Thursday, August 09, 2007

Once around the lake, please

So I shlepped my Giant TC2 into the back of the PT Cruiser rent-a-wreck all the way up to Madison this week. In a town criss-crossed with bike trails, I had to ride somewhere.

This morning arose cold and rainy, and it looked like it was going to rain all day. Lunch time was still wet and drizzly. But miraculously, I came out the door after work (late, of course) and the sun was shining and the pavement was dry. Well, mostly dry. OK, dry enough.

I came back to the hotel long enough to change and fired off to a park along Lake Manona, the smaller of the two lakes in Madison. I knew there was a bike trail along at least a portion of it, and assumed I could follow it around the lake without too much trouble.

I set out with great energy and hope. I'd had a light lunch and was feeling great. I passed about three people swimming around the lake, being followed by canoes. I'm not sure if they were college kids or what, but I thought they were nuts. I enjoy a good swim now and then, but laps around a lake? Or even up and down the shore? No thanks.
Then a bunch of kids (I say kids, meaning college age) were water skiing in formation, making pyramids and crashing mightily into the water.
Young kids with their fancy bike clothes on their high-end Trek bikes kept passing me like I was a lamp post. I passed some joggers, but that was the extent of my prowess. One of them asked me if I knew how far the trail went, and out of the hundreds of smart-assed replies that ran through my head I managed to come out with "I have no idea". Not that I was being nice, but it was about all I had the breath to say at once.
Being the fatso that I am, I ran out of gas about three-quarters of the way around. My water tasted like plastic, my shoestring got caught in the pedal, my back tire was starting to flat.
Joggers were now passing me.
Somewhere I lost the trail and swung closer to the lake, following it more directly than the path above shows.The houses were stacked on top of each other. They are lovely, but close together. I did like the fact that now and again there is a parcel of land set aside as a park on the lake. It's nice to know the city is concerned enough with quality of life to take a piece of land that's worth hundreds of thousands and set it aside like that.
Also they kept the tall trees throughout most of the lakeside neighborhoods. So often you see development with no tree over thirty feet. Here "old growth" was prominent. My guess is that there may be zoning ordinances concerning tree cutting and care. If there's not, there should be. It was great to be in the shade most of the time, to see a bazillion squirrels, to hear as many birds as I did. Madison is a very densely populous area, and I'm most impressed by the fact that in many areas they've managed to maintain that park-like feel.
The common denominator everywhere seemed to be construction. There wasn't a half mile when I didn't ride by some house in some stage of remodel, redesign, or repair. Most of the houses along the lake that I saw are older and their age is beginning to show.
Somewhere in there I hit a decent hill, and my indexed shifter decided it was not going to co-operate. I'm exited about the new set I ordered off of ebay for $130 (OK, slightly used but guaranteed), but they're not in yet. So off the bike and push up the hill, with no shame. It gave me a chance to straighten up, down some plastic tasting water, and catch my breath.
On the next hill my front shifter decided to work, and I got into granny gear to go up. I thought perhaps there might be a God after all.

( I hate to digress here, but on TV is "Flipping Out" on Bravo, where someone is giving acupuncture to a cat. No, really. It's perhaps both the saddest and funniest thing I've ever seen.)

Finally the end of the line was in sight, and I could see the Cruiser in the distance. I still had strength to turn over the bike, disassemble and stuff it back into the Cruiser, and dump out my plastic water. Everyone that left around the same time I did was long gone. I'd left for my adventure at around 6:15, thinking I had plenty of daylight left. When I climbed in the Cruiser to crank up the air, the sun was setting and it was just about eight o'clock.
Then I drove around the lake, taking the same route, in about fifteen minutes. I wanted to cry. I nearly stopped at a Dairy Queen on the way back to the hotel to make up for it, but willpower prevailed.
The true test of the ride will be in the morning. I'd like to hit another, shorter trail by the hotel. I'm guessing I'll wake up stiff and sore and not do it. I'm old that way.
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