I originally thought I would settle for the 30 mile route, seeing it was a mountainous ride in Chattooga County. I grabbed the maps for the 30 and 63.4 mile routes, "just in case" I felt like I could handle it. At any rate, the decision had to be made early, as the smaller "green" route turned right at about mile 23, where the yellow route took a left turn.
The rain poured hard, making me wish sunglasses were equipped with mini windshield wipers. I rode low with squinted eyes. Finally the rain stopped. I was feeling great and decided to go for it, taking the left turn with gusto. I sort of had a few misgivings five miles later when I pulled out of the next rest stop and saw the little sign that warned, "Last Rest Stop Before the Mountain." :0 I knew the decision to take the longer route would mean I would spend a lot of time alone, as the big dogs go faster than I did at that beginning stage of proficiency for me. They would be way ahead of the guys I was with on the green route. But, I made up my mind.
I made it up the mountain slow enough to notice ants climbing beside me, as I sped by their insect troops. That was when the whole terrain took on a look of utter splendor. After that mountain climb, the hills didn't seem so bad. I decided to create a new rest stop on the route just near the top of a large hill, about 10 miles away from the last rest stop... that should do it. As I melted off my bicycle, I realized someone was almost right behind me, at the foot of the hill. After he reached "my" rest stop, he said he had been there for a while trying to catch up with me, and had figured he would lose me on that hill. We were equally relieved to have someone else along to contact next of kin if we didn't make it out of this alive. but, Jessie agreed that it would be a great view if we had to die anyways.
There seemed to be almost no car traffic in the Chattooga County, Summerville area. So, we didn't have to dodge cars flying down hills. It wasn't long before we were in the woods again for miles at a time. It was just stunningly beautiful! We passed a few dogs at farmhouses, but they seemed to be willing only to bark a warning, or ignore us totally. One big bulldog was sitting on a trampoline, like it was a hammock, just pretending to bark a little, to save face.
Occasionally, speed racers from the 100 and 125 mile routes would pass us from behind, coming within inches of our ears. Their routes left and rejoined our route several times. It sort of burns your ego to see riders like that, acting like its a stroll in the park while you struggle.
Eventually a SAG official vehicle got behind us, and followed us a ways. It felt like being in the Olympics, or the Tour de France, with our own team car following close behind. When I wondered why they didn't pass us, Jessie said they were probably watching us to see if we would pass out before leaving us to die on the hill alone. So, we refueled on granola bars from our back pockets and then threw out a gallant effort, standing up on the pedals to the top, and then flew down the hill at top speed, so they could see we were still breathing. It worked... they went away. It had felt like being circled by buzzards waiting to pick our carcasses off the pavement.
It did feel good later when we were at the last rest stop (50 mile mark) and the racers pulled in. We were unmistakably on a high mileage ride... if not quite up to their level. And, we could still walk and breathe. :) That was a tough ride. They had Dominoes Pepperoni pizzas and soft drinks waiting for us at the end. And, we sat there with the big dogs and ate our pizzas with pride, knowing the 15 and 30 mile riders were already home.
As you can see, I don't usually leave a lot of commentary, or "sermonizing" in my blogs. I think you will draw your own conclusions. Of course, there are no right and wrong answers in life, before death. What ever conclusions you draw will not be validated this side of eternity. Instead of trying to analyze why these things were all taken away from my life, I try to look at what remains. My Pastor at the time, had a grown daughter who died after surgery, about a year before. I woke up from surgery with my life changed. Why this happened to her or me doesn't really matter. What matters is that I was given extra years to love, which I may have never lived to see. My sister came to my bedside to tell me what went wrong when I woke up from surgery. I was allowed to live to love my Sister. My nephew Timmy was born after the first surgery. I was allowed to live to love Timmy. I married my soulmate the following summer. I was allowed to live to love Larry. I made it to my youngest son's high school graduation, and now he's in college. I was allowed to live to love Travis. I love to live. I am truly the blessed one. Come back tomorrow night for the special final blog in the series titled, "Healed and Whole."