Riders On The Storm

Looking back two Sunday mornings ago, I’m not sure I rode my bike the entire 26-plus mile length of the 2011 Pasadena Marathon Bike Tour. It felt more like swimming than riding.
When I registered for the annual event it was an unseasonably warm March day. When I picked up our swag bags and numbered participant bibs at the Pasadena Civic Center two days before the event – the sun was bright and temperatures were typically pre-Southern-California-summer-like. However, when my wife, youngest son and I loaded up our bikes and drove east on the 210 in the pre-dawn darkness May 15, it was not only cold, it was also wet. As in cloudy and drizzling.
Not to worry. To my way of thinking – and to hijack a popular phrase – even the worst day cycling is better than the best day working. Or something like that. My wife and I had both had fallen in love with cycling sometime in 2005 and had made one of our best investments ever in purchasing serious, high-end road bikes (who knew a bicycle could cost more than my first car?). At the beginning of this year, we had recommitted to healthier, lighter living and to exercising as many days out of the week as possible. All we needed was the motivation to get back on our hard saddles and start putting in the miles to strengthen our cycling muscles and build up our endurance. The Pasadena Marathon Bike Tour was just what we needed.
While training the past few months, we’ve ridden hundreds of miles over the streets of Pasadena, including many of the very same roads covered by the 2011 Marathon route. But riding on a weekday afternoon dodging rush hour traffic is a far cry from the experience of an unobstructed, early morning ride down the middle of Colorado Boulevard in Old Town, blowing through red lights without a care while Pasadena Police and CHP officers keep all motorized traffic out of your way. Helicopters hovering low overhead in the wet, gray skies only added to the uniqueness of the experience. In my cold, sleep-deprived thoughts, I could almost imagine what Armstrong, LeMond or Merckx must have felt like riding le Tour. Almost.
We missed the main 5:45 a.m. start of cyclists by almost 20 minutes, having had to make a frantic round trip dash back home to snag our son’s forgotten helmet (are you kidding me?!?) and found ourselves riding the first few miles of wet streets almost entirely alone. We soon began to catch up with and pass the more “interesting” of riders one always finds bringing up the rear at these types of events – the weekend warriors riding rusty bikes with equally rusty muscles and endurance levels, the riders in fleece animal costumes (don’t ask), even riders obliviously texting away while riding. Seriously?
Somewhere between the three and four mile markers, we blew past a rider we affectionately came to call “butt-crack man.” This impressively rotund fellow was not so much riding his bicycle as he was torturing it. His pitiable metal steed squeaked and creaked with every pedal stroke as he strained up a slight incline. He was barely dressed in a way-too-tight tank top, a windbreaker flapping in the breeze and a pair of saggy, soggy gym shorts being dragged off the back of his tookus by the combined forces of rain and gravity. Try as I might, it was many more miles before I could get that horrifying image out of my mind.
Thankfully, I will never forget the wonderful experience of riding all those miles through a cold, wet Pasadena earlier this month with my wife and son. By the way, I wanted to write about this subject immediately following the actual event last week. However, had I not completed my two-part tale/tail about our uninvited Mother’s Day guest, I would have felt like a rat.
I’ll see you ‘round town.

© 2011 WordChaser, Inc.
Jim Chase is an award-
winning advertising copywriter and native of Southern California. Readers are invited to “friend” his My Thoughts Exactly page on Facebook.
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