Thursday, December 08, 2005

The Wednesdays

This is the last day of my vacation. I think I frittered away my time in fine fashion. I’ve tried very hard not to be too productive and I think I’ve succeeded admirably. The other day I slipped up a little bit and painted the upstairs bathroom’s woodwork, but other than that I think I’ve largely been no good to anyone. Sloth, thy name is Schprock.

A friend of mine is a member of a cycling club called the Charles River Wheelmen, and over the last few months he’s invited me to come along on some of their jaunts. On the Sunday before last, I joined them on a 60 mile trek and had an opportunity to meet some of the regulars. One of them told me about the “Wednesdays,” a sort of unofficial subdivision of the CRW who meet on Wednesday mornings for rides that average some 30 or 40 miles. As it happened that I had yesterday morning free and my friend was also available, we decided to meet the Wednesdays and go off for a little ride.

It was on the cool side: 24 or 25 degrees. I am a year round bike commuter, so that didn’t faze me; I’ve long been conditioned to it. My friend, whom we’ll call Doc (as he is a hospital doctor, and his unusual hours permitted him to ride during a weekday), has all the latest gear and accessories to handle the chillier temps. So I met him at his house and we struck off for Weston, a well-to-do suburb of Boston.

As luck would have it I got a flat on the way to the meeting place; I took a safety pin to the back tire. Luckily there was a service station nearby and I was kindly allowed the use of one of their bays to change it and thus avoid freezing my fingers off doing it outside. When we finally arrived, the Wednesdays were just pulling out. The rendezvous was an old stone church with a large semi-circular drive in front of it and you couldn’t miss their many bright yellow and optical green jerseys as they started off in a long straggling line. Doc and I headed them off, made a few hasty introductions, and we were off.

The Wednesdays are composed mainly of retired people, and they are almost all male. Yesterday there were only two women; one may have been somewhere in her forties, and the other, I happened to overhear her say, was involved in some over-55 club. In spite of all the grey hair, the Wednesdays are a fairly fit-looking bunch, and it didn’t take long to understand that they are generally an extremely well-educated group of people and many have had notable professional careers. One of my particular favorites, a fellow by the name of Mike, worked for a lab and held a prestigious title that right now slips my mind. It was he who told me about the Wednesdays and seemed very glad to see me again and renew our acquaintance. Another man, the one responsible for writing up the report of the ride, was a chief of surgery in his day and spoke with a classic Yankee blue blood accent. Yet another Wednesday owned a very successful auto repair shop which he recently sold to his right-hand man. I really had the feeling I was in the company of grownups, which may seem like an odd thing for a 50-year-old to say, but I felt very young and green. And, as many of them were plainly in their sixties, it could be argued that I was the kid.

Our trek took us through several wealthy towns with a country flavor to them. Most of the houses you saw were large and set on sizable tracts of land. Along our route there were also a few farms, one with cows and bulls grazing, and another with horses. Although the day was well below freezing and there was a bit of a wind, it was very bright and the presence of the sun, if only psychologically, tended to mitigate the cold. The Wednesdays have their rides organized in this way: as all their routes are unmarked by arrows painted on the road (which you usually find in trips of this sort), there is a instead a designated leader who always stays at the head of the procession. The pace he keeps is supreme; no one passes him. At the back of the group is the sweeper. He always remains at the rear and his pace is always that of the slowest cyclist. Wherever there is a turning, the leader asks someone — invariably the person closest to him — to remain there and be the “arrow.” His job is to point the way for the slower members and remain until he sees the sweeper. Then he can rejoin the group.

Speaking of pace, the Wednesdays kept a rather slow one, but I didn’t mind because it gave me time to converse in full sentences instead of in four or five words gasps. I had the leisure to really investigate the neighborhood or region I was traveling through, to admire the architecture of the some of the houses and guess what sort of family might live there, or take in the view of a beautiful semi-frozen pond with a lonely islet set way out in its center. There was also a feeling of fellowship I enjoyed, which perhaps I might have missed if my intention were only to keep to a strict pace, never falling under a certain average mph. It was simply a pleasant outing; it reminded me a bit of skiing. In fact, we ended by gathering at an Italian restaurant for lunch, which was not unlike the apres-ski meeting at the lodge after an active day on the slopes.

I intend to officially join CRW and go on more of their trips (unfortunately gainful employment will prevent me from becoming a regular with the Wednesdays). When I get to know the members better, I think I’ll take a little poll asking them why they like pedaling a bike so much. I’m still not 100 percent certain why I do. There is a meditative quality to it that relaxes me; time never seems very urgent. Even as I ride in the city with all those cabs and buses taking aim at me, it mostly feels peaceful. And, of course, there’s the health benefit: cycling is an excellent aerobic exercise that won’t turn your joints into paste. But for some strange reason, I can never become weary of riding a bike. I’d rather pedal a bike than drive a car. It’s true: my car maybe gets driven only once or twice a week. When I visit my parents who live 15 miles away, I usually go out there by bike. It’s just a basic thing I love to do.

Well, there’s a Sherlock Holmes story I simply must get to. And then, of course, there’s lunch. Ta ta, everyone!

18 Comments:

Blogger Michele said...

"It’s true: my car maybe gets driven only once or twice a week."

Wow. I guess the insane gas prices of late haven't really effected you very much.

