Sunday, September 22, 2013

The Old Man and Me

I met a character this morning during my training ride.

He came out of nowhere when I was at mile 32 of an 86 mile ride.  I was sure there was no one around when I took off for a second lap of my favorite hill run.  But just like that, he rolled up behind me at a stoplight and then pulled along side like magic.  Without a word we fell into line like we'd been riding together for years.  We took turns pulling along the rollers that parallel the mountain, each pulling about half a hill and downslope before switching off.  We moved along pretty fast, pumping up the hills and blasting down the other side.

He was hispanic, older, maybe 50-ish.  His skin was the color and texture of well worn leather.  His mustache was peppered with gray.  He was taught, no beer belly on this guy.  His kit was worn, peppered with snags in the fabric, not dirty, but used so many times it never really looked clean anymore.  He was sporting an older blue aluminum Motobecane that seemed tiny next to my 58cm frame.  (It's not a short Mexican joke, I just ride a really tall bike and he seemed really tiny next to me)

While I was puffing up the hills, he was lightly dancing out of his saddle, hardly breaking a sweat.  Maybe he'd been riding all morning, maybe he'd just left his house and pulled up beside me.  I didn't know and didn't ask.

The climb up Scenic Drive can be a pleasant, easy going jaunt.  That's when he started talking.

He asked me about my bike, about how long I'd been riding.  He been riding for 35 years, he told me.  He had his racing wheels on his bike.  We talked about our bikes, about riding and about climbing.  He laughed easily and never sounded out of breath, though we were climbing at a pretty demanding pace.  When we passed other riders, he seemed to know them all by name and he jovially called out to them in both English and Spanish, easily switching back and forth.

At the top he found more friends, and pulled off to talk with them.  And that was the last I saw of him.

I never got his name, part of me didn't really want to ask and spoil the mystery of riding with him.  Instead, he's the stranger that rode with me for 10 miles and helped make what should have been a long and tedious ride into something more.  He's not a real person now, he's a legendary character that I'll refer to in stories about riding, that I'll remember when I'm tired or bored.

He's the old man that let me ride with him for a piece down the road.