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Good Company

I didn’t make it to the desert. It was a desperate moment last week when every spot on the map was predicting more grey clouds than yellow circles- but then I discovered that Boulder, land of patchouli and priuses, was also a lone island of warmth and dryness (not to mention financial feasibility) for this year’s train-cation. I figure I’ll see enough of Arizona and SoCal in the months to come- this week I was Boulder Bound.

Every time I come home I realize, perhaps a little more, how truly unique and bizarre Boulder is, and without fail the first thing I always have to adjust to is waste disposal. In Bozeman we’re still struggling to figure out how to recycle glass, but in Boulder my mom makes little hissing distress noises every time I try to throw away an orange peel; they even compost their kleenexes.

Then you open the fridge and see no fewer than five varieties of milk, none of which come from a cow. My newly vegan parents are trying to figure out which type of non-animal-based “milk” suits them best, which meant that every morning I had to ask myself such questions as “how does one ‘milk’ a hemp?” or “Does an almond have nipples?” I mean, who knew you could drink oats? I sure didn’t. I’ve been wasting my time chewing oatmeal for years!

Yep, Boulder’s a weird place, but then there’s this truly amazing feeling you get when you’re out riding. I struggled to put my finger on it all week, and at first I thought it was just the sheer joy of movement. For once I wasn’t surrounded by walls, I could smell the air, I even got a sunburn one day- but I’ve actually been riding outside a fair bit here in Montana, so that wasn’t it.

Perhaps it was just familiarity. I’ve grown up pedaling the roads around Boulder, and literally each bump in the pavement seems to have some memory attached to it. The ghosts of regurgitated shot blocks, stick-wielding riding buddies, and extreme weather episodes populate each stretch of road, but I’ve got plenty of those here, and in other towns as well. So that wasn’t it either.

I wondered if it might be the lovely cold which descended on my sinuses on about the second day and which caused me to take many naps and annihilate multiple boxes of tissues. Maybe I underestimated the joy of having a clear nose for a couple hours each day (on the bike) but it’s not likely. Besides- I’ve ridden tons of times in Boulder when I’m healthy, and it’s arguably way better than when I’m sick.

It was only after quite a few hours spent semi-deleriously in the saddle that I started to get an inkling of what makes Boulder so cool. It is, quite simply, that as
a cyclist you’re in good company. I met the entire range of riders out there: the seasoned pros with their girly legs and spotless kits, the triathageeks tanning that awkward space between cutoff-sleeve and armwarmer, the guys gunning for the local race- and whether they waved, hopped on my wheel for a chat, or just stared grimly ahead- each of them seemed to lend me a little of their energy.

For once I didn’t feel like the lone rider of the apocalypse, toiling alone down a path populated solely by can-spewing trucks and cows. My shot blocks ceased to be space food, my bike became a commonplace machine. For once I was part of the working majority, all of us pedaling happily towards whatever bend in the road.

Then I got to go for a trail ride with my little brother who, at age 12, already rides with the finesse of a pro. As I watched him calmly and methodically untangling the many rock problems of Hall Ranch, I couldn’t help but think how lucky he is to be growing up here too. As a tag-along on my training ride Jack ended up riding about an hour longer than he’s ever ridden before, but he kept grinning till the end, rolling into the parking lot with a familiar look in his eye. I was so proud of him I bought him a pastry.

On the way home he remarked how he thought the world would be a way better place if everyone “just did stuff like this” everyday. I’m inclined to agree.

One more week of riding indoors in Bozeman (it’s -18 today) and it’s go time for me. I’ve never been so stoked to start racing.


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