Tuesday, May 11

Mother's Day: Joy in a simple ride

My rides have consisted of riding to work a few days a week and daily errands—if I'm lucky. No long trips yet and I'm being gentle with myself and mindful to let it go. Comparison to where and how much I had done at this time last year are silly, meaningless ruminations. That I can ride is the point.

My babysitting for the F650GS is over *sigh*. Dave's shoulder has healed enough that he's been cleared to ride his bike!

I will do what I can to steal some rides on the GS, especially since I've registered it as a second bike for the 2010 BMW mileage contest. He is thrilled to be back on two wheels and I'm hoping his new membership in the Chicago BMW club (I'm not a member) will expand his options for riding with others. He recently donned his gear and headed out. It was not a good day for me and I reluctantly declined his invitation and encouraged him to go out alone.

I lounged around all Saturday storing up energy for a Sunday, Mother's Day ride. I was asked what I wanted to do. The day promised to be cool and clear. In other words, ride-perfect. I wanted to ride but with me, myself and I. Our child, who used to, with Dad's help, bring me breakfast in bed on MD, is in graduate school in California. She called in her daughterly Mother's Day wishes; and, I called in mine. I felt free.

Sometimes, before a big ride, I won't sleep well (I should say, I sleep less than usual). I call it “trip anticipation syndrome” or TAS for short. Ordinarily, I prefer early starts, to be on the road by 6:30ish. Instead, I woke up at 2am and four hours later, I looked and felt like a zombie! Didn't leave the house until after 1pm. This letting go of things is a real challenge.

My plans were to head to the Great Blue Heron Rookery & Wetland Wildlife Sanctuary, part of the Almond Marsh Lake County Forest Preserve in Grayslake, IL. The sanctuary has been in the news lately for its innovative method of building man-made tree structures to attract the herons back to this once favorite heron habitat. I took the long way there and enjoyed the azure sky, the 50+ degree temps. The sweet and acrid mix of earthly smells of city, suburban and rural living made me quite happy and I cracked my lid to inhale deeply.

I did encounter some crazy traffic for the first hour but eventually exited the Interstate and took lesser roads the rest of the way. The video camera would have been great on this trip—oh well... Something strange happened when I got to Almond Marsh. I couldn't find the entrance. I rode around a huge area and ended up back where I thought an entrance would be. A man and his young daughter were there looking through their binoculars at the spot I recognized from a news report. I squinted at the spot but didn't see any herons. A metal gate blocked the entrance and the fine print stated on the gate stated that the marsh was closed. How and why would a forest preserve be closed on Mother's Day?! The father said it was indeed closed for the day. Wow! I almost felt like, “What a waste.” I caught myself for the ride out was joyous.

Plan B was that if time allowed, after my Rookery visit I would spend some time in Fort Sheridan, IL. The fort was a US Army military post after the Civil War, named after Philip Sheridan, a Civil War Calvary General. When the Department of Defense closed the fort in 1993, they sold the land to developers for commercial land use. Developers refurbished the land and resold it.

The now residential land use has a unique appearance of homes and condominiums. Part of town edges the lakeshore of Lake Michigan, much of the woodsy space is preserved. The town has an air of affluence with a military twist for the military ambience is obvious. I mean, it looks like a fort—just a fort for rich soldiers. The winding streets, the functional looking buildings and the spacious greens made this stop a great visit. (Please take a moment to read a bit about Fort Sheridan).

I also made a stop at The Fort Sheridan Cemetery, which sits right outside the town.

I arrived there with only about five minutes to spare before the cemetery closed. I noticed that among the ancient, uniformed Civil War headstones were some with more recent dates of births and deaths, suggesting that after the transformation of Fort Sheridan to a residential area, the cemetery has become the final resting place for nonmilitary personnel. I watched a woman sitting in front of a headstone for all the time I was there. I wanted to take a picture of her as she looked so serene and focused. Her back was to me and it would have made a nice photo op but it didn't seem the respectful thing to do. So I took a few obligatory photos of the area and left. Funny thing is, I pass the town whenever I ride along the northern part of the Lake Michigan Circle Tour, a favorite leg I often ride when I take the long way to Wisconsin.

By my own standards, this was a short ride just over 100 miles, one I'd generally brush off (last year) as paltry. I can't, however, articulate the meaningfulness this ride held for me. It felt great moving along, leaning into wide sweeping curves, passing through wooded areas—even navigating through the congested traffic felt healing--even if temporarily. I welcomed, even embraced the challenge to be sharply attentive, alert and vigilant of vehicles around me. In the faster lanes, I remember sneaking peeks at the ground as it move swiftly underneath me and peppered throughout the ride were moments when everything seemed well with the world and me in it. Two wheel travel always demands focus, which in turn requires prioritizing the mind's worries.

This day was the official start of my ride season and although the weather has since has turned cold and rainy again, it really doesn't matter. On this Mother's Day, I needed this simply joy. I needed to feel flight and unburdened. Riding two wheels, at least for me, are always potential opportunities to connect with myself. I am on my own. Making my way in both familiar and unfamiliar places. No negotiating (other than the traffic). It is all about me.

And, sometimes the best form of self care is saying “No” others and “Yes” to self.

This was indeed a wonderful Mother's Day.