Ever since I’ve been riding, I ride fewer miles in the winter. Rather than trying to remain in the very peak of fitness year round, it just makes sense to be cyclical, peaking at some point, getting extra rest and recovery at another. With its shorter days and colder temperatures, winter is a natural time for the extra rest and recovery.
Our body’s immune system seems to be more compromised in the winter, too, and during the four year stretch where I was riding 7,000+ miles a year, I seemed to have more than my share of maladies in the winter, not the least of which was shingles in January of 2010, and pneumonia in December, 2012. After that bout with pneumonia, I made a decision and followup effort to cut my winter miles down even more, do mostly shorter rides, especially on the colder days, and not ride at all when the temperature isn’t over 40 degrees.
But my miles lately haven’t even been as much as I had in mind for winter. I reached 2014′s mileage goal, but two weeks ago, I only rode 30 miles. Last week, I again just rode 30 miles. And until yesterday, I hadn’t ridden at all this week. That’s just 60 miles on the bike in almost three weeks, a lot less than I had in mind for my winter riding. Between the weather and work, I just haven’t been able to ride. But I got home from work yesterday early enough that I did 30 miles in the afternoon. And late this morning, I took off on the F5 and did my Martin Mills Metric route. So I did get 90 miles on the bike this week.
It’s now been a year and a half since I moved to Gun Barrel City. I like it here. It’s more quiet, and the air quality is better than DFW, a nice benefit for a lung cancer survivor. And Cedar Creek, Palestine, and several other great fishing lakes are nearby. But it isn’t the most bicycle friendly place around. The only way I can find enough time to ride the kind of miles I want is to do most of my rides from home. If I have to load the bike, drive somewhere, unload the bike, ride, load the bike, drive home …….. well, you get the picture. But unless I want to just do laps in my own neighborhood, there are only two roads out of town.
One is Main Street. But it’s heavy traffic, with turns into stores and shopping centers all along the way in town. And leaving town, either east or west, it becomes a two lane high speed highway without even a shoulder. The only other road that leads out of town is County Road 4006. It goes east and north to Mabank. But, Kaufman County and Mabank have been engaged in a disagreement about rebuilding and maintaining the road, and the half mile of it nearest me has fallen into an unbelievable state of disrepair. There are large potholes everywhere, and many of them are, no exaggeration, 12 inches or more deep. It’s become very hard to dodge all these holes on a bike, and hitting any one of them on my bike would instantly ruin a wheel.
So this fall, I started cutting through a gated community, that lets me bypass all but a few feet of the bad part of CR 4006. There are some really nice luxury houses here, and even a polo field. But there haven’t been many homes built yet. I wouldn’t usually resort to this kind of trespassing, but I figured I wouldn’t be hurting anything, just riding through. It goes to show how desperate I had become to keep riding from home. I would just lift my bike over the gate at the rear service entrance, step through the gate, then leave through the front entrance.
I hadn’t been doing this bypass much more than a week when I was stopped by a man in a very nice truck. I have since come to think that he runs the community. On this day, he stopped his truck, rolled down his window, and motioned for me to stop. I complied, thinking my route through this place was going to be very short lived. The man asked me how I got my bike into the community. I told him I lifted it over the gate and stepped through, that I was trying to avoid CR 4006. He thought about it for a moment, then said, “If anyone challenges you, just tell them I said it was OK.” So I’ve been riding through ever since.
I’ve been trying to finish my rides early this winter. There are double gates at the front of this gated community. The outside front gate stays open during the day, but sometime between 4:00 and 5:00 in the afternoon, it closes. It’s a taller gate than the others, so tougher to lift a bike over. And that’s the reason I’ve been mainly riding the F5 this winter, rather than my designated winter bike, the faired Xstream. The Xstream is longer, heavier, and bulkier, so is a tough lift over these gates, especially for someone whose shoulders are as bad as mine.
On today’s ride, I had just pulled up to the service gate, and was about to lift my bike over it, when I saw a white SUV approaching from the other side. I recognized the driver as a man who I think is a maintenance supervisor in the community, so I stopped and waited for him to open the gate, then waved and rode through. Just after I passed his vehicle, he honked and started backing up. I stopped and sat up. He stopped beside me, and said, “Hey.” I replied, “Hey.” He reached his arm out of the window, and handed me a remote control. I smiled and thanked him, and without saying another word, he drove on.
These people don’t know me at all, other than as a guy who rides a funny looking bike through their private area, yet here I am, now in possession of a remote that opens all the gates. Sometimes, people do random kind acts that surprise you. I think I was smiling for most of today’s ride, thinking about that.
County Road 4006, in all its splendor.