I started riding my bike again this summer. The last time I really rode my bike was in the summer of 2006. I was training for the Chicago Triathlon. I was supposed to race with my dad, but he passed away that winter. So I prepared for the starting line in Chicago anyway, as a kind of tribute to him. I trained really hard and finished strong. When I found out I placed 7th in my age group, I wept. And then I stopped riding my bike. Until now.
This isn’t supposed to be a bummer of post, but I just wanted to explain why I stopped riding my bike for awhile.
When the weather warmed up this year I decided it was time. I dusted off my blue iron horse and gingerly crept out for a ride. Just an hour at first. And then another longer, ride. For awhile I didn’t know how fast or far I was going because the battery on my bike computer had long stopped working. I took in the passing scenery – the wildflowers of the suburbs, the occasional gurgling stream. I felt happy.
I was chirping about this at work when a colleague, Mike, said, “We should ride sometime.” I hesitated before agreeing. Mike is actually the perfect person to ride with if you were once an overly competitive triathlete and now a bit of a timid bike rider. He is a strong rider, but he doesn’t care if you aren’t. “It’s not a race,” he has told me more than once.
“OK.” I said. He wanted to ride in the Blue Hills, which goes without saying is a lot of up. We set a time and place to meet.
I woke up at midnight the morning before our ride in a panic, thinking that I should simply cancel. It would be too hard and I would be too slow. Then I told myself that I could do this, and if I had to, I could turn around. I went back to sleep.
I was 10 minutes late meeting Mike. It was 6:40 a.m. on a Sunday. But Mike, a father of two small kids with nerves of quiet steel (he was a stalwart when one of his reporters was kidnapped in Iraq), didn’t make much of it. “Are you ready?” was all he said when we turned to climb Washington Street.
I can’t say I enjoyed the scenery too much on that ride, yet I felt like I had reclaimed something. Exhilaration, dominion, joy, exhaustion – but mostly a willingness to get back in the saddle and press on. I have already done this in countless ways since Dad passed, but it was nice to include my bike in the progress.
When I got home, the morning light was still gentle. A bowl on my kitchen table filled with peaches from the farmer’s market beckoned. I had planned to make a peach cobbler. With sudden clarity I knew that wasn’t going to happen. I wanted those peaches right then and there in all their sleepy fuzziness.
With a bit of fresh ginger, nutmeg, cinnamon, brown sugar I made a warm, ginger peach compote and smothered it over giant, steaming oatmeal pancakes.
After I ate more than one person really should, I laid down to rest, and fell asleep – deep down in a burrow of grateful comfort.
Ginger Peach Compote
3 peaches, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
1 teaspoon fresh ginger, grated
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1/4 cup water
All ingredients to a pot and stir over medium high heat until a syrup forms. Serve immediately.
As for the oatmeal pancakes, I simply followed the Bisquick recipe on the box, substituting half the flour mixture for half quick oats. If you’d like to make your own from scratch, my friend Carol has a great oatmeal pancake recipe, here.