By Susan Helene Gottfried
Ever since the flyer came to my mailbox, I've wanted to do this: Ride one hundred miles around Lake Tahoe. On a bicycle. In one day.
They're called Century rides, and they happen all over the country (perhaps the world, but let's feed one ambition at a time, shall we?), usually but not exclusively in conjunction with a foundation that's raising money to fight a disease. The Tahoe ride was brought to my notice by the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society's Team in Training.
The idea chewed at me even though I'm a walking orthopedic disaster. My sports medicine doctor says it'll take an Olympian feat for me to be able to pull off Centuries.
Still, I dream.
Every Wednesday morning, I jump on a spin bike at my gym and fantasize I'm doing that Century. I push myself with promises of seeing my children and husband cheering for me at the finish line.
I dream of putting together teams decked out in West of Mars jerseys. Of constantly hitting up friends, acquaintances, and blog visitors for donations for this month's ride. Of learning how to pack and unpack my bike, how to use chamois cream and how to take a drink from my water bottle even though I'm flying.
Thankfully, the Tour Manager's as supportive of this as he is of my writing. One thing we've discovered with my weird body is that biking is one of the few things that doesn't induce pain. And as much as I love my mountain bike, hauling it up the hills around here isn't the easiest thing in the world. Thus, I am now the proud owner of a Trek Pilot bicycle -- a real road bike.
We're just getting to know each other, me and my Pilot. As I write this, I've only had her for two weeks. She's effortless to pedal; I described the experience as riding a Thoroughbred after years on a Clydesdale.
Of course, though, Thoroughbreds are known for being skittish animals and while my new skinny tires may zoom, I'm finding that they aren't as forgiving when I move suddenly.
Like tonight, for instance. I was headed home after a short ride that took longer on my mountain bike, envisioning the lake. I was pulled back to reality by a rustling in the brush beside me.
Out of the corner of my eye, I saw movement and swerved, almost falling off from the jerk I'd just given my handlebars.
Two brown bundles rolled over as they tried to stop themselves from falling off the curb and taking me down to the street with them. I saw white ears, white underbellies, maybe a white cotton tail, and then I was past and straightening out, still on the bike, still pedaling. I hadn't even reached for the brakes.
I biked the final quarter mile with a shiver teasing my spine. Instead of Lake Tahoe, all I could think about was what it would have felt like if I'd been dumped by Thumper.