Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Biking Fool

Yesterday, I paid a visit (my third) to the root canal specialist. An old root canal needs to be excavated, and it's turning out to be more challenging than the specialist envisioned or I hoped. But he's outstanding when it comes to controlling the pain; I had none. What I did have was a mouth full of Novocain.

And so I faced a dilemma: go home and rest and let the painkiller wear off, or go home and take advantage of the outstandingly wonderful weather that's descended upon St. Louis for the last three days and go biking.

Like it was a dilemma. Or even a question.

Novocain mouth and all, off I pedaled. Two hours later, I was back home. And happy.

I have two standard rides -- a two-hour ride and a one-hour ride. The two-hour ride takes me from my home in inner suburban St. Louis east to a small sliver of a St. Louis city park that overlooks the Mississippi River. The view atop the river bluff is spectacular. I can see for miles in three directions. Round trip is about 28 miles. The one-hour ride, about a 19-mile round trip, is a straight shot south from my house to Grant's Trail, an old rail line converted to a walking/biking/rollerblading trail.

I started biking five years ago. It was something I always wanted to do, and had reached an age where it was time to put up or shut up. So I put up and bought a hybrid bike. Some dealers call them leisure bikes now. Yuck.

My first ride lasted all of three blocks. I got off the bike and laid down in the grass of the house where the St. Louis County prosecutor lives. I thought I was going to die. In my defense, it was August and hot. Yeah, I know, lousy defense for being out of shape.

I stuck at it, and kept lengthening my rides. I subscribed to two biking magazines. I started following the racing circuit. I bought biking shorts and a jersey. And gloves; gotta have gloves. Got up to 72 miles one day. Two years later, I bought a road bike and discovered speed. I bought more jerseys. I did some biking on our vacations. Montreal is a great city for cyclists, and Phoenix has the Arizona Canal Trail. At Williamsburg, I biked to Jamestown one day and Yorktown the next. I did part of the Missouri MS 150 last fall, and I'm signed up again to do it this fall. I've gots lots of boring stories about hills. Every cyclist has boring stories about hills. And we all want to tell you the exact route we took on our ride.

Later this month, I'm going with a group of men from church on a bike retreat. We'll start off in Rocheport, Missouri, have dinner at a winery, ride 80 miles the next day, have dinner at another winery, and then a 62-mile ride into St. Charles, Missouri, a western suburb of the metropolitan area. There's something about a church retreat that includes dinner at two wineries that I find irresistible. Dinner and devotions with the Norton or the Vidal Blanc.

We'll be riding the Katy Trail, the world's longest, narrowest state park and an all-gravel trail that stretches across most of Missouri. I've ridden the Katy Trail before, but never for this distance. Some enthusiasts insist you can ride a road bike on it, and you can, if you like changing lots of flat tires. I'll be riding my hybrid, and leaving the road bike at home.

I'll come home tired, cramps in my legs, cranky -- and deeply satisfied.

Yep, a biking fool.

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