Saturday, April 13, 2013

Hard Times

Lambert Bridge crosses Dry Creek.
Westside Road skirts the southwestern boundary of the Russian River Valley wine region. Ramshackle buildings, boutique wineries, Pinot Noir vineyards starting to wake up from winter. On a sunny spring afternoon, what could be more appealing than riding a bicycle here?

After all, heading in the other direction are clusters of cyclists out for a day ride, along with tourists on rented hybrids. They're all happy smiles and nods as they head south.

I had hoped for a little shelter from the wind here, with the side of a hill on my left. No chance. Whatever is going on with the wind is larger than Wild Hog Hill, than Big Ridge, than even the Coast Range. It's sweeping north to south right on down the valleys. Flat and wide, the Dry Creek and Russian River Valleys are its enablers. The grapevines are no practical barrier.

As for this old mule, there's grit in her teeth and a big knot in her stomach, refusing food. Legs still strong, though. Working on getting to Hopland.

The hours of struggle on the road lead my mind to a world of  struggle in my head. The song that's playing there is Hard Times by Gillian Welch. One of what she calls her 'haunted banjo' songs. Last night the iPod played it for me as I fell asleep.

To ride a hard event, I have to get in touch with my orphan soul, lonely and rejected. Right now it doesn't take much effort to get into that frame of mind. Nothing to live for, nothing to offer. Empty, attached to no place and no one. As mental preparation I have to look into the abyss.

Sometimes during the ride I go back there. Like on this stretch...

A fair number of cyclists today are riding their first 400k. It bodes well for the future of this quirky, fringe sport. On the other hand the people who helped me survive those first 8 400k's are now somewhere else. Doing something else. I feel kind of alone in a crowd.

Could be my imagination but it feels like there's a bit of a competitive dynamic at work today, too. Riders size up who arrived at the control before them, who is still behind them, who they pass. My favorite people to ride with support each other. Donn King, for example. Dry Creek Road makes me think of riding with Donn. We were always in it together, for the long haul.

In Cloverdale I stop at the 7 Eleven. Mix a lemon Perrier with a lemon soda half and half. Get a roll of extra strength Tums. Get back on the road.

That damned wind is even blowing over Highway 128. Nine miles. The climb feels even slower than  when I did it with saddlebags.

We're sure close to Hopland. But it feels like I'll never get there.

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