Sunday, June 24, 2012

I've started talking to myself during my rides. Out loud. This can't be good.

I went for a ride early this morning. It's the only time to ride comfortably this time of year. Later in the day the heat is overwhelming. Like wearing a wet electric blanket set on high while I ride. I don't do heat very well and this kind of heat makes me hide in darkened rooms behind my pretty green shutters praying for the smallest breeze to make it through the slats.

The heat makes these early morning rides feel so good. A cool (if slightly damp) breeze keeps the sweat from becoming a waterfall. People I pass look happier. Later in the day they all just look like they're trying to survive, and the effort to acknowledge me is not just annoying but threatening their very survival. The grass looks green and perky, whereas later in the day it just looks tired and washed out. The birds are moving and singing in the early morning. Later in the day they too have moved to whatever shade they can find.

This morning was a beautiful ride, except for one thing. I realized that I'm getting tired of riding alone. Tired of having one way internal conversations. Conversations that have the potential to become destructive rather than instructive. Tired of saying "Oh, look.....!" and then realizing I'm the only one there to look. A teeny bit embarrassed that sometimes my internal conversation becomes external and I haven't realized it soon enough.

On the up side...I'm so desperate for conversation that I've started saying good morning to everyone I meet, even the ones with earbuds in who obviously don't want to talk to anyone. To the little old ladies who look at me like I'm a spider...but when I speak they smile and say hello back and when I see them later on the way back they smile big and say hello again...and the next day too. I do the farmer nod to the other bikers (but not the farmer wave, I'm not sure yet if that's something rude) and sometimes they nod, sometimes they say hello. Mostly they ignore me, but I think I'm wearing some of them down.

What I'd really like is another woman to ride with but there seems to be, not a problem really, just a hurdle involved with it. For the most part, women here fall into two categories. The cyclists, who ride road bikes, worry about how many grams they carry around, and wear special shoes and spandex at all times. It is possible to replace "road bike" with "mountain bike" but the rest of the description remains the same. They don't ride around in packs like the men do. They're either alone or with one other person. Rarely another woman. Focused. Serious. Athletes. I don't think they ignore me, they simply don't see me.

The other group are those who have a city bike of indeterminate age and condition. Their bikes clank and groan and rattle with every bump. They prefer a bike with lots of baskets so they can carry as much as possible. They dress to be seen when they get off the bike and I think they secretly pray that no one they know sees them while they're riding. Most of them don't even wear a helmet. The bike is transportation from point A to point B and nothing more. Certainly not fun. They most certainly see me but you can tell they are asking themselves why any sane woman would ride the way I do. I'm actually sweating, for heaven's sake.

I'm sure there's a group of women just like me riding around Tuscany alone. Women who are strong enough to ride well, but without the money or the knowledge or the desire to break into the super cyclist group and completely unchallenged by the city bike group. The trick is going to be to find them. And once they're found to convince them to ride with me.

I feel like I'm headed out into the jungle to hunt down and capture an elusive prey. How can I get close without spooking them? Once I have them trapped, I mean once I've found them, how do I befriend them? Once they accept my presence how do I get them to commit to riding with me?

Because really all I want to do is ride a little every day and have someone to share it with. In Italy life is ordered by connections. You find things through your friends. So I'm telling you, my friends. Who I hope will share with one of their friends, who will tell one of their friends. And somewhere down the chain of friends of friends will be a woman wanting the same thing and voila! Where once there were two women riding alone there will be two women riding together. It'll be my own personal Italian miracle.


  1. oh silly Michele. The first thing I think of is the witch/Miss Gulch from The Wizard of Oz - duh duh duh duh duh daaaa duh duh da duh duh da daaaaa! (It is better when it is sung).

    Can't you sing as you ride? Can't you just talk out loud? I do all of the time! Who cares. And if they care, who cares?

    You will meet others, my friend.

    Or you could stuff a stuffed animal somewhere (down the front of your shirt if need be?) and talk to it!

    1. Linda, I always think of myself as Miss Gulch...there are usually skirts flying and this intense look on my face. Well not on my training rides, but the rest of the time the skirt/dresses are aflying. I do all the things you suggest. Sometimes I'm just hungry for a response. Conversation. I'm not worried really, just expressing frustration. Thanks!!!

  2. I laughed out loud at the "Oh look . . ." line!
    Not to rub it in or anything, but my friend Sharon and I biked to the Farmer's Market, by Mill City, last Saturday morning (we stopped for Bloody Mary's on the way home!). If it's just me riding alone, I tend to ride around the neighborhood. Pretty much the same few places. Just a jump on the bike for some exercise. Sharon's more of a destination biker. I'm still a bit afraid to lock up my bike. I'm always relieved to see it's still there when we return. I love my bike so much and am afraid someone will steal it. I've often played out the scene in my mind of how I will handle someone trying to take it away from me. I won't give it up, I'll fight to the death. At least, that's how I think it will play out . . .

    1. I've had one bike stolen, it happened in MSP and it wasn't even mine. It was horrible at first, then I realized that it is, in fact, just a bike. A well loved bike, but still just a bike. There's a great big world out there. If I get out and explore mine promise that you'll get out and explore yours. Deal??

  3. I know it's just a bike, but it was a huge splurge, and I doubt I could replace it anytime soon. But, I promise to use it more as a mode of transportation and will lock it, leave it, and go about my business. I wonder if there will ever be a time, I will take it for granted it will still be there when I get back.

    1. Invest in a good, serious lock and it will be as safe as it would be locked up in your garage. Which is to say that there´s always a chance everywhere that it will be taken, but you have done everything you can to avoid it. You will always wonder if you have done enough to discourage thieves. I do. It´s OK, it reminds you to be careful. And have fun. Take pictures of you and your bike and share them with anyone who will look. You can go places with your bike that a car can´t.