I know them from their being of the lunch guys at Bully's who sit at the bar. Tim's a 50 year old who owns his own welding business, and Dennis is a 40 year old electrical engineer. And I'm a 30 year old girl who works at a coffee shop. The common ground that bridges any social gaps is that we all love to pedal.
Let me give you some advice: if you want to meet people who make some of the most amazing friends, take up a new hobby, like cycling or rock climbing or running or...snow boarding or kayaking or camping. Try anything, try something. It will expand your horizons. You don't have to be good at it before joining up with a group of others with similar passions, it's OK if it scares your socks off at first, or intimidates you - they're happy to show you the ropes.
So there we are, driving to Sturgis, Tim regaling us with tales of his recent cycling adventures/misadventures in Italy, and me doling out energy bars I'd made - earning my passage - and pestering Dennis to finally tell me exactly what it is he does for a living because all he'll ever say is "I'm a guy at a place" and I'm pretty sure he creates nuclear weapons or something.
So there I am, with my steel framed touring bike with 28mm tires which I only purchased this year - my first road bike.
And there they are, with their carbon fiber frames and 23mm tires, completely bald and slick, which they've both been riding for 15+ years.
There they are with their 0% body fat and bikes which weigh exactly half as much as mine.
And there I am with my iPod, prepared to not keep up.
Maybe not prepared to not keep up as much as I did. Didn't.
With my usual group of riding buddies I'm not one of the top technical riders, but boy I can out climb the lot of 'em. "Billy goat", Jamie calls me.
With these guys, riding up these 10% grade hills with wind gusting against me, with them dashing and me chugging, I felt like Rosie O'Donnell next to Gabby Douglas.
Seriously, I'd look up the steep, steep hill ahead and they weren't even there anymore, they were long gone. Pretty soon down they'd come, riding back to me. And then speed back up that hill, leaving me in the dust a second time. And there I am, in my granny gear, chugging along. Not exhausted, not needing to stop, but not having the strength to keep their speed. Pedal pedal pedal. But they didn't once make me feel like they were anything but glad that I'd come along. "It's all good," they'd say when I'd finally reach the top of a peak where they circled, waiting, "It's not a race today. Today we're tourist riding. Do you speak English?"
We only did twelve miles - not much for road riding - but we climbed 2,000 feet in 6 miles. I'm glad I didn't know that would be the case ahead of time, because I probably would've been too intimidated to go.
But oh the scenery was pure magic.
And the weather, besides the gusty wind, was perfect.
And the sky was blue and the sun was golden and we were pedaling and I was having the best time.
And every time a car would pass me I felt pretty bad ass, despite my slowness, not gonna lie. Because, slowly or not, I was still riding my bike up those hills they drove and I could feel them staring and marveling and being glad it was me and not them. But secretly I bet they wished they could.
I didn't get many pictures, just three and by the time I'd snapped them off and put Junior away the guys had already taken off again and were halfway up the next hill. I could've stopped at every turn to gape at those breathtaking vistas, with the late afternoon sun pouring liquid gold on those autumn colors, but stopping for pictures wasn't exactly on the schedule. At least I was moving slowly enough to take it all in as I went.
And then, then, we turned around and descended those 10% grade hills with the wind pushing against our backs and oh the exhilaration. No longer did we need to keep an eye out for traffic because we left them far behind in the 35mph speed limit.
Have you ever gone 45mph on a bike? I hadn't. It was like - flying. And here my steel framed 30lb bike came in handy, here I could keep up with their light little bikes. And good thing, too. I've never ridden at those speeds, so I just watched and did what they did - swing wide on this curve, outside foot down, pedal pedal, lay back and low across the bike, elbows in, knees loose.Watch out for those deer, those turkeys crossing the road. Seriously - hitting a deer going 45 mph on a bike? (haha, that's am ambiguous statement - makes it sound like the deer is going 45 mph on a bike). Death by deer.
That ride - flight - down made any climb against the wind completely worth it.
And then we went for burgers and beers - traditional after-riding fare - and fried pickles, and the conversation was easy and the companionship comfortable.
Ride bikes, everyone.
Your life will be better.
Oh, and remember to go out today and get a load of autumn.
What a way to kick off the weekend.
My life is a fairy tale.