We had a heat wave this past Sunday; I guess you could call it a taste of Indian summer. It was glorious. After skulking around the house for a few hours, I decided to take advantage of this nice weather and go for a ride. I checked the temperature by standing out on my back deck before changing into my bike clothes, but I quickly determined that I could get away with wearing shorts and a short-sleeved jersey. I put my arm warmers in one of my back pockets, thinking that perhaps it would be chilly once I started riding, but that never happened. The temperature was literally perfect. My computer weather application read 65 degrees when I got back; it must have gotten to the upper 60s during the ride.
I wanted to do about 55 miles, so I decided to head out on a route I know by heart that takes me through Aurora on backroads up to my favorite Winchell Road through Hiram Rapids and reaching my halfway destination of Hiram. My return route was about 10 miles shorter, going to Garrettsville via Wheeler Road, and then heading back along Hankee to Asbury and numerous backroads in Portage County. I love this route because it’s mostly low traffic– the most busy roads I use are Route 700 for about 2 miles from Hiram Rapids into Hiram and Route 303 for a few mile jog to Cooley. There was one route change from my previous route to Hiram: I found that you can use Mennonite Road to get to Chamberlain which crosses Winchell; I previously took Route 82 (busy!) to a Eggleston (at the top of a hill). I like this new route better as it involves very little traffic and more pleasant scenery (and a few little steep rollers, too).
I was in an anti-social mood so I rode alone. At the start of the ride, I promised myself that I was just going to ride in a leisurely manner–not pushing myself or over-exerting. I didn’t want to burn out in the middle of the ride, as I often do even by myself; I wanted to just ride and enjoy every moment of it. I sometimes feel I don’t just enjoy the ride enough. Since the weather was perfect and I had nowhere to be that would require coming back soon, I could afford to just relax. I had a nice late start–left my house around 1:30–and I hit an ATM a few miles from my house before starting the route to ensure that I had some backup cash (I was completely out).
I hadn’t ridden since Tuesday so I didn’t really know how my legs would feel. Fortunately, they seemed rearing to go with only the minor annoyance of some pain in my inner thighs that I’d had since swimming at the gym on Friday. It only seemed to affect me sometimes when pushing a little harder on the pedals.
The sun was out. I actually had to, for the first time in weeks, apply sunblock. The sky was bluer than seemed usual for Ohio, more like a Colorado blue. It seemed really weird to be riding in shorts and a short-sleeved jersey with almost all the leaves gone from the trees and people burning piles of leaves in their yards. The world seemed cast in that dim yellow half-light–like a solar eclipse at half phase–that takes over day once Daylight Savings Time starts.
Being in Hiram these days gives me a weird feeling. On the one hand, I feel nostalgic; on the other, I feel like an outsider. Like my life with Mike, my life at Hiram is another warm, happy episode of my life that ended abruptly without meaningful resolve. I graduated and then the next day, I was no longer a student but an “alum” with no proper weaning in between. I was married one day and then the next I was a widow. I didn’t get a chance to really say goodbye, give either experience a proper send-off. I guess I always have trouble with change. Not that I dwell too much in the past, but it should be noted that the two happiest periods in my life were my time as a student in Hiram and my time, a few years later, with Mike. There has been no period in my life in which I have felt as good as I did in either time. Just the facts.
Things don’t change much at Hiram itself, other than new buildings, new administrations, and new students. The spirit of the place is still there and any Hiram alum or soon-to-be student feels that. You can’t miss it. So when I go there and I sit on the college green as I did this time, I can still absorb some of that spirit for myself. I can revel in it. Remember. Unfortunately, I don’t have a place like that where I can reabsorb the spirit of my time with Mike, even momentarily.
Hinsdale Hall smells the same. I went in to use the rest room and refill my water bottle. I’m not sure what you would call that smell. Spirit of old buildings, circa 1970s, perhaps? The building is my nemesis for it was tromping down a flight of stairs one evening that I slipped, fell down the stairwell, and hit–I mean bashed–my head against the bulletin board on the landing. Twelve stitches to the forehead and the nice nickname of “Mrs. Frankenstein” for a few weeks. Needless to say, I didn’t go upstairs.
