My focus in life has always been enjoying experiences. Cycling has always been rewarding for me for that experience and the feeling of freedom. I’ve never been disappointed by my experiences on a bicycle. My focus is not necessarily speed, because I’m not a racer, but there is something about riding among others that makes cycling special, and so I tend to ride with friends, and I ride a lot of events, just because that feeling of community is also a feeling I value.
This week I found myself thinking about the heat and getting in a good ride on the weekend. Since my local cycling club wasn’t offering a ride that felt right to me, I sent out an email to my friends saying that I would be riding through one of my favorite places, at a specific time, and they were welcome to join me. The response was more than I could have hoped for. Seven of us set out on the ride. All of us had our ideas of what we wanted, but it was wonderful to have them all choose to join me. I had no actual plan for a route to take, just a general direction and a distance I wanted to go. One of the opportunities along the route was a field of sunflowers. They put me in mind of so many cycling photographs from the Tour De France, with riders passing fields of sunflowers. Since the weather was mostly sunny and hot, it seemed like the perfect opportunity. It was just another experience to enjoy.
We weren’t pushing too hard on that ride. We stayed together and defied the heat and humidity. We enjoyed the scenery, and I started to notice butterflies on or near the road. I have a story about butterflies and cycling that I enjoy telling. One of the events I’ve ridden is called “Storming of Thunder Ridge”, which is known for a climb up the Blue Ridge range in Virginia. The climb is 13 miles long, gentle at first, and becoming steeper near the top. There is even a rest stop in the middle. By the time you reach the top, you’ll know a lot about pain. I found myself near the top of that long climb, feeling the pain, while my world contracted into a tunnel with my focus on the road ahead. What I remember most was the butterflies. There were three kinds I remembered through the haze of pain as I climbed. One was mostly yellow, another mostly black and a third black and purple. None of my friends who were there seemed to notice them. So the butterflies might have been a hallucination! This day, others noticed them. My butterflies were real, and they came in all the same colors that I remembered.
Despite the heat, we all had a fantastic time. Some of us had a beer together and lunch afterward, yet another way that these experiences can be enjoyable. We all got a ride in, rode the distance we wanted, and enjoyed the experience.