It appears spring is finally in the air. The formal threshold was crossed about a week ago, but that carries little weight for us residents of northwest Ohio. We are not so easily convinced. Still, cooped up or forced to bundle up, temperatures seem to be slowly rising and the prospects of the pleasures of the out-of-doors are bidding us to come.
As an avid bicyclist, yet one who is disinclined to hit the road when the thermometer reads almost anything south of 50 degrees, most would think I have spent the past few months suffering endlessly due to the supreme lack of any rubber meeting the road.
Surely you feel the void in my life. Near endless miles of virtually pothole free secondary roads throughout Putnam County have been begging me to put on the spandex and push the pedal to the pavement and I have turned a deaf ear. Scenic winding roads around the Blanchard River have been crying out, to no avail. The alluring straight lines of endless rows of corn and beans lay dormant and cannot draw my gaze. Shimmering golden wheat fields cannot be appreciated for their beauty. Not surprisingly, there are no cool morning breezes to wash over my face let alone stiff in-your-face ones.
Oh, the agony of the formerly frigid days as life is void of facing cool evening breezes or charging through vicious in-your-face headwinds.
Sure, I could enroll in an early morning “spin-class” at the local YMCA, but I’d probably be in the back row staring at a behind from behind. I could cough up some serious coin and buy one of those high-tech exercise bikes and compete with the world. Alas, I have chosen neither.
For the past four months and three to five times a week, I’m relegated to our secluded and dimly-lit basement. My wife has a collection of craft supplies in the corner. No decorations are on any wall.
Off to one side of this room an odd contraption sits on the floor made up of a small metal frame, three rollers and a long “rubber band.” They’re called “cycle-rollers” and I ride my bicycle on them throughout the season of snow and ice.
A large sheet of blue vinyl lies on the floor catching the steady drip of sweat unable to evaporate in this stale and stagnant room. Alongside my bicycle is a wobbly saw horse to steady myself if I get off track and a rusted old step stool for mounting my trusty “steed.” Another short wooden barstool stands opposite to hold two water bottles for on-the-go hydration. Regularly, I pedal feverishly for upwards of an hour going, it would seem, nowhere. To make matters worse, my bicycle and I must balance perilously on the rollers down below making the “road” that I travel not much more than a foot-and-a-half wide. Crashes have been reduced to less than one per winter.
Before you burst into tears with respect to my plight, be assured that I am not alone for these rides and the view tends always to be dramatic, captivating, diverse, and even quite educational. Stimulation includes the muscles in my legs but also that organ between my ears. Every ride is an adventure, a story, a journey of sometimes fascination, sometimes tears, and almost always inspirational.
I’ve met amazing people during my basement bicycling each winter, each having their own route to follow. Many of these acquaintances are renewed each year, yet some are brand new. I met up again with “Jason Bourne,” Clark Griswold, Jimmy Chitwood, Hitch, “Captain Philips,” Walter Mitty, and Seabiscuit.
Dangers abound over the course of my pedaling as I’ve been “behind enemy lines,” have seen the “enemy at the gates,” and know well the “enemy of the state.” Due to the poor lighting, my ride can be like the “darkest hour,” but thankfully I don’t ride for “13-hours.” Though I don’t get outside, I’ve seen “Hacksaw Ridge” and the “bridge of spies.” I am certainly not “the world’s fastest Indian.”
Some days it feels like “deja vu” and reliving “Groundhog Day” over and over again wishing I could “cast away” my bike and just rest on a deserted island. Still, I sit on “the firm” saddle and try and count myself as one of “a few good men.” Maybe you’re thinking about “trading places” with me. There is no question that this time of year I am an “inside man” though it’s up for debate whether I always have “a beautiful mind.”
Just recently this winter I met a woman I’d rather forget named, “I, Tonya,” but I will always “remember the titans.” I had to “wonder” about heading off to “Jumanji,” yet I’ve been to “the Lost City of Z” and “Dunkirk” and made it back from both. It’s potential dangerous, but I still rode during “the hurricane season.” Heck, I even biked during “Christmas vacation.”
These days, “catch me if you can,” but I won’t be in the basement, rather above ground and once more on the road. As you travel, be it “Glory Road” or a county road, always keep your eyes on it and share the road.
By the way, I turned off the TV and canceled my subscription to Netflix until next winter.
Ken Pollitz moved to Ottawa in 1991 as mission-developer/pastor of New Creation Lutheran Church. His biweekly column provides insights and viewpoints from Putnam County. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org