Sunday, May 22, 2011

The Half Century

The first Tuesday while home, temperatures hit record highs across the Midwest and in my hometown of Moline, IL. While the 91 degree temperature seemed tame by Indian standards, the added humidity and fact that it was nearly forty degrees cooler only a couple days before made it feel a little like July in Delhi (OK, July in Delhi before 9am). Mom was scheduled to preside over her monthly garden club meeting and Lindsay was forced to take a few early meetings with her team in India followed by a manicure. As a result, Dad and I had a few hours to spare and loaded his bikes to the back of the car and met his retiree crew for a morning ride.

This retiree crew isn't what most would expect when describing a retiree cycling club. Dad has said he likes to be in shape enough to handle three 60 mile rides per week. Dad would also be the first to admit that he's one of the "weaker" riders in the group. Even though I'm in adequate physical condition, I hadn't ridden a bike since June 2009 when this same group allowed my older sister and I to tag along for the two-day TOMRV ride along the upper Mississippi River valley. Needless to say, I was expecting a rough day.

We started the ride from a church parking lot in Colona and made our way to Andover. These are two small rural towns in Illinois that you've likely never heard of; that is, unless you're from this area. In addition to the heat there was wind. The good part of riding into a 15 mile per hour wind is that there is plenty of air circulation; the bad part is that, well, you're riding into a 15 mile per hour wind. Andover was upwind.
Refueled after a much-needed breakfast stop
Andover marked the midway point and the requisite breakfast stop. While I'm sure the greasy (yet awesome) diner breakfast mitigates most of the benefit of the ride, it was necessary. I wolfed down a huge Denver omelette and hash browns while most the retirees needed only a small breakfast sandwich. I didn't care; I needed fuel.

After breakfast we had a tailwind, which makes for a much more pleasant and swift ride. I've yet to do an actual "tailwind" with my Dad's group, but it's an actual thing where they have four predetermined routes in each of the four directions. Based on the direction of the wind, they'll have someone drive them against the wind, drop them off, and ride 100 miles back into the Quad Cities. I'm fairly certain my butt wouldn't have made it 100 miles. When we finally made our way back to the church parking lot in Colona, the odometer read 53 miles, distance enough for my butt to let me know it was more than enough for this warm spring day.

Having spent the better part of 16 months in India, the most powerful part of the ride was how empty the American heartland feels and how one of the most fertile regions of the world seems almost devoid of human life. While we passed farmers working here and there throughout the ride and cars passed us, the scene felt refreshingly lonely. It felt good to be home.

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