The campus was still and quiet, like any Sunday when I attended. Probably some students who left for the weekend had not yet returned to campus. Things always seemed to get noisier on Sunday night. Some students were playing catch on the college green and others were sitting at picnic tables outside their dorms. Cars lined the parking spaces on the street in their last hours to sit there until they have to be moved to the student parking lots for the week day traffic.
I tried to stay away from everyone. I didn’t want to be identified as the creepy old lady on a bike. I know what I would have thought of me, dressed in lycra, on a road bike when I were a student. I did take a picture of my bike on the green in front of Hinsdale Hall. My bike is cute. I guess I am a creepy old lady.
A bell tower clock–which, I noted, was not the same clock noise that was there when I was a student–chimed three o’clock as I finished munching on a Clif bar (my lunch) and pondering my wistful years as a dreaming English major (I’m not going to go there). I didn’t tarry long since I knew it would get dark at 5ish.
I started down 305 to take Wheeler Road into Garrettsville. I’m happy to report that 305 has been recently paved and it’s an absolute delight to coast down. I only got up to 35mph, but I bet I could have gone faster had I pushed the pedals some. I actually wasn’t that scared. I’m just always a little more reserved going down hills I don’t use regularly enough to know their every nook and cranny.
True to my word, I felt pretty good throughout the ride. The last twenty miles are a little more on the hilly side, but nothing too horrible. Since I wasn’t trying to keep up with anyone, and I also didn’t feel very competitive, I actually allowed myself to use the granny gear in places I normally would try to muscle it out. The last stretch on Lake Rockwell Road, going right along the lakes of the Akron watershed (one of which is probably actually named Lake Rockwell), was just so enjoyable. There was a pristine quiet where I felt as though I were alone in the world which is something I think I’d been craving all weekend. By this time, it was getting to evening, and the brown fallen leaves were alight in what I always refer to as The Golden Hour because the angle of the sun casts everything in a golden glow. Shadows are long and the sun makes everything sparkle, especially at this time of year with the lack of green to blot out the reflection. It was the exact right time to be going down Lake Rockwell, that’s for sure. I captured a moment at the top of one small roller before heading down to the next. Looking back at the picture, I just want to jump back into it.
Once I got through Lake Rockwell, I turned on Ravenna and viewed the less scenic side of the watershed–the fenced in side with all the warnings about hidden motion detectors and hidden cameras and such. I’ve never been able to see these declared threats, but then I have never actually stopped to look for them as hidden cameras–or even visible cameras without eyes I can see behind them–kind of creep me out. It’s the Big Brother gag reflex.
For the last leg of the ride, I decided to act like a “normal” cyclist and take the Franklin Connector (paved bike path) from Judson Road to where it ends on Young at the Akron MetroParks bikeway. Further down the road, the Stow Bikeway also connects in and that goes within a mile at two different trailheads from my house so I took that all the way in. Since I was at 60 miles, I didn’t take the most direct “exit” off the Bikeway to my house to try to get those last two miles in for a metric century. It’s nice taking the roundabout way home, especially when really the only thing chasing me off the bike at the moment was the closing dusk. I felt so refreshed and renewed mentally from this ride that I almost didn’t want it to end. At this point, I’d only had eggs and toast for breakfast and a Clif bar all day so I was getting a little hungry.
I rolled back into my house around 5:30. My ride time was 4:08’33 with a 15.0mph average. Not bad for taking a “relaxing” ride, huh? Well, admittedly, there really was only one very short significant climb into Hiram and it wasn’t nearly as bad as some of the stuff I’ve done this year. I hadn’t intended this to be a “spill your guts” climbing day anyway. I just wanted to get out and have fun. Which is exactly what I did. It was the perfect way to spend my Indian summer day.
On a day like Sunday, you forget that ski season is really right around the corner… You almost remember the thrill at the height of summer when every day is a possible day to just jump on your bike for 50-60 miles. Of course, having this one day amidst all the cold days we had there at the end of October, really makes me appreciate Ohio’s occasional mercy. It was almost the same excitement as going for a ride on the first warm day in spring.