Last week the realities of making a living intruded upon my make believe world of pretend bike racing, and I was neither able to ride my bike nor type about riding my bike. For a pretend bike racer, there is nothing more maddening than being prohibited from prancing about the countryside and presenting one’s mightiness for all to see, but I have children who have grown accustomed to eating things and wearing clothes, so I must occasionally deny Northern New Jersey drivers the sight of my middle-aged, Spandex-festooned keyster from behind their windscreen as they traverse from Starbucks to Starbucks (I’m guessing that they drive from Starbucks to Starbucks, I really have no idea what real people do during the day).
As of late, I have been joined by a companion in my training jaunts. This is a new development. You see, I am self-employed and I work at home, so I am allowed some leeway in the planning of my day. My commute is the 15 steps into my basement and I start working frightfully early, so I have a lot of time available to me to get my work stuff done during the day. This means that I can take time out during the middle of the day and ride my bike (riding my bike during the middle of the day also prevents me from staring at a computer monitor by myself for 12-14 hours straight—that’s good for sanity, and sanity is good for living). This schedule has worked out very well for me, but in years past it has also meant that I almost exclusively ride alone, as no one else has the flexibility of schedule that I have.
But that has changed now that Retired John has left the ranks of the steadily employed. I suppose that Retired John would’ve previously been known as Working John, but that label would’ve been superfluous because, in a way, aren’t we all Working Johns? (I apologize for that moment of trippy philosophy, but dude, right?) Through a combination of fortune, hard work and the coming and goings of mergers and acquisitions that frankly, I usually tune out when discussed (smart move on my part—who would want to retire before age 50?), Retired John has earned his Retired John moniker. That means that Retired John, in addition to being available to post pictures of his cat on social media (that is not a joke, he has a super-solid feline feed), is also available to ride in the middle of the day on a weekday.
This means that I have company for a few days every week, this also means that I have to adjust to having a companion on my rides. I’m at the point where I’ve not only memorized the location of road hazards on the roads on my usual routes, I’ve named many hazards on my routes. There’s Shady O’Rain Gratey, The Murtha Divot (named after it’s discoverer), the Ho-Ho-Kus Death Strip and the Spook Rock Death Drop. But I now have to remember to point out these hazards because—and rightly so—a lot of these names involve the word “death”, and becoming dead on a training ride is not an objective.
Riding with Retired John has also necessitated an upgrade in route choice. We humans are creatures of habit, and as such, once we have a habit set, we don’t often change them. I am probably about 5 rides away from being able to ride the entirety of the Saddle River Bike Path blindfolded (it’s leaf blowing season right now, so it would be a challenge, but I’m confident in that claim), so any alteration in habit brings with it some adjustment. Rides with Retired John have forced me to evaluate why I ride certain roads, and the answer is usually, “I have no idea, I’ve just always done it that way.” Our rides together have turned into searches for better roads to ride, and while this is interrupting my established habits, it has significantly upgraded my options for future routes; and I am glad that I have new, better roads to ride, now I just have to find a way to break the news to Shady O’Rain Gratey.