I began the trip home by picking my car up from a shop in Marquette, because they couldn’t make the repairs needed before I needed to leave town. A part had been shipped last weekend, but it wasn’t quite the right fit, so I was forced to drive 220+ miles with a bad front axle joint or some such thing, or else stay in Marquette until a family member could come get me or I could find a ride home.
Actually the car drove extremely well, and I was pleased - when the mechanics took apart and reassembled the axle and whatnot they must have realigned something, because the whole car no longer shudders violently when I go faster than 45 mph. I was still a little nervous about it, but the trip was much more enjoyable than it might have been. Car troubles make me nervous in the middle of the UP because it’s so desolate for long stretches of road.
I stopped in Munising, a little Lake Superior town less than an hour out of Marquette, to check my oil and coolant and tires, since I’d forgotten before leaving campus. While I was letting the engine cool I wandered into a coffee shop and bought a book and a cup of coffee and talked briefly to a girl sitting at the counter. It’s wonderful and strange, some of the people you meet once and only once, yet you remember them. I’ll be stopping back there on the return trip, if they’re open on a Sunday afternoon, to get the sequel to my book.
A partridge flew into the back of my car just before I passed through Newberry, embedding itself in the rear wheel of my bike which was attached via a rear-mount rack. Little bastard messed up my spokes but everything’s alright now, just some feathers and bird parts hung up in my rear cogs. Most people don’t know this about partridges, but they eat fermenting berries this time of year, and that’s what causes them to do things like fly into cars. And sometimes people. They’re sometimes called “foolbirds” for these reasons and they’re annoying as hell, especially when you’re running some twilight trail in the woods and one bursts out of the brush in front of you. You’d swear the world is ending right then & there.
Today is Thanksgiving Day. My mom has to work until 5:00 or so, and then we’re having a big dinner with my grandparents and some more family members are due here tonight. It’s going to be a good time, I hope - My appetite is prepared this time, because I just got back from a 2+ hour ride in the sun. The weather is windy, moreso than I’d like, but it’s sunny and 60F and I miss these roads all the time when riding in Marquette. There’s always so much traffic there, and huge hills in every direction, and it’s nice to have some flatter country roads to ride once in awhile. I enjoyed my ride and I have tan lines to prove it. Who would’ve thought I could ride in a short-sleeve jersey and cycling shorts on Thanksgiving Day without feeling cold? So that’s fantastic.
And the weekend promises other developments, but I don’t know what those are yet. It’s funny that I wish I could be back in Marquette already but the next two weeks, the last of the semester, will be filled to the brim. I’ll be studying, making final preparations for exams and the UP championship cyclocross race in roughly 10 days, staying up late with lots of coffee and rubbing cramps out of my hand from note-taking.
I guess that’s what I signed up for?
Pre-ride… aaaaaand post-ride. 31 miles, 40ish degrees, some sun and plenty of wind. Not a bad time.
Actually I think today is the first day in WEEKS that we’ve had sunshine in Marquette! That makes it a good day by default.
As excited as I was about this morning’s ride, I woke up to a steady drizzle. Texted Ryan, he said we should wait it out and keep in touch for the morning. I was still down to ride, we ended up riding with two other guys at 12:30. It was still chilly, around 60, and very windy with the occasional raindrop. But we started riding, everything was okay… except the pace! Ryan said something about holding race pace to practice for Steelhead 70.3, and I thought like okay, we’re riding at half-Ironman pace with some fellow age-groupers so 22-24mph tops? No, we were cooking at 28-30 for the first 15 miles. And then I flatted. We were all hanging together pretty well, although I had to zip up to the front and tell Ryan to ease off the speed a bit because we were dropping one guy and it was a frickin’ training ride. So after goofing around a bit with the tire and wheel we figured out that I was the only one with rims that wouldn’t accomodate a Presta valve- I hadn’t thought to bring an adapter, and we each had a Presta tube with us. Brilliant. So after many failed phone calls one guy volunteered his girlfriend- she was just chilling in the hot tub and they lived fairly close so it was no big deal. The three other guys went ahead and I stood there, getting wet from the patchy rain and pretty damn cold and holding a bike without a front wheel on it. She got there eventually, admittedly way cuter than I expected (but also a literal valley-girl) and she gave me and my bike a lift back to Ryan’s house.
So overall it was a bummer but I learned something- when the ride gets intense and I have to really watch myself to not slip off the back of the pack, I can do it a lot longer than I used to. Even when I stopped with the flat my legs could have caught me back up to Ryan, hammering away obliviously. All these summer miles are paying off!
It wasn’t fast. Or smooth. Or particularly long. It was just 15 miles with a guy I hadn’t ridden with before. But it was nice- his name’s Ryan, his wife taught my 6th grade reading class and he runs an audiology clinic. He’s funny as hell and pretty laid back which is a nice change from a lot of the macho characters I end up dealing with when I ride with older cyclists and triathletes. But anyways I think it was just cool riding with someone for a change. We triathletes don’t team up to train often, and sometimes you get into these rangy conversations on a bike ride that you couldn’t really get anywhere else.