I'd love to ride a bike around here but the drivers here would make me too nervous to really enjoy myself. People here are just plain crazy. I get nervous just driving in a car.

4:28 AM  
Blogger trinamick said...

So let me see if I have this right: you voluntarily exercised for a entire day, pedaling for miles in the double digits, and it was fun? I am both impressed and horrified. I ride my bike about a block and I'm done. And that's when the weather is beautiful. When it's cold, I have to force myself to even walk as far as the car.

I couldn't ride my bike to work even if I wanted to. I have to wear a dress, and I give my 76 yo co-worker a ride every day. She wouldn't fit on the handlebars.

7:31 AM  
Blogger boo said...

i don't exercise. i'm a lazy bastard. if i did, i think i'll have a heart attack, on top of my cancer & asthma *total lies*

schprock the kid riding on the bike. good on u.

enjoy your weekend :) then back to work like the rest of us.

8:54 AM  
Blogger mr. schprock said...

"I'd love to ride a bike around here but the drivers here would make me too nervous to really enjoy myself. People here are just plain crazy."

Here's how it works: if you survive the first two weeks, then you magically grow eyes on the back of your head and can anticipate just about everything.

"…and I give my 76 yo co-worker a ride every day. She wouldn't fit on the handlebars."

Think roller skates and a good strong rope.

8:57 AM  
Blogger mr. schprock said...

"enjoy your weekend :) then back to work like the rest of us."

Oh, Boo. If it makes you feel better, I'm at work right now . . . and everybody's expecting me to do stuff.

9:00 AM  
Blogger boo said...

work. terrible ain't it? run. hide. enjoy your lunch? later? its 1.45am Sat why am i still up? my meds are killing my tumtum :(

9:45 AM  
Blogger Kathleen said...

I walk to work every day, but back when I was a teenager I rode my (or my brother's) bike to work, as I didn't get my license until a month before my 20th b-day.

I like driving, but hate and despise scraping windshields, et al., which is why I walk to work. I always tell people it's because I'm lazy. For some reason, nobody believes me.

Good for you on the bike riding and what a fun and interesting group of Wednesdays you described!

10:12 AM  
Blogger mr. schprock said...

"I like driving, but hate and despise scraping windshields, et al., which is why I walk to work. I always tell people it's because I'm lazy. For some reason, nobody believes me."

I LOVE walking and my wife does too. I think if people walked more we'd have a more peaceful world.

10:47 AM  
Blogger trinamick said...

Or we'd all have shinsplints. :P

I don't walk unless my car is broke down. And I don't run unless I'm being chased.

12:47 PM  
Blogger Farrago said...

I like to cycle, too, only I developed forearm and wrist pain, and numbness in my fingers while riding. The doctor told me not to ride a bike for a while, and I've been waiting ever since for her to tell me when it's okay to ride. It's been two years. Maybe I should call her.

4:48 PM  
Blogger Spirit Of Owl said...

I envy you. My legs only get used about once or twice a week. Once, crossing the road, I got clamped.

6:37 PM  
Blogger Beth said...

You really ride year round? I used to run year round and people thought I was hard core. I couldn't imagine cycling.

5:29 AM  
Blogger Mrs.T said...

I wanna bike!! *whine*

You're so lucky.

7:46 AM  
Blogger magnetbabe said...

I would really like to ride a bike if I didn't have a totally irrational fear of them. I too am big on walking though. I used to walk to work until I caught on the the fact that walking 2 miles home at 6:30 really sucks. Instead, I take a walk first thing in the morning, watch the sun rise and listen to the news. The Wednesdays sound awesome!

7:48 AM  
Blogger mr. schprock said...

"I don't walk unless my car is broke down. And I don't run unless I'm being chased."

You can't fool me though — I know you're an active gal. Anyone who owns a horse can never be sedentary.


"The doctor told me not to ride a bike for a while, and I've been waiting ever since for her to tell me when it's okay to ride. It's been two years. Maybe I should call her."

If she still says to wait, you can always ride a unicycle.

"My legs only get used about once or twice a week."

Funny — I say the same thing about my brain.


Beth, since you live in upstate New York, you're excused from riding all year round. But you are cross country skiing, right?


"I wanna bike!! *whine*"

Tell Mr. T to get you a shiny red one for Christmas.


"I would really like to ride a bike if I didn't have a totally irrational fear of them"

My wife cannot be taught how to ride a bike. It's impossible. We solved that by buying a tandem bike. Now I have to teach her how to pull her own weight!

12:58 PM  
Blogger Scott said...

When I lived in San Francisco I would bike over the Golden Gate and up the hillside to it's left (facing Saucelito). Then I'd stretch it and drop down into the wetlands, sometimes over the freeway--never ever try that one and into Saucelito. Then up to Twin Peaks. Just about everywhere. Each pays off with a great view you had to work hard for, and I was in great shape. Now it collects dust, but I can totally relate to your love for biking.

9:31 AM  
Blogger mr. schprock said...

That sounds like mountain biking. Mountain biking is loads of fun.

11:29 AM  
Anonymous LL said...

"You can't fool me though — I know you're an active gal. Anyone who owns a horse can never be sedentary."

I beg to differ. Unless it's a very bad horse, you're sitting all day. :P

And don't take this the wrong way, but I think people like you who walk/ride for fun, are nuts. Either that or you sit in an office all day... Hmmmm...

8:24 PM  

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