Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Reunited (with my sunburned forearms), and it feels so good...

Sunday dawned warm and bright on the Eastern seaboard, and it was with a sense of excitement that I bounded out of bed and began cooking my oatmeal. Get ready CGC, the oats crackled to me from the pot bottom, you're going riding! Yes, my back bore the sunburned evidence of swimming in a saltwater pool the day before, and yes, my bike tires seriously needed to be changed, and yes, there was no time to read the Sunday Times before dashing out the door. Did I mention that swimming in the saltwater pool was glorious and well worth the pain of a sunburn covered by a bike jersey? And that my tires have so far held up, even under steep cornering? And that the Times is an enjoyable read on Sunday evenings? I was going riding!

Spurred by these frenetic thoughts, I rode up Amsterdam to meet JFL, and after a crowded half lap in Central Park, we decided to head west into New Jersey. It was with some trepidation that I rode across the George Washington Bridge--largely because ever since MAR's bike blew out from under him while riding around one of the Golden Gate Bridge towers (the winds, to put it mildly, were strong that afternoon) I've been unable to associate bridges with bikes in a positive way--but once we were on the wide shoulder of New Jersey's 9W, I couldn't help but relax. After all, I was riding with JFL for the first time since we rode together in France two years ago, and as the insides of my unsunscreened forearms turned an alarming pink, I knew that all was right with the world.
CGC and JFL riding up some col in La Drôme Provence, near Buis-les-Baronnies
One of the things that I miss most about riding in Ithaca, and JFL mentioned this as well, is the opportunity to "just ride" with someone, meaning without a sense of either competition or a workout needing to be achieved. I found this difficult in San Francisco as well as here, where most cyclists seem to fall into one of two camps: fiercely competitive and in training, or dangerously inexperienced and out for a novel way of seeing the city (Blazing Saddles, I'm looking at you). I don't mean to denigrate either camp, but rather to suggest that for me, the best cycling is often found alongside someone who's relatively equal in terms of experience and fitness, and whose intentions are slightly more relaxed than Lance's.

What did I discover on our journey to Jersey? First, that between Pelham on Saturday and Bergen County on Sunday, I was able to satiate, partly, my suburban envy (case in point--JFL and I spent a good ten minutes dreaming aloud about owning cars that we could drive to and from a grocery store and park without question every day in front of our homes, which would be ringed by massive outdoor space). Second, that my handling skills do need a little work despite my smugness, although I should just do repeats on the GW Bridge southern walkway approach if I want to regain my former handling prowess. Third, that I always, always forget that the insides of my arms burn like fire when I start riding outside again, and that it doesn't matter how many bike fits I receive, my inner arms will always turn out to face the sun unless I'm in my drops.

And fourth? That NYC, on our way East back over the Hudson, actually looked pretty nice. And that it was made all the nicer by seeing it with someone else.

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