More than 13 hours after we’d left the Hotel Pattee, unlocking bikes, gulping coffee, gauging the day ahead, pondering our abilities, we were back.
We’d averaged 12.2 mph. Burned 5,000 calories. Pedaled for nearly 8½ of those sunrise-to-sunset hours.
And then came the best part of a long day on a bicycle.
A hot shower and clean clothes. A meal with friends to relive the miles.
We ate takeout from Mex-To-U, a small taqueria just a few steps from the hotel. The fish burrito filled with flaky tilapia and cilantro-seasoned rice was quite possibly the best thing I’d ever tasted, eaten in the afterglow of accomplishment.
Sitting in the courtyard, we replayed the day.
The high points. (The library lovers and pickle juice in Linden, the conversations that unspooled between us, the from-the-heart motivational speeches.)
Our lows, surprisingly few. (The hills on the open road. The hills on the open road. The hills.)
The things we’d been afraid of — not finishing. The power of the group and those 12.5-mile segments (each with a message — Adjust! This isn’t a forever moment! Act differently than you feel! — that carried the riders along. The satisfaction of accomplishing a goal.
There was still a pandemic, but we’d detoured around danger as best we could. Wearing masks when we had to be inside, eating our meals in the open air and spending time together 6 feet apart on the seats of our bicycles.
There is a melancholy in all that is lost and trepidation about what might be coming.
But there is also the joy of a bicycle ride with friends.
When the only thing that matters is which way the wind is blowing and what might lie ahead for lunch.