Tuesday, May 10, 2016

A Day Without Me (Part Two: My Redemption)

It was 10:18am, and the miles were flying past. My windows were down and my iPod was jamming one great song after another. Gin Blossoms, Journey, Live, and other favorites from my 'Soundtrack' playlist were screaming through the Jeep's speakers. I was singing at the top of my lungs, oblivious to the fact I'm tone-deaf. Thank goodness the dog is deaf or this may have been viewed as cruel and unusual punishment. The fog was lifting and the cloud that was following me around all week started to dissipate. The reality is, I wasn't broken hearted. I was hurt. I was falling for someone and had the rug pulled out from under me for circumstances I could do nothing about. All-in-all, the pain was life affirming. I was relieved to find I was still capable of these feelings. Granted it look me losing them to realize I had them, but it was a positive life experience, and for that I found myself feeling a bit grateful. I arrived at the trail-head at a 'local only' entrance to Potawatomi State Park. 1,225 acres of gorgeous north-woods along Sturgeon Bay. I remember riding here every day when I lived here. I'd peel through these wood at daybreak before my shift at restaurant. I still remember the smell of coffee and bacon would fill the heavy fall air as the campers began their days. I got my bike ready to go and checked my water and computer. Today I had brought my carbon fiber hard tail. It would be the first time I'd ever rode this bike here. This bike was made for these kinds of trails. I was ready to begin....and then I saw a sign: "State Park -- Warning -- Hunting in Progress." Hmmmm... It looked as though I was going to get all the adventure that comes with mountain biking, with the added excitement of possibly being shot! "Oh well," I thought to myself. "I didn't come all this way to not ride!" ...and off I went. Surprisingly, I remembered right where the trail met up with the road and I swung off the pavement to tackle the first big hill up to the main trail system. The trails were much better marked than when I was last here. I stopped at the first map and picked which signs I'd follow. I took off and started to find a rhythm. Then, on the way up the next hill...SNAP...my chain broke! I have a tool packed for any relatively minor repair, but fixing a chain is still a huge pain in the butt. Largely because it takes at least three hands. After messing with it for a few minutes, I stood up to stretch my back. I sat back down. I had the link pin in my mouth for safe keeping, I used my left foot to hold the rear derailleur forward to keep the chain slacked so I could hold the two ends together. This time I got it on the first try. I got up, stretched a little, took a long pull from my bottle, and started off again down the trail. This time I fell into my groove. My back went from throbbing to aching to acceptance. My shoulders squared up to allow my elbows and wrists to relax and absorb the ground. My legs pounded out a cadence as if to say, 'no matter what you throw at us today, we're not breaking this pace.' The bike itself ate up the trail. No longer was I fighting to stay on the six-inch wide piece of packed dirt. It was to the point it felt like the ground was reaching up and holding my tire in place. Trees flew past mere inches from me, but it didn't matter. Nothing was slowing me down. Along with the blurry scenery rushing past, my worries also diminished. Suddenly what my boss thought of me was a lot less important to me than not breaking a collarbone on one of these beautiful birch trees. My mind began to wander back to my recent break up. Everything happens for a reason. What would this teach me? PFFFF! My mind snapped back to the task at hand with the interrupting 'cough' of the bike's front shock taking a hit. "Keep your head in the game," I thought to myself. After all, it's all about staying in the moment today. This is my religion. This is where I find the peace I cannot find anywhere else. This is my higher power. Body and mind are one, if only for a moment. I was so in a groove here, that I decided to stay and do another lap rather than pack it in and go further up north to find another trail. Why would I stop? The more I rode, the better I felt physically and emotionally. The songs blaring through my head went from Shinedown's 'The Sound of Madness,' to Marillion's 'Don't Hurt Yourself' to The Eagles' 'Peaceful, Easy Feeling.' Life was simpler like this. I rounded out the ride by coasting down the last hill right to the waterfront. I sit there and bask in it all for a little while. It had been just over ten miles. I had topped out at over 20mph in there. I rode back to the Jeep and stowed my bike shoes and helmet. I let Zooey out and we walked back down along the channel, as I contemplated my next move. I intended to go all the way up to Fish Creek to ride at Peninsula State Park, and cap off the day at my friend Britt's restaurant. But if I decided to do that, I might not get on the road home until after 7pm. That would make for an exhausting drive home. I decided to rather go into Sturgeon Bay and hit Inn at Cedar Crossing' Pub for a burger and cold beverage. After a delicious $13 sandwich and three raspberry lemonades, I got a mocha and walked Z some more through a park along the water before heading home. For you that are still curious about the message on my phone at the end of 'A Day Without Me (Part One)', that caused my day to start late, thanks for staying with the story. If you think it was the girl who I had just split with calling to make up, I'd advise you to stop watching Meg Ryan movies. That's not how the world works. The message was a cross-roads of sorts. It was a message from an online dating site saying someone was trying to contact me. Another great ploy these sites use is this one: After you quit, they leave your information posted. Then maybe someone reaches out to you. But if you want to see who it is or what they want, you have to rejoin. I fell for this once. I signed back up to make contact, only to have nothing materialize. Basically I paid $35 to be rejected. Nothing like adding insult to injury! So here I am staring at my phone. "'MissZ' sent you an email. Click here to subscribe and see what she wrote." Fate staring at me from the three-inch screen of my cell phone. She could be my friend. We could spend hours on a coffee house couch until our butts became numb talking and reading the stories in each other's eyes. She could be my lover. She could be my soulmate. She could be my destiny. But as of today, we will never know.

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