road bike season!

(Originally printed in the Sewanee Mountain Messenger. Reprinted by permission.)

I pull into the parking lot of the Mexican restaurant in Cowan at 8:45 Wednesday morning, road bike on the trunk rack. Amy and Bob stand under the restaurant awning, chatting, while Kevin rolls up on his bike from a test spin around the block.

“Woo hoo!” I literally jump up and down in my excitement about the day; the onlookers laugh.

After a long winter of mountain biking, dog walking, and sports watching, the first day of riding bikes on the road is here.

Brian arrives, and soon after we’re rolling slowly away, taking a left and heading out of town towards Keith Springs. After a quick loop of Keith Springs Road, we turn north and follow rolling hills by the Goshen cemetery, then cross 41A by the Winchester airport.

The weather is perfect, what Brian calls ‘zero weather’ – it doesn’t affect you at all, make you hotter or colder. Our default conversational mode is deadpan sarcasm: “Man, this day sucks.” “I know, couldn’t it sleet or something?”

Suddenly I catch my breath at a beautiful curving bright yellow swath of canola fields, rolling with the curves of the terrain and bisected by the country road we’re on.We stand up to ascend steep hills and swoop down the other side like kids with our first two-wheelers. Farmers in trucks give us the index-finger wave from their steering wheels.

Killdeer rise noisily off their nests in the turnrows, and I hear peepers in the ditches. We joke about the dogs that start after us too late: “It’s still early in the season.” “They’re not in shape yet either!”

The group falls back into familiar patterns, cruising along side-by-side to chat about someone’s youth soccer game, an injury, or how long it’s been since we rode; then silently and without direction forming into a tight paceline as we turn into the inevitable Greenhaw Road headwind on our way back.

Before we know it, it’s been two hours and we’re on the long straight back into Cowan. We sit up and pedal easily past the small houses and wave at the elementary kids outside for recess. The ‘Open’ sign is lit at Fiesta Restaurant and we can hear Mexican music coming from the outdoor speakers. It’s time for chips and salsa and spicy Diablo burritos; we recap the ride and laugh a lot.

New-economy and modern-society thinker Seth Godin has written extensively about tribes – how traditional ties like geography, ethnicity, and even family are becoming less important. In their place, thanks to social-media technology and other factors, we now gravitate into groups which we form based on our passions, loyalties, and interests.

This morning, as I reach for another chip, I’m in total agreement with that idea. Today has been the regathering of a tribe.