Events: The 2018 Rapha Festive 500 Day Eight
Ride Distance: 39 Miles/ 155 Miles Remain
(2018) As if to reiterate my Festive 500 attempt was not going to happen, I woke up on Day Eight to an all-too-American phrase: Shelter in Place. The initial plan was to meet up with Mike and take a respectable chunk out of the balance of the failed attempt, but fate had other plans. What followed turned into an irreplaceable conversation.
Apparently just up the road from the creakybottombracket.com is a gas company. If people didn’t know about it, they do now. A call to our office landline is usually ignored, but considering Bucks County showed up in the call ID it was answered. The last time they robo-called was to issue a tornado warning. Needless to say, the County seems only to alert when it is serious. I have no idea what fluorine gas is, but it was leaking from the facility not far away. Inhaling the gas produces symptoms such as burning eyes, nasal passages, and skin. Too much exposure could lead to death.
My plan for the final day of the Festive 500 was to meet up with Mike and take some different roads from our recent travels. I sent off a text stating I was in a ‘Shelter in Place’ situation. He inquired whether I was serious. The warning specifically applied to residents within a half-mile of the spill site. I got on the Internet and measured how far away the plant was. Despite being clearly within the bubble I took it upon myself to leave the shelter bubble and head west. I made sure to take inventory of any burning along my departure. There was none, and I am still kicking hours after returning from the ride.
Once meeting up with Mike we started piecing together a route. I mentioned how much fun I had on my last ride and suggested we emulate it. He suggested turns in other areas. We rolled along roads I used to hit regularly when I lived in town. We passed his old house and accessed a trail we had not visited in quite some time. Coming off of a season of running, Mike led the way around new County trails that resembled bike paths of Europe. We linked up with a course that was one of the first races our team did together almost a decade ago.
The ride progressed to more nostalgic parts. Here we rolled along near my parents’ house, roads I regularly hit when I was returning to road cycling. Occasionally I pointed out houses from bus stops when I was in elementary school. Every once in a while we commented how that house stood where a field once was, or how multiple houses were now where a grove of trees once stood. Even the local quarry was in the process of being filled in.
Then something enjoyable took shape. As we wound around regularly overlooked roads, we reminisced over memorable rides and riders who led us out in the past decade. Mike talked about his enjoyment of collegiate cycling; I tried to figure out whether we could pinpoint our first ride together. We talked about riders who inspired us to race through the pain to find success, cyclists who brought out the best in us. Here was where a ride once turned onto a busy road and had no business being out there. And remember that time when we cracked a rider who never, ever cracked? We talked about riders who now live on another continent, riding the velodromes of England. We laughed over riders who moved to California but not before he dropped the hammer on so many rides, causing us to be at our best. We dropped names of riders who now live in the next county over but helped the cause of Bucks cycling through eagerness. Mike and I even giggled over the fact one of our cycling buddy’s sons now has the possibility to blow us away. We enjoyed talking about the last ten years of cycling.
And isn’t that the way it should have been? As we pedaled the final dozen or so miles of the year, recollecting was definitely how 2018 should have ended. If either or both of us were fighting to cross the figurative finish line of 500 kilometers, we would have missed out talking about great memories.
We even pulled over at the Lumberville General Store to talk about how it felt like it might snow. I kept saying how the bacon smelled good, then the sausage, and then how tasty the Yule log looked. Luckily we gulped coffee while a passing shower took place. What would great conversation be without coffee? What would a day be without a great ride to a coffee shop? It was all here to sum up the year.
After we split off to bid 2018 adieu our own ways, the sky started dripping. I reentered the Shelter in Place bubble, which had been lifted for several hours since my departure. Imagine if I had sheltered in place. I would have missed out on great conversation, great riding, and coffee courtesy of Mike. The Festive 500 was a bust but I managed to leapfrog my second-best mileage courtesy of today’s mileage. I’m not suggesting to venture out when ‘Shelter in Place’ is announced, but I sure think the risk was worth it.