Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Flat Tire

I was a part of the traffic menace on Highway 1 near San Luis Obispo last Saturday. Sally, Deanna, her 17-year-old daughter Haley, and I all set out for the Lighthouse Ride; a century--100 miles in one day. After I cheered Sally on at the Team in Training event, America's Most Beautiful Bike Ride, a few years ago I could not be restrained. I had to do it, too! I haven't yet made it to Tahoe myself; that will take more serious training for the altitude. San Luis and the Coast is a joy every mile, from gentle rolling hills to brisk ocean breezes. The event is run by the San Luis Obispo Bicycle Club, a non-profit organization with hundreds of energetic and friendly volunteers along the course, feeding riders and picking us up if we tire.This was my second time at the event, and we rented a "girls' house" for the weekend--what a relaxing time. My own daughters were not able to attend, but next year we hope to revisit and make our way home by way of Hearst Castle and the elephant seal landings.

This year's endurance ride was a tentative experience for me, as I had not trained like the buff women with whom I was cycling. I told them I felt lucky just to be in their wake. I mostly kept up, until about mile sixty, then poor Sally dragged me along. It didn't help that somewhere between the seals and the castle, I suddenly felt the air deflate from my rear tire. Sally knows I'm not mechanically inclined, so she acted like the helpful friend that she is but neither of us wanted to deal with it. Of course, just as we pulled over to check the damage, a cheery gentleman in his seventies hopped off his bike, "Flat tire?" I nodded in frustration, knowing this is just part of the sport.

My tire changing skills are punctuated by prayer and moaning. I told the nice man, Lou, that I could count the number of tires I had changed on one hand--and those were all with help. He knew, he could tell by my clumsy hands fiddling for the right tool to remove the tire from the rim. Our conversation was brief and focused on the view of the ocean as Lou reminisced his countless completions of the ride. As a novice in my mid-forties, I was impressed. He had the energy to ride 100 miles, at a healthy pace, and to offer help along the way. From talking to Lou, I got the impression that he had changed more tires for others than for himself. Maybe his sweet demeanor to give of himself energized him to finish the journey.

Sally and I had to work hard to catch up to him after the tire change, but as we did I realized he was just there to enjoy the journey. He had no goal to finish by a certain time, no ego to feed; he rode steady but noticed the views along the way. I no longer paid attention to the nagging voice inside my head to ride faster and harder. I started to look around at the others who had all trained to be there for one unifying event, among the waves and rocks, forests and meadows. Lou's act of service enabled me to let go of my need for an agenda and enjoy the ride!

Inspiration from the SLO Bicycle Club: "It is the volunteer effort that makes the San Louis (did you see the bibs?) Bicycle Club so much fun. We enjoy working the rides, the riders enjoy them more, we give boatloads of money to local causes and we are able to have a brunch."
Amen to that.

The SLOBC uses the funds from its rides to sponsor scholarships for the CalPoly Wheelmen and Shandon High School, support programs at Creston Elementary, contribute to the maintenance of mountain biking trails, support bicycle advocacy organizations, promote helmet use in our area and other issues of concern to bicyclist.

Fun Rides to Raise a Buck
  • Lighthouse Ride, San Luis Obispo, CA. September: www.slobc.org
  • America's Most Beautiful Bike Ride, Lake Tahoe, CA. June: www.bikethewest.com
  • Breathe California Bike for Breath, Silicon Valley, CA. July: www.lungsrus.org

Fundraising by Cycling
  • Leukemia & Lymphoma Society: www.teamintraining.org

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