Today I suffered. It was supposed to rain and I was not very excited to ride in it, because my new Argon 18 is only two days old. But everything new gets dirty at some point, and I am in prime Vermont riding country. There is also a rule about not riding because of rain which states that perhaps you don’t have the proper conviction to be a cyclist if you bail out, and I don’t break that rule. So I rode about 100k with two very nasty climbs in the middle, and it was hot, and humid, and there was no shade.
It did not rain, but it’s the threat that counts.
I wanted the climb to be over long before it was designed to be. It was the last climb of the day and it felt like the mountain was growing beneath me. My jersey was open and my glasses were filmed with salty sweat and just as I crested, and was about to be rewarded with 4 miles of 10% graded downhill and 40mph winds in my face, I saw the shape of a young woman pushing her touring bike, full of gear, up the opposite face of the climb and then she yelled: “Are you are at the top?”
I gave her a thumbs up, pulled over into the shade, and decided to stop at wait for her. The inclination to just get on and descend was strong, but I waited.
“This thing actually ends!” she said as she reached me and stopped.
Now consider this; when you meet someone under these circumstances, there are a few reasons why you can jump way ahead of all the simple chit-chat. The amount in common is substantial, so often the meat happens right away, and it did. She started in Wisconsin, is headed to Maine, and then she is moving to Boston.
We had 15 minutes maybe, but we covered a lot of ground. I wasn’t hitting on her, and I had no need for anything from her, and so it was effortless and conversational like two old friends.
She was old-schooling it in her no-name spandex shorts and cotton shirt, paper maps, an old Trek with all the wrong gearing, old bottles, grease everywhere, a pair of beach sunglasses. I dug it. I get so wrapped up in all the high-priced gear, that I forget you can get along just fine with water, some maps, a helmet, and a bike. Don’t get me wrong, if you can afford it, the high-priced gear is well worth it, although I think that within the last 5 or 6 years a lot of the basic fun of riding has been stolen by technology, but that’s another topic entirely.
I gave her all the money I had in my plastic pouch, which amounted to $10. She took it and thanked me, and admitted that today was actually her 25th birthday. Now, most girls, on their 25th birthday, would be concerned that everything they asked for was coming to them, or concerned about how drunk they could get, or whether or not the restaurant their boyfriend was taking them to was expensive enough to properly mark the event. This girl didn't even know where she would be sleeping.
I asked her if it was important if she spent her birthday with someone, and she said it wasn’t, not in a woe-is-me manner, but more in the way that she was perfectly content to be alone.
We high-fived, and I went onto my high-speed descent, and she went on to hers, breaking away at, probably, a combined 70-80mph. As slowly as we came together, we left equally fast.
Happy birthday to you, _________! I know your name, because it ends with an M and ends with an H, but I don’t want to use it without your permission. I hope your not out there in the rain, in your tent, behind a barn. I’m glad that the perfect timing brought us to meet one another, and it made my day.