The bifurcated cyclist

Guilt is the prime motivating force in my universe. It’s like I’ve got this damned cricket whistling in my head. “And always let your conscience be your guide!”

And so in the spirit of Jiminy Cricket I must fess up.

Yes, I have once again ridden my age…but.

It’s a little ritual I go through every year on or around my birthday. One mile for every year of my life…plus one for good luck.

Because I’m an optimist after all.

It’s something I’ve been doing faithfully since I turned 60. (And, yes, I did ride one year while cheerfully singing aloud “When I’m 64”!)

The sole exception was when I turned 70. I decided to make it a century and rode from Gainesville to St. Augustine. This on the very common sense notion that I will likely not be able to ride 100 miles on my 99th birthday. (Though one never knows, do one?)

Which brings me to my ride last year, upon attaining the ripe old age of 73.

That’s when I experience that phenomenon that cyclists call a “false flat.” It’s when you find yourself slogging along so slowly and putting in so much, um, legwork, that you are sure you’ve got a flat tire. But, alas, not.

It was a pretty good route. Gainesville to Micanopy to the Horse Country and back, with a few side trips along the way to pile on the miles. For company my buddy Walt Barry rode along. (And he’s even older than I am.)

Anyway, I like to finish up at First Mag Brewery, there to congregate with friends (Jill always makes cup cakes) have a few beers and talk modestly about what I’d just done (“Twern’t nothin”).

And that’s when my other buddy, Warren Nielsen (who is also older then me), peered at me intensely and said, helpfully, “You look gray. Should you still be doing this?”

I have no idea what he was talking about. But naturally I brooded about it for the duration of my 73rd year.

Which brings me to year 74 (Ta!Da!)

Yes, I did my the Ride My Age thing this past weekend. But this time, for the first time, I broke it up into two rides. On successive days.

Because (sigh!) time waits for no man to catch up.

Day one, Saturday, consisted of a 40 mile out-and-back on the Lake Butler/Palatka Trail from Clay County’s Twin Lakes Park to trail’s end in Palatka.

It was a gorgeous morning and Jill accompanied me for moral support.

I saw her twice during the ride. Once when she left me in the dust shortly after we began. And once on the return trip because she decided to wait for me at the Florahome Trailhead to make sure I hadn’t died or something.

Because time and Jill Cunningham wait for no man to catch up.

And, listen, if you haven’t ridden the Lake Butler/Palatka trail, you really should. The scenery is gorgeous and the trail is very well maintained. Putnam County works hard to back up its boast of being a great place for outdoor recreation.

On Sunday I was on my own (Jill was making the cup cakes) but in familiar territory indeed. I mean, you really can’t get lost on the Gainesville-Hawthorne Trail.

You can get distracted though. Listen, I’ve ridden it numerous times over the years and it never gets old.

It was nice to see Prairie Creek full up again. I remember during the drought years when it was totally dry.

And sometimes you find yourself stopping for a rest whether you’re tired or not just because it’s so damned pleasant to linger in the wilderness.

Still, mission accomplished. Again.

Yes, I did Ride My Age this year. No I didn’t do it all in one day. Sue me. But ride I did.

And let us never forget that the ride’s the thing

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