Saturday turned out to be everything I needed it to be -- a balm for my tired, bruised soul.
Started with a righteous outing with new riding buddy Todd, whom I’d promised a jaunt through the hills around Conway and Whately. When we rolled out of his parking lot, it was chilly and my teeth were chattering, but the sun was toasty warm on our backs. A gorgeous, sunny morn.
After a couple miles of flattish warm-up, we climbed for quite a while up Route 116 into Conway; nothing too steep, just relentless. I promised him rolling terrain after the left down Whately Road, but I was wrong. We climbed a good bit more. Climbing is like life: When you tell yourself you’ve topped the hill is usually when you round the bend to see there’s a lot more coming.
We finally leveled off for that rolling road I was wishing for. After all the climbing, it wasn’t chilly anymore – at least, not inside my jersey.
There were no complaints from either of us, because the scenery was so rewarding. May in New England… you can’t beat it. Thick, soft forests just leafing out overhead, brooks singing along the side of the road (I’ve always preferred climbing next to a cool, pretty stream), cows roaming about contentedly, knee-deep in earthy muck. The temperature eased over the line into relaxing warmth, and our spirits rose with it. Conversation picked up. My new experiment with almond butter and honey sandwiches instead of yucky, expensive energy bars yielded a delicious break in the shade of the Conway State Forest.
After crossing east over the Connecticut River again, I threw in a mean little kick of a hill leading into Amherst, just to bump us up to 2,100 feet of altitude for the ride. Thence, we rode for home along the flat, windy farmland of Route 47, parallel to the Connecticut, the north-south compass needle of the Pioneer Valley.
Something about going into the wind always gets my Jewish up, so I suggested we trade quick pulls to make the home stretch a bit more palatable. I soon came to regret it; Todd’s just younger and stronger than I am. But it was a great ride overall; 40 miles on the nose. We were high as kites at the end, and the sun was quite warm by then.
With a couple of tweaks of just half a centimeter each to seat height and set-back, the Quest fit me markedly better, and we got along swimmingly on my hardest ride of the year so far. It’s a fine bike. Yes, I feel its weight in the hills. But I really have to wonder if my 17- or 18-pound Cannondale would have made me any faster or helped me suffer less. I’m just not in shape yet.
That afternoon, Mrs. V and I indulged our inner children with a screening of the new Avengers movie, which thoroughly entertained us. Peacenik that I am, I find nothing more fun than watching the Hulk beat the tar out of annoying, bad people in a way that we all wish we could do now and then. I'm a proud child of Marvel's Bronze Age genius -- the maturation of the amazing foundation Jack Kirby and Stan Lee laid in the 60s. I go along thinking I'm above most things... and then I see the trailer for a new movie, and it's like I'm 10 again.
Same thing with a new bike. These are all good things.
Keep ‘em turnin’, friends.