There is a certain special happiness that comes from riding a bike. The open air, sunshine, and speed all coming together for an instant mood boost.
One of my training partners, Candice, and I out meeting at Verona Fireman’s park before we go out to ride the Ironman Wisconsin bike loop.
Those were the words that started the whole project. A thank you project. From a cyclist to a driver.
There I was, a balmy 55* balmy Wisconsin May Sunday morning, consciously grateful for the car that had just patiently waited for my legs to slowly pedal up the hill. All this car wanted to do was pull into their driveway. All this car wanted to do was simply cruise on in to their home. But, I was in the way.
I was in the way with my pedaling legs, my rapid heartrate and my beloved bike trying to climb up Timber Lane as fast as I could. I was far right, gladly allowing any motor vehicle (with a lot more horsepower than I had in my two legs) to pass by swiftly as I took my sweet time reaching the top. Timber Lane isn’t a long climb, but sure does slap you in the face quickly and makes you drop gears. It also makes you wish you were in a car instead.
As someone who is on a nickname basis with the word ‘crash’, I try to be diligently aware of my surroundings while out on two wheels, especially vehicles, listening for ‘car back!’. I even have a little game I play while out on tough climbs. I ride the white paint line – not going over off on either side – in attempt to work on climbing straight without weaving, and making sure I’m not taking up more lane than I need from my fellow travelers.
As I was climbing Timber, I heard the quiet approach (must’ve been a Buick or Lincoln or something smooth-like) of a car behind me. I instantly pedaled faster, hoping they’d wait for me to reach the top and pass me when the visibility reaches far beyond the hill. Sometimes when cars pass me on a hill, and they cross into the on-coming traffic lane to give me room, I have two thoughts; 1. “Thank you for moving over and giving me and my bike space”, and 2. ‘Oh gosh, I hope a car isn’t coming, hurry hurry – come back over into our lane!! (but don’t hit me!)” However, I didn’t have either of those thoughts cross my mind because the car approaching behind me was patient, and slowly rolled behind me until it was perfectly safe to pass. I like to think they saw me trying to climb faster for them, up out of my saddle, and they patiently watched the showdown between the pavement and my pedals.
Once to the top, the driver and I could both see the open road ahead. The car slowly passed me, giving me a whole lane of luxury to continue on my ride as they drove ahead. I hope the driver glanced back to see my wave of appreciation. I also hope they thought I was really fast up that hill. I mostly hope they saw me wave. Okay, maybe both.
After the car drove off, I thought about all the other cars that have done the same for me out on that Ironman Wisconsin bike course, a route that is relentlessly ridden from snow melt to falling leaves. I wished I knew they ALL looked back to see me give a wave of thanks, and I wish I could wave to ALL of them. I want all the drivers who have passed me, correction – all the drivers that have *nicely* passed me, to know that I noticed the way that they noticed me, and that I was thankful for thier conscious effort to keep me safe and out riding my bike.
I simply said my thought outloud to my riding partners that day, Abby and Paige, “I wish I could do something nice for all the nice drivers. I wish I could just bake them cookies or something”. Both ladies offered me encouragement with a “you’re crazy” clause attached, but as I continued to ride…the gears were turnin’ in more ways than one.
The Cookie Project, 2013.