Today I biked again, for a change. I rode with Kelly, Alessandra, and JoHo, but we were more like Animal Collective: we held a loose affiliation, but did much of our work solo. If we were One Direction, I would have been Zayn: ethnic, and the first to break away. This was spurred by JoHo, who greeted me anytime I slowed or stopped to stay with him on the side of the road or even in our shoulder, with, “don’t slow down!” So I stopped slowing down, and ended up alone for most of the day.
Lunch 1 was in a parking lot where a biker gang of another sort was camped out as well.
Tailwinds and actual roads (not chipseal) made for a good ride day, which we needed because we were on a 75 mph highway, which is probably illegal. I enjoyed biking alone, not only because I solitude meant I could sing The Music Man at the middle of my lungs at 40% lyric knowledge. At one point I got picked up by Melissa, Rob, Kelp, and Nick aka Nasty’s train, Rob commenting, “look who’s going 23.”
Lunch 2 for me was bathroom (the function of one, not a real room) and water reload- I didn’t want any muscle cooling, and I’m not here to make friends. Got back on the road with Nasty, who said, “you could with going fast, Jenna? I like to go fast.” “I’ll try,” was my honest response.
“I think you can do it. I like to believe that when people push themselves they can get there.”
“But if you’re starting at different levels, the same amount of effort will get you to different places.”
“Fair enough,” he said, and we reentered the highway, having each just summed up our political views.
I was able to keep Nick at least in eyesight for a while there, my turbo flames lit by a desire to prove that softhearted progressives such as myself are not softmuscled. We even stopped at a jerky store, where Rob caught up to us and Nick got to be in his element. He prefers jerky to steak.
Then the hills started catching up with me and stopped letting me catch up to him. I biked with Rob, self conscious about slowing him down but going how I needed to go. I love going fast; it feels amazing both physically and mentally. But it’s not a decision I get to make so much as it is the right combination of conditions, and I can’t do it forever. Yet.
Finished off the ride with Rob, Hilary, and Kevin, who we picked up changing a flat. Our host was the YMCA. Not a Christian place for once, I thought, before I ran through that acronym again. A nominally Christian place for once! I ate a bunch of snacks and put on a temporary tattoo of a gold wristwatch whose time always reads as PARTY. Just until I order myself a new watch.
I did a few laps in the pool but felt winded. I’m starting to seriously doubt cycling’ certification as exercise. How can it hurt so bad and not get me thinner or stronger or increase my stamina? What am I doing with my life?
The town of Wichita Falls felt like an Americana soundstage. Adorable, rustic downtown with nothing open and no one in it. There are apparently 100,000 people there, but I don’t know where they’re hiding. Perhaps on the Air Force base. 1960s blue skyscrapers, a red brick downtown, and a diner where the founder of the Hotter’n’Hell 100 race bought out the place for us. I soon found that I was the only person to order my burger a size small. Then I headed over to a bar for a quick chat with someone named Blanche Carolyn the fifth, who is clearly the quirky friend despite being mainstream attractive. I’ve been really seeing on this trip how thin the band of acceptable behavior falls on the spectrum before you get labeled weird. If you fall off the tightrope, the difference is whether you are attractive or otherwise charming enough that others form a safety net and make fun of you to your face. If you lack that, they’ll do it behind your back.
I was ready to leave sooner than others, so I walked myself back, going on an accidental self and google maps guided tour when Google decided to direct me to a different Y. But I made it home to sleep on my bed of two exercise room-borrowed yoga mats.