rode on down the road.
It reminded me of the time I was a little girl, visiting my paternal grandparents in D.C….we were at the zoo, and a large bald eagle was resting on a limb high above my head. I was apologizing to our national symbol that he was confined to a cage, when he should be free!, when, as if by magic, one of his feathers started to FALL, spiraling all the way down and landing directly in front of me, there for the taking at my feet, just inside the wire. I reached in and took it. It was a gift, I thought, for caring for this creature. I had that feather for years and years and years, until I gave it to someone who I thought needed it at a moment of sorrow in their life…
So, I pedaled on. Occassionally, the Pirate couple would come by in their decorated black truck (complete with a fake parrot attached on top). They would drive up and ask if I needed anything..water or ice or a chocolate…I took them up on it twice on the journey. The man had on a true swashbuckler’s outfit…boots, pants that ballooned just so, a fluffy white shirt, an eye patch, the black pirate hat complete with skull and crossbones, crazy necklaces and a sword…The woman was a bit more like a hostess at Red Lobster, complete with fishnet stockings and an “RRRRRrrgh!” with every response.
The second pit (22 miles), I was thinking…MAN, I’m 1/2 way done!!!! I wasn’t hurting anywhere, but my rear was getting tired. I just kept shifting on the ride, and the little distractions I would find (oh, a barn! oh, i’ll eat some of this power bar! oh, i need to shift my weight! oh, what pretty flowers!) kept me happy. Amazing how such small thoughts can carry one so far! This pit was decorated 50’s style…Women in poodle skirts and men in rolled up jeans, slicked back hair and white tees. Elvis on the cd player, and 45 singles swinging from the trees! I ate some peanut butter crackers and drank some (yuck) Gatorade and refilled my water bottle. It was nice to relax my buns. I had ridden almost 22 miles! I couldn’t believe it.
The lunch pit (34 miles?) was decorated like the wizard of Oz, people cheering you in dressed like the Tin Man, Dorothy, etc. All friends from the Care Communities (formerly the Interfaith Care Alliance). It was good to see familiar faces and hug necks! I ate a roast beef sandwich, chatted for awhile, and then realized…I was going to reach the finish line about two hours earlier than I thought! Which was good for me, but I had told my family to meet me at 4…I found a phone and called Lance, letting him know I didn’t have much farther to go….He was shocked, as well as I, on how far I’d already ridden, as it was only 1 pm!!!
So, I sat and chatted with Rosanne and then, finally, hopped back on my bike and the hills….oh, man. The hardest part was the end of this race. Two severe hills in a row. The first one I had to walk up, the second….I was prepared, mentally, so I rode down down down the first giant hill (whoo…I can go fast on a bike!), shifted gears at the bottom and pedaled like my butt was on fire (which, of course, by now it was)…..and…I….made…it up the hill! In the blink of an eye, I was at the top! I did it! And then….oh, the glory of speeding down the other side, just hanging on, the wind rushing over my face, yellling “Wa-hoooooooooooooooo!” and feeling like I had accomplished something so significant…something just for my loved ones…for me…for life….
At the end of the race, I could not see my family waiting at the finish line…So, I turned around. The volunteers and folks waiting were cheering, and then when they saw me turn around, they were all yelling, “WRONG WAY! COME BACK!” and I was yelling, “NOT TIL MY FAMILY ARRIVES!” Sandy and her boyfriend ran out to see what was wrong and when I told them they brought me a phone..I tried to call Lance and my mom, to no avail. So I rode further back and waited under a tree for about 25 minutes…Finally, I could see Jean Marie waving excitedly, and through the trees, I could see Lance, running!, towards the line and my mom and my daughter, Lily, so I hopped on my bike and started riding for all my worth and EVERYONE was cheering…WOW! SO loud! So happy! So enthusiastic! And I rode into the arms of my loved ones and everyone was hugging me and I turned and my friend, Everett, was standing there, glistening with sweat, and he had a medal, and I burst into a big smile and said, “EVERETT! YOU GOT A MEDAL! THAT IS SO AWESOME! CONGRATULATIONS!” and he laughed and said, “WHAT? Didn’t you know? We ALL get medals!” And I was FREAKIN’ OUT! WHAT?! WHAT! I GET A MEDAL TOO! And cameras were flashing and people laughing and next thing I know, David Smith has placed a medal round my neck and you would have thought MY LIFE WAS COMPLETE I WAS SO PROUD!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! WOW! I looooooooooooove my medal! I worked so hard for it! A medal…just for me. Gosh. Thank you, medal makers of America! I can promise you I love mine!!!!
Went to Houston, and stayed at Sara’s B&B in the Heights. Go there. It is perfect and lovely and perfectly appointed. Super nice owners, too.
Wrote with Dan Workman, a ray of light, a stupendous, loving awesome man. We had so much fun. We worked on songs and talked about life and death and all the things that happen in between. Dan owns Sugar Hill Studios, a legendary recording facility, so we worked in the belly of the studios in Dan’s office. I can not wait for you to hear the music! I have an entirely new idea for a new cd, and believe you me, we are already at work on it. Thank you, Dan, for making me feel welcome, for celebrating my talents, for being a true friend. I love our friendship!!!!
Ok, I have to stop and have some breakfast. I have a rehearsal here in 30 minutes with Bill Oliver and the Otter Space Band!