This is the title of a story by Kees van Kooten, a Dutch writer. It really had nothing to do with today’s ride other than that it played through my head during the climb up Nunda-Byersville Road. For the non-Dutch among us, the story is about the author’s yearly bike ride with his teenage son in France. They ride up a mountain each time but this year it is the first that the younger generation bypasses the older generation and so the son ends up, after waiting for quite a while at the summit of the climb, asking each car driver coming up “have you seen my father?” The relevance to today’s story will become apparent shortly. Or, well, maybe.
At Paul’s suggestion we did the Avon-Letchworth ride that was scheduled last Saturday but due to the rainstorms we didn’t do. In his email Paul enumerated various rules, one of them being that this is not an RBC ride and so no sign in and no mileage credit. That’s right, we’re doing this 89 mile hike in rather warm weather gratis receiving none in return other than our quiet personal pride. We shall perform this ride and not speak of it again.
We gather at the TOPS parking lot in Avon. Ed is joyfully playing Van Morrison’s Moondance on this car stereo. I look around and see an astute collection of fast riders: Otto, Paul, Gary, Dennis and Sara, Bill and Ed know how to push those pedals rather well too. Paul may have included “no drop” in his rules but I am thinking I’m going to be off the back end rather soon with this lot.
Avon’s main road is under construction leading Sara and Paul to suggest an alternate beginning of the ride going up Polebridge Road instead. I mutter: “Now I have to reprogram my GPS all over again.” To which Otto responds: “You’re not pulling a Wayne on us, are you?” We’re off doing the first few miles at a most civilized morning pace of 15mph. Near the turn onto River Road this is over, what with Dennis, Otto and Paul at the front of the group, and the couple of rolling hills are taken at a firm pace. My legs are a little heavy this morning and so indeed I slip off the rear of the group. A few miles further Paul drops back and paces me back to the group. I thank him and he says: “No problem, good race practice!”
I ride next to Gary for a while observing the riders before us. I see various pairs of shaved legs. A beautiful sight! Ahh, to witness so clearly the muscle definition of these calves! The supple contracting and relaxing of each sinew!
I remark to Gary: “I need to shave my legs.”
“Think it will help?”
“Oh yes, it’s a fact.” (Now where is that Wikipedia entry about the speed advantages of shaved legs?)
We turn into Letchworth Park. Quite soon the group is strung out. Eventually I am in a group with Paul, Dennis, Chris, Sara and Bill. A decision is made to add a little climb: we’re going down to the lower falls. While I am pedalling in bright sunshine, a shadow passes over me. One of the large birds, a hawk perhaps, floats over me. His shadow is bigger than the one me and my bicycle are throwing. This pleases me. Returning from the lower falls Paul and I are climbing side by side and we see one deer cross the road close before us and another behind us. Even after living abroad for about 16 years now, having grown up in a largely urbanized country this closeness of nature still impresses me.
At the other end of the park we turn left toward Nunda and then Dansville. In Nunda we stop at a convenience store. I take my needed cup of coffee and a danish. Across the street is a garage that seems to have been there for many years. Attached to its store front is a beautiful old blue neon sign for Pontiac. Otto predicts that this sign will become quite valuable as this is one of the brands that GM will be phasing out.
Outside Nunda we get to put another of Paul’s rules to effect: no walking up Nunda-Byersville Road. At the start of the climb Paul asks what our elevation is. I check my GPS: it’s 934ft. With Paul’s curiosity towards this number I suspect that the climb will be a long one. The coffee intake provides its anticipated support to my legs and I ride up this hills relatively easily. I like long climbs, it allows my brain to wander off. Don’t know what an association to the ride may have been but Kees van Kooten’s story comes up and I entertain myself with recalling as much as I can from this Dutch writer. Paul gets to the top and a little while later I do too.
While dismounting the bicycle I report to Paul: “Het hoogteverschil is zo’n negenhonderd voet.”
“What!?” is Paul’s response.
“Sorry, wrong language, the climb’s elevation is 900ft.”
After we’ve gathered up everybody it’s down the other side. I am not liking this descent so much and take it easy. Soon I am well behind the others. At the bottom a sharp right hand turn. To my surprise I notice that Gary is behind me. Hardly ever happens I keep anyone behind me on a downhill. This road has a slight incline, I put my hands on top of the handlebars and reflect that this last descent notwithstanding. Hmm, at the farm on the left a woman with long blond hair in a bikini mowing the lawn. “Hey, old man, focus!” Eh? Ohh, sorry. This last descent notwithstanding overall I am becoming more comfortable going downhill this season. To prove the point the long decline into Dansville goes very nicely.
Lunch break in Dansville. Several are getting sandwiches. I should probably too but have difficulty with the idea of eating much. I settle for a bottle of Sobe Lizard Lava (totally yummy) and two multigrain bars. There is some discussion about the route. Whether to take indeed Route 256 and then Slicker Hill or consider alternatives. In the end we stick to the route.
Once we get going again a small group forms on 256: Robbie, Gary, Paul and me. We paceline very nicely, each taking turns at the front, the pace pretty high. For some miles we are pulling along really very pleasantly: except for the wind and passing cars it is entirely quiet, just four cyclists pedalling hard. I loved the serenity in that moment. Then right on to Slicker Hill. I have done this climb once before, crawling after Otto not knowing yet what a good climber he is. At the junction Paul turned around to wait for the others. When Gary and I get to the top of the climb we circle around for a moment, don’t see anyone, then decide to pull on.
We are now in the last stretches of the ride with about 15 miles of rolling terrain and side/head wind left to do. Gary pulls ahead of me and I follow about 200 yards behind. Shortly later one after another we return in the TOPS parking lot. I am happy to be able to take off my cycling shoes. Except for my toes feeling a bit squeezed and except for a bit of a slow start, I felt this ride went rather well. Much enjoyed the climbing.
After packing up several of us cross the road to Tom Wahl’s: various sorts of malts and shakes are to be ordered. I get my strawberry shake and walk around looking for the straws. A man comes up next to me and asks: “Is that your Mini outside?”
Then, after my affirmative answer, without another word he shows me a picture on his digital camera. It shows a beige Mini with a white roof with a smashed-in bonnet. Thinking that within the 30 seconds of me being in Tom Wahl’s someone managed to ruin Dr Frits I’m about to drop my shake. Only then does he explain it’s a picture of his wife’s Mini… after which of course I notice that the picture has no red bike on top of the car.
Tomorrow Ed is leading the Canandaigua Cup ride, a 50 mile hike around the lake. I make solemn promises to be there but, eh, well, we’ll see how the legs feel tomorrow morning.
Photos of the ride are on my Flickr page.