Today my friend Don turned 34 years old. Don is a very special guy, a raw foodist, owns a veggie oil vehicle that he made himself, practitioner of yoga, extensive world traveler, spanish teacher, and fixed gear bicycle rider. We also happen to work together, so today when he told me in confidence that it was his birthday i wasn't at all surprised that he didn't tell everyone, because he's very humble and low key. I had been planning a longer bike ride than what i'm used to for today being Thanksgiving because i figured that at night there wouldn't be much traffic. Spur of the moment i invited him to ride with me, and he lit up. Apparently every year on his birthday he likes to do something special, take a trip, something that he can remember so when i asked him he immediately said yes.
The idea was to do the local Sarasota Roadie weekend ride which is a 30 mile out and back ride, mostly on a barrier island covered with million dollar homes, over a nice size bridge with a 20degree incline over .3 miles(if i did my math right) which is a total blast, but can be hard.
In my mind i wanted to do this ride in the same amount of time that the Roadies do it, with their full kit, super geared bikes and goo-gels only we'd do it on our fixed gear bikes, with no brakes. A steep challenge but i though it obtainable.
We set out at 10pm and from where our starting location was it's only about a half a mile to the bridge, so it's not a lot of time to warm up, but up we went and onto the barrier island.
The night was balmy, maybe 70 degrees and on the island there was a very light mist that was left over from the afternoons rain, all covered by a nearly full moon, with the sound of the surf crashing on the beach. In short it was a perfect night for a ride.
We sped along nicely under the cover of trees and past immaculately landscaped lawns.
I must say that working with Don is great. He's got tons of interesting stories about travel, all across Europe, south america(the guy spent a month in Columbia, basically in the jungle), he's very in touch with current events, green living and activist going-ons. He's one of those guys who always has something interesting to say, which can make it hard to work with him since i always want to just stand and talk. Needless to say, it was great riding side by side with him so we could really chat without the burden of work.
Making good time we reached the turnaround point, so we decided to take a quick break and walk half way across a bridge that takes you to the next island north. the view from this bridge is great at night, open water to the Gulf of Mexico to the west and a calm estuarine/inlet to the east.
Back on the bikes, pushing harder into a good headwind, both of us starting to tire a little bit, a quick stop at a oddly located 7-11 for a snack, and in no time heading toward town and that bridge again, looming like it does. after 29 miles i was really starting to feel a burn in my left thigh, and the slight formation of a cramp, but who can stop at that point? No other choice but to put my hands into the drops, tuck my head and give it my all.
I'm not one for pictures but i wish i had one of the face I'm sure i was making... the perfect mix of grueling struggle and complete bliss. Yelling like a madman upon reaching the top, Don not to far behind me. descending that bridge is one of the greatest thrills, I'm sure i reached somewhere very near 30mph going down, flying, you feel you could ride another 500 miles, no one is stronger than you, no one feels as connected to something as you do right now. And it's really fucking sweet.
I hope that Don had as good of a time riding this ride with me on his birthday as i did.
As a side benefit, i got home right at 11:45pm, we rode the ride just fifteen minutes longer than my Roadie friends ride it, which i'm very happy with. Once stopped in my drive half collapsing onto my bars, not from exhaustion but from a thankfulness to have just done this ride. It's Thanksgiving, and it just started to pour rain, we needed it(the rain). I needed it(the bike ride), and i know Don needed it.