Update

African Connection links are now in the sidebar to the right, just below the My Travel section.

Click here to see a La Crosse Tribune article about the mission in Uganda.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Hssssgrrrrhssss

I have yet to meet a hill I couldn't climb. There was this one in Switzerland I walked up, but, on a technicality, we won't count it here. They - hills I cannot climb - are out there, for sure. FO is one. There'll come a time when I won't make it if I keep riding in that direction long enough. I've never said that to anyone before, the part about not meeting a hill I couldn't climb. So, why tell you now? Well, a bird told me to. Sort of.

Today was a day to take laps up Bliss Road. Not being sure how I would feel after yesterday's century, I wasn't going to venture too far from home, yet I wanted to add what I could to my climbing total. Bliss is good for that. It is just over two miles from my driveway to the bottom of the hill. Climbing all the way to the top then on to the end of county FA results in 800 feet of climbing credits. So Bliss it was...

At the end of the first climb, just as the road flattened out at the top, I was attacked by a giant bird of prey, hissing and growling like a cross between a cougar and a rattlesnake. Or maybe it was a territorial Red-Winged Blackbird. Whatever. Four times he swooped down, skimming over my helmet, warning me of his fierceness with a distinctive hssssgrrrrhssss. When he was satisfied that he had driven me from his territory, he returned triumphantly to his perch on the JCT - FA sign.

The little drama was repeated on my second lap. This bird was DETERMINED to protect his domain from the brightly-colored, silver-headed (my HELMET, thank you) intruder. And he was successful. I didn't so much as ruffle a feather.

Then, on the third lap, as I crested the hill, I noticed he wasn't sitting on the sign. I thought, "I hope that he is now doing duty as an abstract grille ornament on a 2002 Subaru Forester the little fellow is OK. Not to worry. He had apparently just run off another intruder and was resting on a different sign at the far end of his territory. Sure enough, he was able to get in one good hssssgrrrrhssss before I pedaled past the boundary, known only to him, that separated his protectorate from the rest of the world. One determined bird, that one.

Determined. That's how I ride. There isn't much style or grace. And very little pace, either - I'm certifiably slow with the spreadsheets to prove it. But I'm determined to get through the ride. Get up the hill. Get home before dark. When you think about it, without style or grace or pace, that's about all there is left. So I tell myself as I struggle up the steep hills, "you haven't abandoned a climb yet." It keeps me going. That's all. I can tell you for sure that there are many riders who can climb farther, faster and longer than I can. They impress me. But me, I just want to make it up. For me.

Thinking about this made me wonder what will happen when I don't make it up the hill. I think it will go something like this: "Well, I didn't make it up this one." It feels good to ride over the crest at the top of the hill. But it's only a bike ride, not life. I've seen people riding bikes loaded down with a room full of furniture. Or pushing bikes groaning under the weight of more bananas than my local grocer has on display in his well-stocked produce section. This in a country where the average life expectancy is less than 50 years. Where the loads on the bike ARE life for them. So I don't think I'm going to fall apart when that day comes, when I meet that hill I can't climb. I hope not. And when it does happen, as it most certainly will, I'll let you know how it goes.

And what do I say to the bird? You are a royal pain, but I admire your determination. So keep it up. And watch out for that Subaru.

2 comments:

MckMama said...

That's funny. I have actually yet to meet a hill while bicycling that I did climb!

Anonymous said...

Over the hill seems to have a different meaning to you than the rest of us! Also, it is disgusting that a hill is named Bliss Road!! Who came up with that one?????