Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Doing Time on the Luce Line

Part of the fun of writing a blog and being on FaceBook (and being old like me…) is that you have friends from all parts of your life and all phases of your life. Some of your friends know nothing of your recent interests because…well maybe they haven’t seen you since 8th grade. Some of your other friends only know you as “New York Corporate Girl/Wife/Mother” etc. and haven’t experienced “Minnesota Nice (LOL) and Only Two Months of Sunshine A Year” Denine. Still others are new friends who just know where you are right now.

There is a point to all this, I promise.

For the past few weeks, I have been going thru chemo and cursing at everyone riding a bicycle. I don’t discriminate. I am equally crabby toward the pelotons of riders wearing Campagnolo jersey ensembles and those just out for the casual ride. I promise I haven’t driven anyone off the road, but seeing someone enjoy what I felt I couldn’t do anymore made me “sad and mad” as Sam would say.

I’ve never been a truly dedicated cyclist. I just do it because I enjoy it. I’ve done the MS150 in Minnesota (Duluth to White Bear Lake…”Go Bears”) about five or six times in the past ten years. (See? I am a fair weather cyclist…). I like the challenge and the speed and the workout; the rest stops and the camaraderie; the being outdoors and strangely, I enjoy the solitude, if that’s the right word. I process things when I ride. I solve the problems of the world and the problem of – my favorite joke – what to have for lunch.

About two summers ago, I impulsively bought a mountain bike to go with my tri-bike and my road bike. Don’t ask. It’s what I do. In my old age I have acquired a little bike habit. Any day now, I expect to be invited to be “interviewed” for the show Intervention. I can picture it now: Sam and my Mom and a few friends seated on really bad hotel furniture and telling me: “Denine, If you do not accept help today, I will no longer help you with your addiction to Titanium. Will you accept this gift?” I will be sitting there, gloweringly resistant, saying: “Having three bikes in not a problem. I can handle it!” Eventually, I will cave and they will send me to Shifting Gears By-the-Sea. Of course, I will relapse the minute I get my bonus and see some new TREK that is “too pretty” to pass up.

But I digress. So as I was saying: I bought this mountain bike. Not any mountain bike, but kind of a hunkin-funkin mountain bike (see photo of “The Baby”). I have to laugh because taking this thing on the Luce Line trail is like driving a Hummer on a suburban street. When I first went shopping for it, I told the sales guy at the bike store what I was looking for and where I wanted to ride it. He suggested I try out a few different bikes. The first few he suggested looked like the only accessory I would need was a woven basket on the back where I would put Dorothy’s little kidnapped dog, Toto (see photo).

I wanted to say to him: “Maybe I’ve had a rough day or something, but I’m in my 50’s, not my 80’s.” Anyway, I had done a little bike research before shopping and knew which bikes looked “cool” to me. After I spent the requisite time nodding politely about his Almira Gulch suggestions, I just felt I wasn’t getting through so I went to a different bike store.

That’s where I found The Baby. The minute I got on it, I felt instantly cooler. Hard to explain but it was just exciting to ride. And hey: isn’t that what a new bike is all about? Seriously. Maybe this goes to the heart of my addiction. I truly believe that no matter what age you are, there is just nothing more fun or more exciting than a new bike. (I know. I know. Arrested development.). I got a TREK, dude!

So, after weeks of chemo and weeks of silently cursing cyclists who could actually cycle, I was amazed when I felt strong enough and motivated enough to ride my bike on the Luce Line trail. For good measure, I had to strap on one of those portable Saris bike carriers on my trunk – not for the weak of heart – but as I say I was motivated. The hardest part of the trip was lifting my bike on the carrier (this bike may be aluminum but there’s a lot of it).

It took me a little while to get my confidence back, but I did it. I did five miles out and five miles back for a total of 10 miles which did amazingly good things for me – better than any medicine I can imagine. I wore my do-rag under my helmet – the first time I’ve ever gone out in public without The Hair (see photo opp). It made me feel strangely powerful. And as I was riding along, it suddenly occurred to me that I was riding my bike, with no hair and a major illness, and that made me feel lucky. It just kind of hit me. I think sometimes I spend so much time publicly wearing The Hair and trying to look “normal” that I forget that going on a 10 mile bike ride is probably a pretty lucky thing to be able to do right now.

But more than that, more than anything, I felt like Denine was back. In that one small event, I had taken back, wrested, fought, said “screw you” and otherwise initiated a bloody coup d’etat against my cancer. It made me realize that I can’t let this get me down. I can’t “assume” that I will need to hole-up in my house, stay out of the sun (that’s why they make 100 SPF sunblock, right?) and take an extended intermission from the parts of my life that really bring me joy. And as corny as it sounds, that joy feeds my soul. Very important. (Hey Soul Sista.....)

So if you see me on the Luce Line, I’ll be the one on the hunkin-funkin mountain bike whose Bontragers have never touched a mountain. I’ll probably be wearing my new leopard print Buff on my head with my small, blingy breast cancer ribbon earrings and my much-cooler-than-I-am Rudy Project sunglasses from much faster cycling days gone by. I will be the middle-aged crazy lady with the smile on my face who’s feeding her soul while hogging the trail. Beep, beep!