When we first began sharing our plans with friends, we heard a lot about what we might – or should – be afraid of. Aren’t you afraid of dirt roads? Aren’t you afraid of bad drivers/teenage drivers/redneck drivers? Aren’t you afraid of seat pain/neck pain/knee pain? Aren’t you afraid about hitting bad weather? Mostly we heard concerns about the weather. One friend (whose name, ironically, is a synonym for wind) opined that we’d be beseiged by headwinds out of the north; all our winds would be headwinds. I think she was joking… hahaha very funny, Gale. (In Gale’s defense, I will just put out there that she and I share a birthday, as well as a similar sense of humor. Gale always makes me laugh. Except, maybe, about the whole headwind thing…)
Thankfully, this has not been the case. We’ve had our share of headwinds, but we’ve been pretty fortunate in most regards. Knock wood, fingers crossed, kineh hurah, spit spit spit. The drivers have occasionally revved up as they pass by, either because they’re trying to pass us before the oncoming traffic arrives, or because they are macho Mammas’ boys who never shrugged off their older brothers’ insults about being poorly endowed. Whatever. Throughout the trip, I mostly haven’t felt afraid. Maybe I’m just not smart enough to recognize what we are up against.
On Monday, though, as we ride out of Richmond, the temperature is 28 degrees, we have a 15 mph headwind, and for the first time, fear creeps in. From the start, I am cold. My fingers and toes are numb. We have over 70 miles yet to ride today. If we get a flat, if a chain breaks, we will be fixing it on the side of the road… with these numb fingers.
To some extent, I think this fear has something to do with age. As a younger woman, I almost always had a false sense of security. Everything was fine and everything would always be fine. And my fifty-year-old self had that same outlook just weeks ago, in Florida. Now, though, in situations where I might feel a bit vulnerable, I actually begin to feel a bit vulnerable. The cold weather has gifted me, for better or worse, with the pessimist’s outlook. I can imagine the worst. This terrible thing could actually happen. The worst-case scenerio in Florida was a missed meal. (Oh no! What if we can’t find a restaurant!?) The worst-case scenerio now is a motorcycle misjudging the gravel as he passes me in low light near a Civil War battleground. (Always easy to imagine the worst next to Civil War battlegrounds.)
Fortunately, we do not get a flat or a broken chain on the ride to Fredericksburg. The worst our day gets is a couple of wrong turns, because by the end of the day, our chilled, weary selves are buzzing around in stupid circles like late-autumn flies against closed windows. We finally – in, yes, very low light – make it to our hotel, and extend our reservation by a couple days, to rest up and wait out the snow that’s due.
A few days along, the forecast is due to bring sunshine, winds out of the south, temps in the mid-fifties. I relax a little, drawing on my inner teenager, who can always be counted on to take safety for granted. Her bike tires are full, her grip tape is a tight, perfect spiral, her gears run smoothly. Her skies are always blue, her outlook, sunny. She is immortal, and she doesn’t even know to feel thankful.