From the beginning of April until the end of September, Wednesday evenings, for Ed, are bike riding days. It's befuddling how he can stick with this, given that the man does not like scheduled commitments. He rebels against excessive travel planning (“let’s just fly somewhere cheap in Europe and then decide…”), he shies away from setting any long term goals except in the vaguest way (“someday, we will go sailing along the coast of Central America…”), he loathes the predictability of meals (“why wouldn’t you eat marinated mushrooms in the morning?”). But, I learned early on, that Wednesday evenings are for bike riding. Always.
I joined him once (the Wednesday rides are a big deal here: hundreds participate in each week’s chosen loop), but only once. I thought then that I held him back. Put Ed and me at the bottom of a hill facing up, and you got the classic snail chasing the hare. And the hare has added leg muscle, just to make it totally unfair.
But this year I’m kind of revved up. And so, after a 45 minute warm-up round of tennis at the still cool (low fifties and falling) and still secret tennis court…
… we set out.
Or, rather, I set out. I need a head start. I take hills slowly. I stop for photos.
Groups of cyclists pass me. Black spandex stretches across bulging muscle. Me, I’m wearing jeans with the right cuff rolled up.
It’s cold, but the sun is still out. The landscape is pretty, in a very Dane County, Wisconsin way. Cyclists and pickup trucks, passing through.
But the wind picks up as the sun scoots down. It can’t be more than 40 now. I’m doing the short loop – a mere 20 miles, but the hills are coming on strong.
Ed catches up. You don’t want to finish the short loop with me – I say, hoping to hear the Ed that loves to contradict: yes I do.
He doesn’t say it, but he stays behind to keep me company. I’m averaging only 12 mph. That’s slowpoke speed for Ed.
The sun is just about gone. A pony watches as we pedal on. A goose pushes away from the water bank.
See that car with the boat? I ask.
How can people afford boats?
They’re not much if you buy used ones. Guys buy them from each other… They’ll go out on the lake, maybe with a six pack, almost always with a buddy.
Why? Guys don’t really have conversations with each other.
He tells me about Sundays with his dad and his dad's friend, out on the Sound, in a boat with an outboard and a bag of sandwiches and soda for the long day on the water. This is my favorite mood of his -- the one that recalls with affection something from the past. In my mind, the happiest people are those who have a truckload of such good memories.
We roll into Cottage Grove, the end of the loop. It could be that I am the very last one in. I don’t know.
The moon is large. I turn on the heat in Ed’s little Geo to full blast. The old car can only do full blast or no blast.