In the Saddle: I’ll ride if I want to
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado
ASPEN ” I don’t do anything special on my birthday; I just do as I please.
To me, June 4 each year is all about “me time,” which can mean anything from watching “The Price is Right” in sweat pants, to eating a great big burrito or just crying if I want to.
It’s my party, after all.
But inevitably I find my way outside, and usually I try to prove that I’ve still got it at after one more year (now 37).
So on Wednesday, I decided to ride up Independence Pass before it opened to the fossil-fuel-gobbling masses.
Wearing just a T-shirt and bike shorts, I rolled into an overcast drizzle at 6:30 p.m., and after pumping hard along the hills east of Aspen, I was breathing heavy and working up a sweat.
Settling into a low gear for the steep climb, my thoughts turned existential and the road a metaphor as I gave myself a birthday pep talk about keeping a steady pace through life’s challenges.
I saw only one other biker (he was cruising downhill), and I felt strong on the long, lonely climb.
When I crested the rise to the ghost town of Independence, the sun came out and smiled a birthday greeting.
Exhausted, I stopped to wolf down an energy bar and gave thanks for another year still on the planet. And because it was past 8 p.m., I decided to turn back (even congratulated myself on prudently foregoing the switchbacks to the tip top).
I bundled up in a light fleece, Windbreaker and ski hat for the ride down, but just a few hundred yards of downhill in the shadows of approaching dark and I was freezing.
My knees felt filled with ice cream, and I couldn’t feel my hands and feet.
I stopped and took my socks off to use them as extra gloves and dug in for the icy, 13-mile downhill, even hucked a few prayers to ward off flat tires. (Though I had tubes and tools, I don’t think I could’ve mustered the dexterity with my frozen paws.)
Safe at home and after 20 minutes under a hot shower, I regained use of my limbs, then laid on the couch in a cocoon ” grateful to be alive and warm after the day’s lesson: I might be a year older, but no wiser.