This week I celebrated my birthday by riding what has become an annual “Ride My Age Birthday Ride,” where I ride my age in miles. In order to not feel rushed (because every year this ride takes just a little longer) I took the day off and headed out of the city via the C&O Canal Towpath.
The towpath is a popular place to walk, hike, and bike on weekends. I looked forward to hitting it midday, midweek so as to avoid the crowds.
Given that my birthday falls in March, I never know what kind of weather to expect. This year, it was sunny and in the 50s. What a great birthday gift, no?
It was also breezy (west winds of 18 mph), but like I say, that’s March for you. The windy day was another reason I chose to travel the C&O, as its location and the surrounding trees offer decent shelter in many spots.
Even in a pre-spring state, the towpath is beautiful. The occasional runner passed, and even more occasional cyclist. People walked along the C&O with their dogs. I only had to hit the brakes for one dog out of the many that were out so I consider that a successful C&O outing.
I paused frequently during my ride to take photos and bask in the sunny day. I had nowhere I had to be, and no need to to hurry.
It was one of those days that was just warm enough that, if I chose to linger somewhere, I did not feel an initial chill when I resumed pedaling again.
At various times, I had the C&O all to myself, at least in terms of humans. It was me and the geese, the ducks, and the herons.
I rode along and thought about the decade I’d left behind. It’s when I started bike commuting, randonneuring, and riding as my primary form of transportation.
I also met Felkerino, who fostered my interest in bikes, and has been part of many of my bicycling adventures.
I reflected on where my bike has taken me: the Cascades in Washington state; from Rockville, Maryland, to Niagara Falls; France; Colorado; Pennsylvania; my beautiful home state of Iowa; and all the areas in and around Washington, D.C.
Sometimes these seem like dreams, or as if they happened to someone else. On yesterday’s ride, though, I vividly recalled them all. Yes, I have seen all these places on my bicycle, I said to myself. I remember.
I remember warm sun on my face applying and reapplying sunscreen wearing Gore-Tex in the cold rain, fighting the wind, sailing down a mountain, the fatigue in my legs, and the exhilaration of exploring. I was enveloped in gratitude for all that I’ve experienced on the bike.
For a moment, I found myself asking “What if I had started bicycling sooner?” I left the unproductive “What if” conversation alone, and instead chose to reflect on all the good that has been and anticipate the brilliant possibilities of tomorrow.
I kept pedaling, savoring my simple life, good health, and the clear beauty of the first day of Spring. Just me and my bike on the Ride My Age Birthday Ride.