Saturday, October 21, 2006

Mennonite Man

It was the evening of the 31st, the last day in July, having just arrived home from the office, I felt compelled to brave temperatures in the mid to upper nineties in order to break 700 miles for the month of July. It is not that I am compulsive, insane or obsessive; but I have flirted with this personal benchmark for the past several months and only needed 28 miles to do it. A quick call to one of my more dedicated riding buddies insured that I was not going to suffer alone. While we could have easily done a 14 mile out and back - that seemed too simple and besides the legs felt good.

There was little traffic on some of South Central PA's nicest two lane country roads. As we approached the one hour mark, my riding partner, Chuck, informed me that we were already over 19 miles and were likely going to break 20. We time trialed for a few minutes and ended up around 20.9 miles for the first hour - really having a good time on these mostly rolling hills. At one point, on a tight, two lane, downhill section we were surrounded on both sides by cornfields. The corn was tall, pushing ten feet, and deep in this canyon I felt like Luke Skywalker attacking the Death Star.

Shortly after, Yoda appeared on my handlebars to let me know that I had killed both my water bottles and, with another 20 miles to go, was desperately in need of a refill.

I began to scan for folks outside their homes or farms - preferably using a hose. After a couple miles of unpopulated, sun-scorched earth I noticed a man hosing down his driveway outside a modest ranch-style home. His two daughters looked up from under the shade of a tree as I wheeled into the driveway to see if he would top off my bottles. When he turned around, he eyed up my bike and gave us a big smile. This was when I noticed that he was a Mennonite. I asked if he could spare some water and he said "oh yes". He was really excited about being of assistance and began to fumble with the rusty sprayer at the end of the hose. I told him that it was ok; nothing on that sprayer was going to kill me. He responded that the water would be cold because it was well water and he had been running it for a while. As he filled up the bottle, he asked "what's you're average?" I must have given him a blank look because he followed up with "what can you guys hold?" This guy knew what he was talking about. I told him we were averaging over 20.5 so far for the ride and he responded "not quite as fast as Landis." To which I muttered "no, not quite, but I do like that he is from Pennsylvania." I thanked him and started to pedal up his driveway back towards the road when he called out "what do you think about the doping?" The surreal nature of this conversation made me stop and respond "if it's true - that would be disappointing." He looked down and said "yea, real disappointing."

This, of course, was before either of us had heard about the synthetic testosterone in the Floyd's blood and so now, barring any startling turns in the saga, we are both disappointed. The remainder of the ride was a blast, many long pulls at 28mph, and some feisty hill sprints to cap it all off. As we rolled back into town, Chuck and I agreed that, in a weird way, this ride had been one of the best so far this year.

I can't forget the shift in that man's demeanor when the topic turned to doping. While they are not as isolated as the Amish, the Mennonites ride bikes and are certainly a culture that places a high value on honest, hard work. There was no hiding the disappointment on his face. For July, I ended up with 709 miles, a personal record, and while certainly not as much as Landis or many others; it was honest, hard work. For some, that is enough.

1 comment:

grandma gail said...

Interesting how far the impact of biking and honesty goes and whom it touches...ride on and ride clean son!
Love, Mom