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.