Monday, September 26, 2011

Here comes the rain again...

So, a week ago last Sunday, I get caught doing a 100 miles in a down pour. This past Saturday, just 6 days later, I end up doing a 75 mile ride in nothing short of the same. Actually, the first 50 miles or so, consisted of steady, but not hard rain. But then the skies let loose again for the last 25 miles, bringing is huge, heavy drops that felt like hail against any exposed skin. I was riding with an tandem team, Steve and Barb, that must have had a hidden motor on their purple Co-Motion tandem. Now, anyone who has ever drafted behind a strong tandem team knows that you are usually in for a free ride. Tandems have the same frontal area as a single bike, but powered by two "motors". Unfortunately, when the streets are covered with flowing water that is closer to a small river than the beautifully dry, clean roads we envision in our cycling dreams, you really don't want to sit on the wheel of any bicycle...unless you like drinking in worm water all day long. And I did enough of that 6 days prior. So when we had each other's wheel, we usually just sat a few inches off to one side, and that made life so much more "pleasurable".

So we rolled, and we rolled hard, into the driving rain. It was a blast, as it is any time when I can get a ride in and get home safe and in one piece. Next week I might be meeting Steve for another ride, but this time he will be on his single bike.

Oh yes, did I mention how old Steve is? Well, let's just say that he won 3 gold medals in this years Wisconsin Senior Olympics...in the 60-65 age category. In fact, his time was faster that 1st place times in both age categories younger than him: 50-54 and 55-59.

Sometimes life can be so humbling.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Spider Monkeys and Strongman Jack

 This past Sunday's North Shore Century bicycle ride in Evanston, Illinois was all wet, literally. I rode most of the day with a local cycling club called The Spider Monkeys. They were a great group to ride with, as they obviously had spent a lot of time working on their pack handling skills. The first 70 miles or so were in a steady, but light rain - just enough to keep you chewing road grit as it spattered off the rear wheel you were drafting off. Good thing we missed running over those mushy, rain-soaked roadkill squirrels and opposums along the way. I'm sure they were organic, free-range and everything, but I found the the rest stop granola bars to have a more attractive presentation. As if getting an occasional taste of worm-water in your mouth wasn't enough, somewhere around the 70 mile mark, the rain machine went into overdrive, along with the now strong headwinds.

  Somewhere around the 75 mile mark, a couple of Spider Monkeys had flats. Everyone stopped to check their own tires. A few minutes later, a few of us decided to keep going and find an end to this day-long bike bath. I left the group with one other gentleman, Jack, a 56 year old cyclist from Poland. Jack was a strong rider, and had no problem keeping our 22-24 mph pace. A few miles later, we were caught by 3 young men - I'd say in their early 20s - in full-blown, fancy "Illinois Tech" racing kit. And their young, sinewy gams provided clear evidence that this paceline was not going to be any ordinary hayride. We all took turns pulling at the front, everyone appearing to behave themselves, with no sudden testosterone-driven jumps being displayed. A few more miles went by. With me having taken the lead, I looked back. All I saw was old man...uh, Strongman Jack sitting on my wheel, and no one else. I asked Jack what happened and he said, "You dropped them at that first hill a couple miles back." I replied, "What hill?". Well, needless to say (but I will anyway), Jack and I were beaming in the fact that us old geezers had dropped three guys half our age...without even trying.

  The last 20 miles felt like they were never going to end. The rains kept coming and the headwinds never let up. Jack was having a  blast riding on my wheel as we maintained speeds around 23-25 mph. I just wanted to see an end to this day. But despite the fact that it was the most uncomfortable century I had done all summer, it was also the easiest. After all, we have real  hills in Wisconsin. ;)

  And may I say to Jack, "It was real, my friend!"

Monday, September 19, 2011

Wait and Listen: Part Two

Well, here it is over one month since Part One. Please forgive my poor timing, but as I've mentioned before, writing doesn't come easy for me. .

When I got off the phone with my wife the afternoon of  Saturday, July 23rd, I was troubled. But I didn't quite know why. It was like a gentle voice tugging at my heart. That's the best way I can describe it.Sure, I could hear the dissapointment in my wife's voice when I told her that I wouldn't be coming to spend time with her mom that night. But surely she could understand why. I was tired. I had a long day at work, after all. But there was something else going on, but I didn't realize what it was until later that night. I just knew that I had to get over to see my mother-in-law that night. It was then I realized who that gentle voice was: The Holy Spirit. I felt I had no choice - I had to listen.

Linda walked in the door shortly after I came home from work. After being with her mom all day and not eaten anything, the nurse told Linda to go home, grab some dinner, and come back later. She told Linda everything would be all right. Well, Linda and I ate a quick meal, and I told her I would be coming along when she went back to see her mom that evening. Needless to say, she was very happy with that.

We got back there about an hour later. The nurse said that Mom had shown some response when she would talk with her, and said that was encouraging. But she also said it was good we were there. The nurse left. Linda and I pulled up a couple chairs and sat beside Mom's bed, gently talking to her. As Linda lovingly stroked Mom's hair, I read a Psalm. Then Linda began to sing the old hymn, "Softly and Tenderly (Jesus is Calling)", and I joined in.

A few minutes later, Jesus welcomed Mom into his loving arms. Lois Shutler was now truly home.