Saturday, February 15, 2014

A River Runs Through It

One of my favorite movies of all time, maybe the favorite, is "A River Runs Through It'. In some ways, the stories of the two brothers paralleled the experiences my own (younger) brother and I had growing up together. But like a river, there are "currents" that flow beneath the relationships of those close to us, those unique experiences that no one else knows of, but what makes them more precious than the most valuable gems on earth. Today's ride was a bit like that.

My original plans were to hop on my fat bike and ride up the Milwaukee River, going further north than I had been before. But soon after getting on the river. I realized my plans were to change. I was starting to head into slush. The slush turned into water. I found myself riding in about 4-5 inches of clear water, sitting over the remaining ice. At that point, I realized it was time to head for land. But when I tried to head straight to shore, the water became even deeper. So I turned and headed back the very same way I had arrived, covering my original tracks, because I knew they were solid and safe. Then I hit the land, I started to ride on the Kleztch Park trails that parallel the river. When the trails split off, I went up, and rode along the bluff, a steep ridge that runs about 100 feet or more above the river's level. I looked down and saw a familiar figure and his dog, a friendly pair I had met on the trails several times last fall and this winter. I can't recall the man's name, but his dog, a beautiful Rhodesian Ridgeback, answers by the name of "Chinatown", or China for short. I called down to my friend and we exchanged a few words about how beautiful the day was. Then he said, "Call my dog up there!". I thought it might be too steep and long of a climb, but I tried. And China came running up to me like just finding a long lost friend. Her owner called her back a couple minutes later (after she collected a bunch of ear scritches and belly rubs). He then called back up to me, "She's your friend for life now." I thanked him for the canine therapy, and we went on our own ways.

A little while later, I ran into Nick (and his dog), another friend of mine, who lives along the river, and is often found riding his own fat bike on the trails or the frozen river itself. Nick was there with his daughter, who he was towing in a sled behind his bike. He asked her what part of the ride was the most fun so far. She replied, "The part where we made a fast turn and I went flying off!" Nick told me his neighbor, David, was on the ice this morning and broke through it. I guess the water is only about 3 feet deep there, so it was more of a cool story to tell, than a real danger. David came by a little later with his own daughter, and their dog. Then came Chinatown and her owner. At some point, Nick handed David the bike. David told the girls to get on the sled, and they were off, with dogs leading the fun! I followed them a little later. River trail community makes me smile.

After I headed up along the high ridge again, I stopped at the Kleztch Park dam to take some photographs. A few minutes into it, I was surprised by man who had walked up behind me and greeted, "Hello, biker guy!" His name was Bill and he looked to be in his mid-50s (my age). He sported a long, greying ponytail, and talked of riding motorcycles and jogging. We talked about bicycles. We had a great conversation - about the beauty surrounding us, about family and commitments, about health, and about God. Bill's mom, who was suffering from Alzheimer's, was sitting in the car. I waved at her, and she waved back. At some point, Bill and I agreed to try and meet again, and wished each other God's blessings.

My plans to ride the river had changed. But my ride turned out to be much more rewarding than any solo ride would have been. I met old friends and made a new one. The day was about experiencing the undercurrents of our relationships and our lives, about what really matters - connecting with people and offering each other an memory than they may grow from and pass on to others.

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