Today the harsh wind, the bleak gray skies, the borderline icy temperatures have begun to abate. Meteorologists have promised, for what such promises are worth, a week of above average temperatures and sunny skies. A clearing line swept across like the lifting of a grey veil yesterday, and the wind is blowing from the south.
I feel nervous and excited. I’ve not been out on my bike since last mid-November, turning to the exercise bike in the cellar as an alternative to facing winter cycling. I disappoint myself, but neither my confidence, nor my energy levels, nor my conditioning have recovered to near their levels last year before my cancer was diagnosed and radiation and hormone treatments began. Then too, being 76 years old doesn’t help, whether the diminution in strength and resistance is real or imagined.
The indoor/outdoor thermometer reads 61.2˚ at 11:00, but that may be influenced by sun shining on the sensor. AccuWeather says it’s 57˚. Close enough for government work; I know what gear works in that temperature range, and though it should get several degrees warmer I’m going to be conservative and go heavier on the clothing: bib shorts, thermal underlayer, lime-green training jacket (handkerchief and iPhone bagged in plastic in the pockets), soft heavier socks, nominal sweatband.
In the garage, rakes and snow shovels cover my cycling shoe stand, omens of the chores of months just past. They get relegated to the remote corners. My bike rolls out easily past the new smaller Audi A3. After being on the wall for three months the tires are at about 2 atmospheres; the pump fills the front one to 6, the rear to 7. I’m grateful that I lubricated the bike just before I stopped using it. Fresh water in the bottle, computer cleared of that last fall ride’s data, helmet and gloves on, and I’m ready to go.
Rolling downhill toward Jackson Parkway I have that slightly disoriented feeling of relearning the feel and nuances of riding. I’ve lost the instinctive certainty of melding with the machine. Up Jackson to the W&OD right-of-way, where I see it’s been cleaned off and the brush has been taken back several feet off the tarmac. That’s even truer up on the trail itself, where the swath is from 10 to 20 feet wide. At least they had the sense to do it before all the little nesting creatures became active.
Workmen are fussing with the new crossing lights at Cedar Lane. Are those traffic cameras? Good! The cleared underbrush and bare limbs reveal new home construction from teardowns on the way to Vienna, and there are two areas where tree-trimmers have blocked half the trail with their trucks. Can’t they get those monsters off the trail entirely? At the Community Center the large building project, featuring a “scored earth” approach to tree conservation, has us going between narrow chain-link barriers and across the middle of the now-shut parking lot.
Monitoring my body, I feel strong. My neck hurts some, though. I’m not used to this angle, even though my handlebars are set to a more relaxed position. I move along pretty well in the quartering tailwind. There are a few walkers and dog-walkers, and just a rider or two. One passes me west of Vienna, the only one to do so on this 11.3 mile ride. One more service truck setup to pass. That’s three in less than four miles. Sheesh! Out where Angelico Branch is swampy the spring peepers, and even more the “spring croakers,” are starting to wind up the volume. Thousands of horny amphibians in cold water. I feel so good that I’m very tempted to go beyond Hunter Mill Road and try the steep trail hill. But I won’t. I need to return into the wind, and I don’t trust my energy reserves.
Good decision, as I start to feel the effort in my back and quads by the time I’m nearing Vienna again. Going east I have to walk my bike around three huge tree trimming trucks east of Park Avenue. I do just OK up and over the hill, but by the time I’m back at Academy I have enough left for an out-of-the-saddle sprint to the top of the street.
Not too bad. And tomorrow it’s supposed to be over 70˚.
©Arnold J. Bradford, 2016.