I don't often go for long bike rides on country rides alone but this evening I did.
Not too far but 20 plus miles squeezed in after work, camp pick-up, dinner and car-pooling to basketball practice.
A rare night this month without threat of a monsoon rain and flash flood warnings. Clear blue skies, perfect temps, a light breeze from the north and sunshine. Rare indeed.
As I set off on my bike, my intention was to gather up a few miles to get my out of shape body at least familiar with my bike as I was heading off to Iowa next month (17 days to be exact) to meet up with fellow cancer haters and ride 490 miles across the state with Team LIVESTRONG....and 10,0000 of our closest new BFFs.
The night was perfect. It felt great to be back out on my bike after doing a 64 mile hilly and windy ride on Saturday. My legs felt good and I beginning to feel that maybe a week on the bike next month wasn't going to be as rough as I had imagined.
As much as I struggle running alone, I actually enjoy the solitude of cycling alone. I prefer to ride with friends but on this occasion, the solitude along with the perfect conditions and surrounded by nature, was a good thing.
As I rode, I realized how much I miss when I am riding with others. I love the social aspect of the group - sharing stories, getting advice, laughing and cheering each other on. But tonight, I realized there is so much beauty in these cornfields I have taken for granted. A horse I've never noticed aside a barn with unusually aged wood, gorgeous wildflowers among a small patch of trees on a small bluff surrounded by corn, the whirring of the windmills, and my own shadow elongated against the cornfields.
I never did see another person while I was out on that ride once I left town. Not another cyclist or anyone in their yards. Not even a dog chasing me - or even barking.
I was listening to the chirping of birds as they swooped up and down among the crops, the fluttering of monarch butterflies around me at different points on the route, and my own slight breathing as I churned my legs up an incline.. I finally began to realize how wonderful it was to be so disconnected....how stress of day-to-day life had lifted from my shoulders.
At this point, I was beginning to really appreciate the solitude and just truly enjoy the ride for being a ride.....not the "I need to get some miles on my legs and seat" and "have to" ride.
It was also at this point that I began passing the destination - the wildflower patch for which this "Wildflower Route" was named for. This patch never has looked the same but is always a pleasant and wonderful view amidst miles and miles of cornfields.
Just beyond the wildflowers is a winding hilly (by central Illinois standards) section of the rode that is always quiet and peaceful.
As I entered this section, I began to reflect that today was Brian's birthday and how I wish I had more time this evening to ride 49 miles in memory of what would have been his 49th birthday.
As I was thinking about Brian - suddenly a deer appeared galloping through the field in this very peaceful spot - I slowed my bike as to not startle him and watched with wonder the beauty of this creature as he pranced across the road and into the woods. It took me a moment to pick up my pace again - partially because I was being cautious that others may be right behind him, which was not the case, and because I just could not stop marveling at the sight I had just seen on my perfect solitude ride.
And to have seen this just as I began thinking of Brian.
I smiled, shook my head and said to out loud to myself "Thank you Brian" for I truly believe that was one of those signs he has thrown at me over the years to remind me that life is beautiful, that he is watching over us.
A sign to slow down and appreciate what is around me. To take to enjoy the solitude that surrounds me more often than I am comfortable.
Of course, as I was sharing this story with my 17 year old, we both began to chuckle a little.....it sounded a bit to familiar...as though I was sharing a "Harry Potter" moment.... my very own patronus.
Regardless, this little ride tonight along with my "patronus" has lighted my mood and caused me to slowdown and appreciate the world around me.....apparently I needed some reminding!