Okay, so the title, “It’s not about the scenery” is a reference to the Lance Armstrong book, “It’s Not About the Bike.” To let you know this is about bicycling, about bicycling 100 miles in one day. Of course the alternative title is, “100 miles,” sung to the tune of some song by the same name, or is it 1,000 miles, I’m not sure. 100 miles is what I rode on my bike last Sunday with a group from the Charles River Wheelmen, a social riding club in the Boston area. We started in Wakefield, MA and wound (wended?) our way up through the Merrimack River Valley, the river still running at near flood stage from all the recent rain. But on the bike, you just don’t look at the scenery that much. Because you’re looking at the road, looking out for potholes that can end your day or at least cause a flat and what a pain it is to fix a flat and then you’ve got to watch out for other bicyclists and the cars and then there’s drafting, where your front tire is just inches behind the rear tire of the bicyclist in front of you and the group riding like this takes turns leading, or “pulling,” as they say. When you’re riding like that, the only thing you’re watching is that tire in front of you. Then it’s definitely not about the scenery.
And there’s the mileage thing as well. You’re going to ride 100 miles. You know you’re going to finish, but you know it’s going to be painful going at some point, particularly when your odometer reads 2 miles and you think, “okay, just have to do this 49 more times.” then at 5 miles you think, well, only 19 more times. And on and on, and eventually you get so tired you can’t do the math anymore. You get to 50 and think, half way done. But the first 50 is much easier than the second 50. It’s the 60 to 80 mile range that’s the hardest. You’re tired and your legs are tired and you think, why the hell am I doing this, but then something funny happens as you’re struggling up a long hill: an old guy with a huge flowing white beard comes down hill on a bike on the opposite side, plastic bags hanging from his handlebars, and he says, with glee, “You’re gonna get wet!” He looked like a character out of a Stephen King movie. He was right, though, I did get wet. I rode the last 10 miles in the rain, luckily not a hard rain, but a wet rain. I was prepared, but still, biking in the rain is not much fun.
And then, a right turn, and there it is, the starting/finishing point, Wakefield HIgh School. What a relief. My legs are cold and I quickly change into some warm up pants, stretch for a while in the drizzle, pack up my bike, sign in to let people know I’ve returned, and then head home in my car, heater on, stop for a cup of coffee, turn on the iPod and listen to loud music while driving down Rte. 1 back to Boston. Tired. But good tired.