Wednesday, June 6, 2012

The Perfect Ride?

How many times have you declared something "perfect?"

Maybe not often, but just about everyone has said it. "That pizza was perfect." "This shirt fits perfectly." "The perfect end to a perfect day."

In college, I took a philosophy class on Logic. It was a great class, mostly because it taught me some tactics to help avoid falling prey to logical fallacies -- both in my thinking, and in the arguments of others. One of those fallacies was the "Quaternio Terminorum," or Fallacy of the Four Terms. The example that Dr. Linville gave of this fallacy was:
    A thing's perfection is it's end.
    The end of life is death.
    Therefore, the most perfect form of life is death.
This fallacy stuck with me for a number of reasons. One is that it shows how words can have different meanings to different people at different times. It's an imprecise form of communication, but until we all learn the Vulcan Mind Meld, it's all we've got. But it also stuck with me because it made me afraid that declaring anything "perfect" will doom it to be my last.

Which is a long way of saying that this past Saturday's Harpeth River Ride was not The Perfect Ride. I haven't had The Perfect Ride yet, and hope not to have it until I'm ready to hang up my helmet for good.

But Saturday was close. Scary close.

It was a chilly dawn when RandoGirl and I left our friend Karla McVey's home. Karla was already at Nissan headquarters in Cool Springs, TN, helping to finalize set-up for the ride, so RandoGirl and I biked over to the home of Mike and Patty Willman for breakfast with some of the other riders. I then grabbed the tandem, and rode it stoker-less to Nissan.

My stoker, Dan Dillon, got there just after I did. RandoGirl and I helped him put on his arm warmers, set up his Camelbak, and get ready to ride. The previous day's wind had eased, and RandoGirl and I both ditched the jackets we had worn for the ride over, since light arm warmers and knee warmers felt perfect by now. Er, I mean that they felt just right.

There were short speeches from Mike, Harpeth Bike Club President Fredia Barry, and Mayor Karl Dean. Then Team Radio Shack Nissan riders Chris Horner and Ben King said a couple of words before they passed the microphone to Dan and he told us all to saddle up and ride.

So we did.

Now, I wish that I had a bunch of pictures from the rest of this ride, but as you can imagine I had my hands full. The above picture and the next are from Al Wagner Photography. Al and his wife, Luanne, were all over the course Saturday taking pictures. Most of them don't have me in them, which makes them much prettier. If you want to see them and get a better idea of just how much fun people were having and what an incredible day it was, go here.

The ride began with almost 10 miles at a parade-like pace, as we went from Cool Springs through downtown Franklin and out to Carter's Creek Pike. Dan and I were at the front ... actually, we were off the front for a few miles since we coasted down a couple of hills and gapped the pack ... and people lined the streets to cheer, ring cowbells, and take pictures.

RandoGirl stayed with us, helping to take care of Dan and ensure that everything went smoothly. Without her efforts, the ride would not have been perf-- ... er, excellent.

Once through the "neutral start" zone, we waited while a huge pack of riders roared past seeking new personal bests. While we didn't necessarily want to be out on the course the whole day, the idea never bothered me. Historically, temperatures during the Harpeth River Ride have edged into the 90s and beyond, but at this point the weather was better than you could expect for the first week of June -- low humidity, light winds, and about 65 degrees. On a day like this, outdoors is where you want to be.

Just before Thompson Station, Chris Horner passed us with a cheery, "Good morning." His back was acting up, so he was just doing the metric. This allowed him the freedom to ride and chat with a ton of folks, treating it as more of a club outing than a race. Everyone commented on how accessible all of the pro riders were, and just how cool this was.

We stopped at the rest stop in Thompson Station for a quick break, and then continued east through Bethesda. There was a timed climb up over Pulltight Hill, but Dan and I were satisfied to just downshift to the granny gear and muscle up over it. We broke a personal speed record on the descent down the other side -- I'm not going to tell you what it was, since Dan's wife Brenda may not let him ride with me if she finds out -- then zipped up Horton Highway to the next rest stop in College Grove.

I'd originally planned to get ice in Dan's Camelbak here, but he didn't need it. The weather was still incredible and he felt strong, so we just hung out for a while and met folks. Ben King and Matthew Busche came in with a big pack of century riders, and I was able to introduce Matthew to Dan. He and Ben had been involved in a minor incident with a car earlier in the day, but were having a great time and enjoying the course.

We endured the bumpy rollers on Eudaily Covington Road, then headed over towards Bethesda again to climb Cool Springs Road. The last time we were here, Dan was having horrible leg cramps as we creeped up this hill, but today we fairly flew over and down the back side. Although the saddle was bothering him now, Dan still felt great.

We took another break at the penultimate "Not Ready for Prime Time" rest stop, then headed on. We were less than 10 miles to the finish, and although we all loved being out on these spectacular roads in this weather, the barn was smelling good.

On Gosey Hill Road, the wind was at our backs as we climbed a gentle rise towards a cornflower blue sky speckled with white cotton clouds. The smell of mown hay from the field on our right was working hard against the smell of honeysuckle growing on the fence to our left. I was trying to do what I frequently do on these rides with Dan, describing the scenes around us and the glory of this marvelous planet, when I just ran out of words. My heart hurt -- but in that good Southern way. I was literally overwhelmed with joy and gratitude for being in such a special place, and almost couldn't take any more. The universe then put a beautiful young fawn in the field to our right, and I saw him spring up and bound towards the woods with his white tail wagging, as Mother Nature in all her maternal munificence promised, "I can beat that."

The final few miles zipped by. There was more traffic as we came back in to Cool Springs, but the Franklin Police did a great job managing the lights at the intersection so that everything flowed smoothly. Next thing I knew, we were turning left into the Nissan parking lot, where I promptly missed the left turn towards the finish line to give us an extra quarter-mile of riding.

Was it the ride of my life? Maybe. I know that it is one that I hope to keep in my memory forever -- a ride in ideal weather with some of my favorite people on my favorite roads. It was the kind of day that fortune only grants every so often, just to remind you how lucky you can be. Once tasted, you'll hunger for that day again, and keep on going though bad times knowing that there may be another incredible day just like it up -- or maybe even better -- right around the corner.


  1. Thank you, Robert! It was wonderful to have you and Carol home to share this great day of cycling with us. I'm sure Dan couldn't have imagined having any other as his captain. As usual, your words capture the thoughts and feelings of many of us, only much better than we could every express!


    1. Thank you and Mike for inviting us. It was too much fun!

  2. I'm with Fredia, I could not have said it better myself. It was a splendid extended weekend and so many things made it special - great weather, ride, route and most of all, great friends! We hope to be back soon!

    1. (She's wrong -- she could have said it better.)

  3. Robert, so glad you and Dan the Man had a great ride. Thanks for projecting the similar experience Mark and I had into such beautiful prose. It was great to see you and Randogirl, and hope to again soon.

  4. Randoboy and Randogirl, What a treat to ride next to you on Carters Creek before the split. I agree that it was one of the top rides of my life. It was so great to see the two of you again, I only wish we could have spent more time together.
    John "Moose" Toney.

    1. We will need to remedy that. Next time, I'll bring drums.