Saturday marked a momentous day for me, as I rolled into Las Vegas Cyclery on my rented Specialized Roubaix bike with my Strava showing 43 miles and over 3,000 feet of elevation gain. This was by far my longest ride to date, and even better, I wasn’t run down and cracked, I was elated and feeling strong!
My ride hadn’t started on such a positive note, and in fact I tried to write about it last night and it turned into a really angry sad post, which I discarded. The ride was planned to be done by myself and my good friend I had traveled with, and was the highlight of the trip to me. At the last moment, my friend decided she didn’t want to join me, which threw me for a loop.
I arrived at Las Vegas Cyclery fuming, as I coughed up a ludicrous $60 for cab fare. I was in a bad emotional and mental place, and at that point the ride was less an enjoyable journey and more me doing something in spite. As the friendly and helpful shop guys assisted me with my rental, I tried with all my might to pull myself out of the funk that sat over my head like a thundercloud. The ride out of the town itself did little to lift my mood, house after identical house, the street littered with cans. Then as I turned west on Charleston, I saw the city fade away and open up to the outlying desert and mountains. I had never been to Red Rocks and its vibrant colors against the blue of the sky had me fixated.
As I entered Red Rocks park itself, I rode in with 2 local cyclists, both super friendly guys who gave me some ideas of what the climbs would be. One even stuck with me through all but the final of the 5 miles of initial ascent. It was at the bottom of that hill that I bonked for the first time ever. My unhealthy breakfast, lack of caffeine (I’m a coffee snob and don’t drink most restaurants brews) and adrenal fatigue from anger all hit me like a sledgehammer and as I tried to get out of my saddle for the climb, my legs almost gave out. I pushed myself up that hill in my poorest form, and could barely enjoy the view the bike shop guys referred to as the “crown jewel” of the area. Luckily I had stocked up on Honey Stinger and Skratch at the shop, and a package of energy chews and a bottle of hydration mix set me right. I continued on, descending carefully as I had been instructed, watching for cars pulled to the side on blind corners and uneven pavement. As the sugars hit my system, I regained my climbing legs and even cheered enough to stop and enjoy some views and take a few selfies (I wanted some documentation of the beauty of the ride).
When I reached the end of the 13 mile loop of Red Rocks, I headed on towards a small town called Blue Diamond, where there was another bike shop and store for me to grab additional water and snacks. I met a few local mountain bikers ther and chatted, predominantly about bikes as we were all on Specialized bikes, and I expressed that while it was a lovely bike, I prefer the Trek fit for my long legged build.
I headed back, keeping my eyes peeled for the wild horses and burros, which no less than 10 signs informed me I was not to feed. I found a great high paced cadence and let my mind wander as I my feet danced upon the pedals. Around 15 miles later, I arrived back at the shop, feeling a sadness that it had come to an end.
When I look back on the ride, I alternate between two emotions: joy that I rode such a distance solo, in an unknown area, and accomplished something I am really proud of, and sadness because it was meant to be a ride to be shared with a friend and ended up being something that caused a great rift. The trip itself ended the friendship, which makes me really heartbroken. When I tried to relate this same story last night, all I could focus on was my anger at how the situation had evolved, and it became a terribly negative pity-party of a post. Today I faced it with fresh eyes and tried to focus on all the amazingness that I experienced.
Some days on my bike are better than others, but I am starting to realize that each day is what I make of it. My bike is my constant companion, the roads and sun and air my solace, and I hope that as time moves on and my memory fades, I will remember not the bad of this day but the good. That what will remain in my head in the future is the feel of the sun on my arms as the wind whipped against my face, the rush of flying down the road, my body and bike at one with the curves of the earth. Maybe someday I can evolve past that to a point where what remains in my mind of the trip is only the positive: an epic ride, a refreshing break from winter and cold and snow, a brief reprieve from business at work, and the chance to connect with meaningful friends, both old and new. I think it can happen, after all, it all in my head.