Sunday, March 1, 2015

Alone in a crowd

I happened to be at Robert's Market, in Portola Valley,  ~ mile 10.  It was lunchtime; I snacked before leaving the house but you know, there is snack-riding and then there is meal-riding. Heading to the coast you need real fuel.

A free table - completely free! - in the blazing February sun. Set down the provisions: one of those new Chobani yogurts with the walnuts and chia seeds, potato chips, and a Pellegrino soda. It's easier buying simple GF things than examining ingredient lists or asking for GF bread in the deli (No). And the sugar will help with Old La Honda. Among endurance cyclists there is a saying: calories is calories.

All around are cyclists. Alpine Road and the market and the outside tables are swarming with them. Of course the empty-except-for-me situation does not last. A 60-ish man approaches, wearing an AIDS Ride Leader jersey. There are so many cyclists on their training ride, he's lost track; am I one of them?

I am not. Yes, he can sit. One by one, the benches fill up until we are 5 at the table. We introduce ourselves.

I learn that this is Ride Leader's fourth AIDS ride. That he also likes ballroom dancing with his wife, and finds it to be quite the workout. They go to Cheryl Burke's studio in Sunnyvale.

The woman on my right, well, this is the moment I confess that seeing her entering the store sort of set off my annoyance alarm. It had nothing to do with her, except she was wearing that AIDS Lifecycle jersey. And sometimes the benefit riders can be self-righteous. You never really know what you're getting.

And I'm weary of navigating systems and groups with lots of overhead for me and no payoff. It's unwieldy, dealing with the masses. It's not just the long queue at the register. Their idea of what riding is not the same. It does not involve hardship, typically. Or darkness. Or hunger. Or days on the bike, days on end, solo. There are different cultures in cycling, and the cultures can clash.

They learn I'm a randonneur (it's on the front of my jersey). Very long stuff, I explain. The woman is lovely; on her smartphone (perfect long red nails) she digs up a photo of her friend from near Sacramento who started riding brevets, you know, to do that Paris thing. PBP, or whatever. The photo is very sincere. I feel so bad for being annoyed before. Directing my resentment toward this woman who doesn't deserve it.

She did the AIDS ride twice but couldn't do it last year because she hurt her back. So she drove SAG.  And worked remotely from Starbucks along the route.

One of the other guys tells how she ferried him, after he dropped his smartphone, back along the route in the Salinas Valley until they found it by the side of the road. "Yeah, find my iPhone", he said. "We used that feature." Everyone laughs, including me.

Suddenly it feels so good to sit in a small, open group like that and laugh. Can't remember the last time that happened. But it's definitely something I need more of. And here it is, just happening around me. If I had been with a group, there would have been no empty spots at the table.

It's time for all of us to move on. They're looking forward to the end of their ride (50 miles), and all the climbing's done. I have miles to go, hills to climb, and the shadows are getting longer.

1 comment :

  1. :) I ride with one of the ALC groups - prior to that, I'd only tried group rides with SJBP. You're right that the culture matters.
    I like Roberts. I like that they don't mind cyclists, that there's always something good, and let's be honest - they're the place where I get to stop a moment, so they get some good feeling for being that place!