43 mph down the side on the mountain into St. Marys at the base of Glacier National Park. I have done it twice, both times passing cows along the side of the road.
At the base I thought briefly “ If I had hit a cow I would have been dead.” And then I went off to get ice cream.
My first ride there were 28 of us, half younger in college, half my age. We called the young ones the
‘Invincibles” because they thought they could never suffer any harm. The older group tried to warn them to no avail.
Every ride has some “Invincibles”, this time there were three. That’s just the nature of age and life. There is a reason old generals send 19 year olds to war…mostly for that bravado streak.
The last 10 days of the ride became harder and harder for me day by day. The distances seemed longer, the cold and hot temperatures more extreme, the pot holes bigger, the climbs and descents steeper, the food less appealing, the people less interesting, and at the end of the day the fatigue worse. I became more isolated even in our small group.
These rides are 85 % mental and 15 % physical. We are all in good shape before we start with proper training …the physical part has been built up.
Something obviously happened to me to start the downhill mental descent.
Riding home yesterday I had time to do a postmortem on my ride and it became clearer and clearer what had happened to me.
My own invincible bubble had burst. We all have to have some sort of thick shield to risk these rides….there are no real “Invincibles” or “Non Invincibles”…we are all unrealistic with varying degrees of thickness of our shields.
When mine burst reality came crashing in and no thickness of railroad tracks, no forced optimism, no wishful thinking could put the shield back.
And what burst it?
Staring into a dead bike rider’s eyes and knowing that that could have been me.
I rushed to him thinking he was having a grand mal seizure but only when I got within inches of his face did I realize he looked back at me with fixed dilated pupils and the foam at his mouth had no life.
My invincible shield burst that very moment…
I’m not sure that shield can ever be put back in place…I’m not sure I want that shield back …
My family and friends have been worried about me on these rides and only now do I see why.
Yesterday I felt like a failure, a quitter, a loser…today those feelings are starting ever so slowly to fade to be replaced by a gratitude that I did what I did over the years and somehow survived.
As an aside I should have seen other earlier warning signs about the dangers but the shield blurred my vision…
Two days ago at breakfast at a deli by the side of the road my bike suddenly fell over and the handle bars came off…surprised I reattached them. Them getting back on the bike I looked down and the soles of my riding shoes had come off…
I looked over at Angel with bike grease on hands and Flossie with part of my shoe in her mouth…I should have realized they were trying to tell me something.
A 16 degree hill full of potholes finally became the mirror in front of my face.
God Bless all the “Invincibles” still on the road and may they find safety as they ride forward in their lives…