It may not have come across well in my brief blog entries during the ride (since I only had limited space), but I have to say that this was singularly one of the best experiences of my life. I was presented a new challenge–ride one week, every day, rain or shine, from Indiana to Pennsylvania–and I did it. Not only did I do it, but I did it despite personal pain and suffering on many levels. It wasn’t always bad, though. After my mental and emotional breakdown in Kent, when my knee was raging with pain, I managed to stabilize myself at around 35 miles and the riding became enjoyable, as evidenced by my stopping to take some pictures. Once I let myself admit that I was not going to be riding at my normal speed, I was freed from pushing myself. I just sat back, became careful about taking hills, and enjoyed the scenery. The rain had tapered off into what eventually became a beautiful sunny day and I’m so glad that I didn’t sag out. Survivor’s attitude. I think I’ve always been tough, even when it seems on the outside that I’m not tough at all, and inwardly when I feel the farthest from tough. I’m stubborn and I have resolve to complete something; these are my best qualities.
The trip was made even better by my companions and fellow ABCers–Michael, Randy, Tony Z, and Michelle. It was really fun to have people to hang out with at various places throughout the ride and also in the evenings. I feel like the trip wouldn’t have been half as fun without the socializing–sitting by our tents drinking beer with Randy and Michael, enjoying ice cream with Michelle and Tony Z. Tony’s rye humor and Randy’s consummate smile kept me going, especially in the rain when I really did not want to ride. Michael is the Energizer Bunny; he just keeps going and going, seeming to pique when the rest of us are losing our energy. This kept me going too. I had more miles on him, but he had better temperance, especially on the hills that eventually caused my knee to bother me. I should have followed his lead and tapered back.
I’m not sure I would have enjoyed this ride as much had I done it by myself. The companionship sure made it all the more complete over all those miles. My loneliest day was Friday when I rode those miles to Youngstown myself; however, I did feel it worked out for the best as I was incredibly slow and I didn’t have to feel the pressure of a group mentality to speed up. I am personally pleased that I chose not to bail and I toughed it out. Though, admittedly, it would not have been as fun to ride alone all week. I can honestly say that being an member of a bike club has gotten me quite used to companionship while riding, which was something I used to do mostly alone.
That single week seemed like a month. But in that good way that makes you feel as though you’ve learned some valuable lessons about yourself. I came back feeling mentally refreshed while physically exhausted. There’s something to be said of the power of endorphins. While I enjoy returning to civilization and a stuffed mattress and a non-leaking roof over my head, I must admit that I miss those 5:30am wake-up calls to begin a new day of riding.
I saw parts of Ohio I didn’t know were there. Little nowhere communities between cornfields and Amish farms. Rolling hills and straight-aways. College towns–Springfield, Granville. Suburbs (Grove City), surprising lake front towns (Millersport), hubs of tourism (Loudenville). I ate more ice cream last week than I have in the last two years (since I only let myself have ice cream like once every couple of months).
We befuddled onlookers with our mission. “You’re doing what?”, “Why?”, “Is this for a cause?” were the most popular questions.
“Nope,” I’d reply with a slight giggle. “We’re doing it because we’re dumb.”
Cyclists don’t vacation like normal people. Active people don’t vacation like “normal” people. I don’t know about you, my readers, but I am not very good at the lazy vacation thing. I have to do something where ever I go. My beach vacations involve hikes and snorkeling. Should I ever go to Hawaii, my goal is to climb the highest point (Mauna Kea). I got antsy on my honeymoon cruise to Mexico. I just don’t think I’m the cruising type of girl. I gotta ride it, ski it, swim it, hike it. That brings pleasure and satisfaction.
I would definitely do XOBA again. In fact, Walt (the ride director) revealed that one of his future themes for XOBA will be a brewery tour. I’m so there. Next year is the Ohio River Valley tour going east to west. I hope the brewery tour is north-south or south-north because I’d like to say I’ve crossed the state in both directions. Not sure I’m quite ready for the world of self-contained touring (don’t want to camp with limited comforts), but I’m definitely game for something like this again. Maybe soon I’ll try one of those other cross-state adventures.
I can’t forget to thank my dad for coming to the rescue in Copley with my other tent so that I didn’t have to spend another night in the refugee camp on the gym floor. He also provided Michael and I some cycling relief by driving us into Fairlawn (which we would have had to ride to) to grab dinner and beers at On Tap. Yay, Dad!! The new tent was tested overnight at Copley when rain began to fall at 4am, and it did NOT leak, except an occasional drip from the ceiling so I guess I’m going to have to reseal all the seams with waterproofing just to be safe. This tent–a literal palace of tents–has now become my tent of choice for camping. It’s got tons of room for little me and my air mattress fits in there with plenty of room to spare. Gone are the days of light pack camping for me.
It was a super trip. Here’s to many, many more! Hurrah! Now I think I will take at least a few days off to rest. My bike is at Century Cycles getting a tune-up, just to keep me honest.