Fear and loving

Let’s start with the loving. Saturday morning I was back on the Sunshine Cycle Shop Hour of Power. It was great to be back out there where it really all began for me. The problem is it didn’t go exactly the way I wished.

The beautiful redhead was getting ready to leave for her exercise that morning. As I walked by with my cup of coffee I said, “Well, I’ll go get my torture suit on.” She gave me a sideways glance that said, “Don’t you go talking like that when I’ve heard you complain for three months about not getting to ride your bike!” Yes ma’am. “Now get out there and ride!”

As soon as I started rolling down the driveway, I was glad I got up early on a Saturday to head out with the boys. My next concern was who would show up. It has been so long since I showed up at the shop for a ride, I was afraid I might not find any of my old friends there.

Thankfully, I found John, Tony, Web, Luis, and Gary waiting. There were a few faces I either recognized without names to go with them, or with no recognition at all. I guess it all came together when Art rolled up. Now there were three or four of us from the original rides.

The day was wonderful. It was cool and there were intermittent clouds. We started out at an easy pace. About 10 minutes in, Art moved to the front and really started to get us moving. Now, understand that Art is over 60 years-old. He can still turn the screws.

As we rode along, I pulled up beside one of the “new” riders. Turns out he has been on several of the rides since I had my accident. What attracted my attention was his green Ireland jersey. I asked him where he got the jersey. With an unfeigned Irish accent he said, “On the Internet.” I’ve met riders from several different countries on my HOP rides. Now I can add Ireland to the list.

Things started going downhill for me as we started the first climb. I can tell my bike handling skills are still a little rusty. As I started up the hill I shifted to an easier gear. The spinning certainly got easier, but I didn’t seem to be going anywhere. Ah, the chain dropped! I started to pull over to the side as I tried to get my derailleur to pull the chain back in place.

Just about the time I slowed. A rider came around on my right side. Thankfully, we didn’t touch. The group went on up the hill as I got myself back in shape. As the group disappeared over the rise in front of me, I chuckled that they must still think I’m in shape seeing how they’ve gone off and left me!

Turns out that being off the back kept me from another possible accident. Gary’s cleat broke as he was spinning up another hill. I learned later that his foot slipped off and kicked his front wheel almost taking him and the riders around him down. Of course, I didn’t see it because I was still trying to catch back up.

On Meece Bridge Road things got back to normal as the three POA riders lined up to easily take the sprint to the Pee Tree. Knowing who was in the group, I wasn’t sure who might be the competition. There were a couple of guys who looked pretty fast, but I wasn’t sure. Turns out in this instance John and Luis left me sitting pretty and I took the line with no problem.

There was a rider in a Cycledrome kit who came in after me and I got the impression the main reason he didn’t give me more of a run for my money was because he wasn’t aware of the distances and terrain. I’d need to keep an eye out on him as the day progressed. Having him there to push me along brought some more interest to the ride.

Turns out it didn’t matter. A few minutes after Meece Bridge we headed toward the stop sign at the end of East Darby Road. Everyone is relaxed after the recent sprint and there is a short climb followed by a long downhill. Finally there is a short uphill to the sign.

I was off the back again as I was taking it easy after the effort. John was just in front of me as we started to gain on the group that was tightly bunched. Suddenly, a small dog ran out into the pack. The group swung to the left and several riders put on their brakes. The rider with the Ireland jersey locked up his rear and slid his bike sideways. Smoke poured from his rear tire as the rubber was burned by the friction from the asphalt.

It all happened in a split second. Once the sliding bike was righted and going forward I relaxed. I thought it was over. Then suddenly I saw Art thrown violently over the handlebars into the ground! I didn’t even see if he hit anyone. No one else went down.

John came over to the side of the road to avoid the suddenly arrested group. This was just as I was starting to pull up to his right. I went off the road to avoid him. The group stopped like a single organism — other than me. I kept going. I was shaking. Seeing Art go over the bars and land on his head was… well, a little unsettling. I didn’t want to see him if he was bad off.

The good news is that there was not any obvious broken bones. His shoulder was sore and he seemed a bit groggy, but he started to get more comfortable as we waited for transportation to take Art to a doctor. To be honest, that was the most important thing of the whole day. I was glad to receive a message later from Art letting me know he was okay.

When I’m in my sixties, I hope I am as tough as Art the Dart!

The rest of the ride was cut short because of the amount of time we spent waiting for Art to be picked up. The group could have split up and just a couple of riders could have waited with Art, but it just didn’t seem right to leave him. No one wanted to be the person to say, “Okay, I’m going to go ahead and finish the ride” while Art was sitting in the ditch holding his shoulder!

I love riding and I love the Hour of Power. However, I was introduced once again to the fear of going down. The good news is that the love won out over the fear today.