Sure, living in Florida is going to be great. We're a quiet two-mile bike ride to the beach. It's warm there in February. Naples is a cycling paradise, with bike lanes all over the place and hundreds of people pedaling everywhere, and I can go diving and sailing again, and RandoGirl's new job is really great.
But there is so much here in middle Tennessee that I have come to love. My friends at the bike club and work. My band, The Kickstands. Trees that change colors.
I started to make my goodbyes months ago. We only told a few people at first, but I started going out and riding some of the roads with whom I had developed a love/hate relationship during our six years here. First were my College Grove favorites, Pulltight Hill and Choctaw ... so many intersections down there with turn arrows that I've personally painted. I rode them in the heat, and then again in the rain, and finally on a rare cool August morning under a powder blue sky, the smell of fresh-cut hay redolent on a light breeze.
There were some new roads down there, and I scouted them for the Hope on Wheels century even though I knew that I would not be around for it. They were calm and flat and green, and I hope that the organizers continue to use this route for a few more years.
While down there, we visited some of our favorite stops. The College Grove Grocery, of course, but also Bethesda Market and Marcy Jo's further south. Fresh-baked goodness and warm southern kindness, with ice-cold refreshment when we needed it most.
Even my commute to work became precious. It was harder than ever to fit it into the schedule, but I cherished those days fighting my way down Trousdale towards Harding, sitting at the traffic light sipping my coffee, surrounded by the carbon monoxide flatulence of SUVs.
On time-tight weekend mornings, I used my commute route to a quick stop at Panera, then cut west through Radnor Lake and Percy Priest parks. On a foggy Sunday morning, I hazarded my way down Granny White Pike one last time to Oman, just to do the fierce climb up to the observatory there. As the skies cleared, I retraced my route, continued on south, and finished shredding my legs on North Berry's Chapel and Holly Tree Gap.
There won't be climbs like that in Florida, I told myself. Of course, there aren't many climbs like that anywhere.
Saturday, I did one last ride with the Harpeth Bike Club. Larry Lewis and John Wallace put together a route running from the top of the Natchez Trace up through Kingston Springs, Pegram, and other areas up there that don't even have a name. For the first 13 miles, I stayed with the lead group on a series of short, steep climbs. They stopped at a store then, and I rolled on, thinking that the group would soon catch up.
In Kingston Springs, I passed a graveyard familiar from the first 200K that I had ever done. Rolling on through Narrows of the Harpeth park, there were other reminders of that first tough March ride over four years ago.
The edges of some roads were now sharper, cleanly edged with fresh graveled shoulders laid with the post-Nashville flood repairs.
The road turned upwards again, and I remembered another club ride ... maybe the same route, but on a much hotter day. I bought water at the next store stop and started to wait, but got antsy and soon rolled on. I told myself it was because of an appointment I had that afternoon.
Rolling down to River Road, I started east back towards the city. Usually, I took this road west and on much colder days, since it was part of the Music City 200K that we often ride during winter. I passed by a store that I will always think of with snow on its roof, remembering the time that I rode this route wearing winter boots with chemical warmers over my toes, while Jeff Bauer wore sandals.
Mostly, in the past few months, I've been trying to get in lots of rides with old friends like Jeff, Fredia Barry, Vida Greer, Bill Glass, Alan Gosart, and others. They've all promised to come south to visit when the weather in Tennessee turns cold, and we've promised to come back for the Harpeth River Ride in the spring. There are still good times ahead for us and these great friends, but I will miss being able to have these times whenever I want.
I will miss taking these times for granted.
Forcing my way over the rolling hills, I thought about my first Harpeth River Ride. It was June of 2005, and we had just moved here from Tampa, FL. I was a little heavier, and definitely not used to climbing that much, but I did the century, anyway. It took me a long time. Nobody knew me when I started, and not many more knew me by the end, but I met a lot of folks that I would get to know much better in the coming years.
Over six years later, I've seen those same people -- and those same roads -- from a lot of different perspectives. Hot, steamy days when their surface is hard and rough, and you retreat to the trees at every opportunity. Cold, wet, dreary days when you're just getting through it all. Those rare wonderful days when you can only feel sorry for whatever life there is on other planets because you just freakin' well know that they ain't got it this good.
We didn't even know that we had it this good.
Singing my swan song to cycling in middle Tennessee for the past few months has brought home to me how much I love these roads and these friends. All have a special place in my heart ... one that I hope to keep alive by memory and regular visits. The pain in my heart is because that place is getting ready to be severed from the Now, and knows that it must survive on mere shards of the Past and the hope of a Future.
To those we leave behind, I envy you this wonderful, wonderful Now. Get out and enjoy it while you can.