Monday, June 29, 2009

the parkway!

I grew up in Salem, VA, with the beautiful colors of fall, bright blooming rainbows during the spring and watching the clouds roll across the valley below, as we cruised along the parkway as a child. I remember being piled into the faux wood paneled station wagon with my younger sister, as we ventured up the mountain for hours of viewing from inside the car. Being scared and shifting from one side of the car to the other side of the car as the expansive view changed around the corners showing what appeared to be a steep drop. Like we often do, I lost the appreciation of the mountains as a teenager.
I gained some appreciation when I traveled to Nebraska in the tenth grade to visit a pen pal over the Christmas break from school. It just did not seem right to be able to see the yellow house two miles away, without a bend or rise in the road. I was happy to see mountains again on the return trip home. It was not until I was in my mid-twenties that I began to truly see the mountains. I started to see the subtle changes of green colors on the trees as everything begins to bud in the spring. The painted canvas of reds, yellows, and oranges in the fall, all of a sudden had a different view.
Riding my bicycle helped to bring the mountains even closer. I remembered thinking back as a kid to our rides on the parkway, to watching the people on bicycles riding along. My Dad would talk to my Mom and with us about the cyclists, about the climb they had in front of them or some snip-it of cycling trivia. I would sit and think about the rides my Dad and I took. How we would ride for hours and hours together on our bicycles. We’d pull into the house smelling of sweat and fresh air, but a real sense of joy and accomplishment. I can remember making the comparison of cyclists on the parkway as being serious. In my youthful head, I probably thought they were professional cyclists.
Those memories came flooding back a few weeks ago in early June when I took my first ride on the parkway with a few great friends. One was guiding us along the way and talking us through. I went really slow, because I was uncertain of “the climb ahead of me”. Though it was only a steady gradual climb, not steep at all, but I wanted to have some reserve, just in case. I have experienced all to well that the terrain in a car and on a bicycle end up being completely different. It was a short ride, from our home in Old Southwest Roanoke to Vinton on the parkway and home, just over 22 miles, it was a nice gentle ride. The best way I have ever traveled on the parkway!
This past weekend we took to the parkway again, I held nothing back as a few of us ventured out again. After climbing up Mill Mountain and Roanoke Mountain to enter the parkway, I glided joyously along the road. I was smiling, soaking in the sun and feeling the cool breeze sliding across my face and jersey. It was an amazing feeling, a freedom I may have never felt before. Almost of flying without wings, of zipping through the air listening to the birds all around, seeing turkeys, horses and deer, fields of grass soon to be food and soaking in all that I could and not being trapped in the car. We road past the Vinton exit this time and went toward the next exit. We were on and adventure!
Pulling off the parkway for further rations for our return trip home, we decided to take to the rural roads and return through town. After winding our way home, just shy of 43 miles and having climbed 1572 feet, we dismounted from our bicycles. An amazing sense of accomplishment, of pride, of knowing how those “serious cyclists” felt from my childhood memories.
The Livestrong Challenge I am doing in August, is 45 miles, with an elevation of 1615 feet, you can look at the map in an earlier post or on the blog homepage. I know now I am going to be just fine on the ride, but one thing more happened. I realized on that ride I had been nose to the handle bar, sights pointing to the ride in August. I have forgotten to have fun and enjoy the ride, I think that is what happened when we crossed the exit we were going to take, I did not want it to end and they were willing to carry onward. I was with Tammy and Casey and it was a beautiful morning.
I think the little kid in me woke up that morning. Something else woke up inside me, I realized more than ever, that the Livestrong Challenge ride has given me so much and it is defiantly “More Than A Ride”. I have learned it has encouraged many people to buy bikes, that I know of four people have new shiny road bikes. People have told me that they have felt inspired, what they have done with that I do not know. I have also seen how people honor their loved ones on the fundraising honor roll on my fundraising webpage This Livestrong Challenge is making a difference in a world sadly full with cancer.
I have also learned more than ever the value of teamwork and that we are never alone. So if you are battling cancer, a loved one or friend is battling cancer or however cancer has impacted your life, YOU ARE NOT ALONE! We are all part of the Livestrong Army and we are making a difference!

We are changing the world one revolution at a time!

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