Epic Vignettes

With a lingering wrist sprain limiting my riding, I’ve been remembering some of the times I could ride.

Flying along the cinders of the old Erie Lackawanna rail bed on my Stingray with my best friends Doug and Mike. Both held cigarettes in their mouths, the first time I’d seen them smoke. I’m sure they felt the height of cool for an 11 year old in the 1970s, but it was also when I realized I’d never smoke, and that maybe these guys weren’t so much like me as I’d thought. (Mike died in his 30s from a smoking-related disease.)

Two years later, an epic 15 mile ride on 10-speeds with my two best friends, Nathan and Tracy, to Hartung’s Store in Hope, NJ, where we ate microwaved hot dogs and thought we were the height of cool.

Lost all day without food and water at 9,000 feet in New Mexico’s Carson National Forest, bonking and irritated with Nathan. Drinking Lone Star beer and eating canned bacon around a campfire with him later that night, the epicness of our ride taking hold. Crawling out of my bag early enough the next morning to strip naked and wash the ride’s crud off in the melt-fed creek behind our tents without offending the neighbors. I had the foresight to get the fire going first, because it’s cold at 6 AM at 9,000 feet even in July.

Riding the streets of Salt Lake City alone a couple of days later.

Getting on my old mountain bike to poke at the idea of adult riding, and nearly puking partway up a hill on Old Roxbury Road that’s no big deal today.

Riding mountain bikes on dirt roads with Tom and Anatole, taking one corner at such an insane speed that Anatole complimented me, and not telling him I hadn’t realized how fast I was going into the turn until my only option was to make it.

Riding a road bike that Tom left leaning against my cubicle for me to borrow up a different hill, on Purchase Brook Road, that’s no big deal today and having to stop to avoid puking.

Not a ride, although it led to many, but returning Tom’s loaner bike because I’d bought my own road bike.

Riding with my son’s Scout troop around Block Island, and another time, around the Gettysburg battlefield.

Being invited on my first OGRE group ride and not believing how much fun pacelining down 202 was.

Watching a pleasant video of the D2R2, then getting sucked into some of the hardest and most rewarding rides of my life.

Helping Joe through a bonk on his first century ride.

My first Dirty Thirty with a group of faster riders who had the patience to wait for me.

My first serious single track mountain bike ride with Chris on my 1986 full-rigid Ross Mount Hood, which threw me over the bars, had me walking rock gardens, scared the hell out of, thrilled the hell out of me, and introduced me to the tradition of the post-ride beer in the parking lot, even when it’s freakin’ cold.

My first mountain bike ride with Chris on my new 21st century Specialized, cleaning techie stuff like never before which showed me that yes, equipment does make a difference, while the techie stuff I still didn’t clean showed me that skill still matters more.

The next ride I do.


About swampyankeecyclist

I'm Andy Engel, just a middle-aged, middle-class white guy from Roxbury, Connecticut. I've been married to my best friend since 1988, and we have two grown sons. I like riding bikes, and my biggest accomplishment is the 180K D2R2. I own 4 bikes; a ten year old carbon-fiber Orbea road bike, a new GT Grade 105 gravel and commuter bike, a 20 something year old Specialized Sirrus that's my old dirt and commuter bike, and now serves as a spare and a trainer bike, and a 30 year old Ross MTB that I don't ride enough. All of them have Brooks saddles, which should tell experienced cyclists a little about me. I created this blog to write about cycling, perhaps to inspire others to ride. I commute to work by bike year round, ice permittine. It's a 32 mile round trip, so a good week sees me doing it 3, maybe 4 times. I was a carpenter and still love building things, but regular paychecks, insurance, and vacation time lured me into journalism. I've written a couple of books on carpentry, and I'm a senior editor at Fine Homebuilding magazine.
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