Back road livin’ and ridin’

Ok, this isn’t a back road, but the spirit is still there.

It’s been too long since I’ve last written.

I would love to say it’s because I’ve been busy. Which I have been, by the way. But sometimes, I can’t commit to what I want to write about. I blame the caffeinated guinea pigs that live in my head and like to hold raves – they’re never still, there’s no point in corralling them, but damn if they aren’t entertaining.

I’m seriously digressing right now. Anyways ….

It’s been a little while since I told you all how Pelotonia traning has been going. The last long ride was June 25th, which I wrote about here. Turns out the chain falling off wasn’t even the worst part. I was too cocky going into that ride, since the previous 25-mile rides were successes and naturally the egotistical part of my brain figured, I should have no problem riding 35 miles that Saturday. Except that Saturday morning, a couple of things happened:

1.) I left my place way later than I was anticipating, which put me at a later and hotter start time.

2.) I didn’t put on my sunscreen before leaving my place. I figured slapping some on once I got to Westerville was a good idea. I completely forgot I have t-Rex arms and missed an entire section of my back, which got pretty red and hot during my ride.

3.) I didn’t hydrate appropriately. I guess I thought if I didn’t need to drink a lot of water during my evening rides, then I would probably be okay during the morning, completely forgetting that evening and morning sun are two different beasts.

So over the course of my ride I was easily tired, covered in sticky humid sweat, and struggling even before the chain fell off. The next few days after my ride were rough. I think I picked up a minor allergy infection, since the migraine wasn’t going away anytime soon, and the back of my neck hurt to move. I think my helmet and my posture on the bike didn’t help, but Sunday night I slept terribly and woke up with the immoveable neck and numb left hand on Monday.

Consequently, I decided to skip biking last week in favor of cross training on the elliptical and resistance training. I’ll be the first to encourage anyone thinking of starting up biking to consider a lifting regimen before they start bicycling. Biking is a power sport. Force + speed = power and cycling requires leg strength to pedal. Additionally, resistance training does wonders for improving bone health, muscular strength and promoting balanced fitness. I feel the difference from regular resistance training in my back and hip flexors when I’m riding, and the difference between lifting and not lifting can absolutely be felt.

Typically my long ride days are Saturdays, but since it was a holiday weekend, I decided to get up, do some cardio work at my apartment’s gym and then head home to see my family. Home for me is a modest ranch outside of a small town, a quarter mile down the road from my grandma. We decided a few days before to go see the fireworks at Indian Lake that Saturday night, and then spend Sunday with Grandma.

As much as I love living in the city, there is an undeniable peace on those back roads. Driving past the fields and the big farm houses with the American flags softly blowing took me back to a simpler time, when Teenage Allison couldn’t wait to leave and start her life anywhere else.

That night my folks and I left a little before 8 to get to Indian Lake, a resort town about an hour north of my folks. I think the last time I was up there was in 2014 or 2015, when we went out to eat at a now-closed down restaurant and walked around the lake. Now we were driving north on 235 as the sun was setting, a beautiful mix of periwinkle and bright pink. We passed some Amish farms nestled among the hills, and finally made it to the town of Russell’s Point, situated along Indian Lake.

I’m not sure where we parked, other than realizing once we got parked that we had accidentally picked the perfect spot for firework viewing. Pulled off the side road parallel to Route 33 with the other locals, chairs out and my lemon picnic blanket down, with the bag of Cheez-its and some diet root beer ready for the show.

To be honest, I’m used to Columbus fireworks and didn’t expect too much at Indian Lake. I figured they’d be nice and we’d have a good time, but this is a village. Small potatoes next to the big city. Well, I was wrong. Quite wrong, actually.

The entire half hour felt like the finale. The size of the displays, the colors, the succession and the show of it was one of the best things I’ve ever seen. I was having fun, and I realized that compared to the stresses I get in the city – fighting crowds, traffic and worrying about my poor cat at home – this was so low-key by comparison but genuinely so much better.

And small town folks get into the Fourth of July like no one else. People watching is just as much fun as the fireworks themselves.

We took the same back roads to the highway and then back home late that night. The next morning was a long talk with mom and the afternoon a low-key lunch with Grandma before it was time for me to head back to Columbus and reunite with Marina.

Then it was Monday, my long ride day and the redemption from the previous weekend. My goal then was to ride 35 miles, which didn’t happen. So I decided come hell or high water, 35 miles was going to happen that day.

I hauled ass to get out in time Monday morning (which never happens on a day off) and got my ride started before 8:30 am. An hour makes a world of difference with temperatures and comfort level when starting a ride. I don’t like to plan much beyond the distance, so I created my own route through Westerville and then out toward Sunbury Road, like I had done the weekend before.

The first 10 miles took me through residential neighborhoods until I picked up the Ohio to Erie Trail. Rather than heading north I headed east on Maxtown Road towards Sunbury, like I had done the weekend before. As I was riding north on Sunbury over the Hoover Reservoir my heart came alive again. I decided to make a right on to Harlem Road, since I had some miles to earn and I wasn’t ready to ride into the village of Galena yet.

Reader-friends, it was Harlem Road, among the hills and trees and beautiful farm homes that reminded me how small I am and how big and beautiful the world around me really is. I didn’t feel like I was 30 years old, huffin’ and puffin’ up a hill. I felt like I was a teenager again, riding my bike on the country roads with my mom and trying to race her. I felt at peace, like the previous stressful week at work never happened. And I felt strong, finally getting that mental breakthrough. Marathon runners talk about hitting the wall, getting to that point in the race where mentally you can’t push on any more, even if your body is still doing okay. I can confirm there is a wall in bicycling as well, and I was starting to wonder if the bike chain falling off was my sign that 57 miles in August was too ambitious.

36 miles, including a trip over the hills on country roads, confirmed that my wall isn’t anywhere near 25 miles. And compared to the previous weekend, I wasn’t even that tired once I was done.

Highways only show you that you can drive fast. City streets test your vision or confirm you need to get your glasses prescription updated, lest you want to take out a jaywalker or the hot dog stand. But back roads, when it’s only you and maybe a hawk hanging out on the telephone pole, for miles on end? You see the world around you uninterrupted, exactly as it is, and get to have those moments and talks with yourself the daily grind doesn’t allow time for.

It’s not only a ride, it’s a mental and spiritual revival in its purest form.

And I’m way too pumped to do it again this upcoming Saturday.

I hope you all enjoyed reading the way I enjoy writing and riding. Until next time friends.

Yours in writing and running,


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