Yep, I did it again. For the sixth year in a row, I’ve gone out on (and once near) my birthday and rode my age. I’ve had a few friends join in for sections. Then there’s getting free food. It’s a fine tradition with only one problem: it keeps getting a mile longer every year. But that’s what they call a good or First World problem to have. Let’s get to it.
The day began slowly and not at the crack of dawn as usual. After getting myself ready I went to breakfast at the nearby Denny’s. Generally I avoid restaurants like the plague (ha ha), and to save money. But I figure the vaccine works so I quick bite not seating near the mouth breathers would be OK. It used to be you just showed your ID; now you have to get the email. The nice waitress accidentally gave me the Super Grand Slam, not the Regular Slam, so I can go back for that. I thanked the manager and made sure he didn’t penalize the server. They don’t make poached eggs anymore at this site but no big deal. Free is free.
I was running late to meet Guest Rider #1 Jenni. Last year her husband Rafa joined me, but he couldn’t make it this year. Although a Monday, fortunately it was her day off, so she kindly graced me with her presence. I had brought her some dark vegan chocolate as a thank you. because she once did a little work on a spastic calf muscle. They’re both pretty good riders even when allegedly out of shape. I was leery of this having only ridden with her once before back when I had Sookie the Fuji and was in better condition.
Getting to the hilly section of the Southern Walnut Creek Trail, I asked Jenni if she wanted me to go faster. She said yes, but I was resisting. Well, I replied, I’ve got to make it 56 and this is all I’ve got. I told her that if she wanted to go ahead she should and would she please wait for me at the top, which she did. It wasn’t that far, and at the top she said See, you caught right back up. Huffing and puffing, I was, though. Anyway, she’s carrying much less fat and has a light road bike with twice as many gears as Sophie the Fairdale, so it really wasn’t a fair fight.
Karma caught up to us though as I led us west after the trail ended. She doesn’t like gravel, downhills, or sidewalks, and we had all three. I appreciated the break and apologized that I didn’t know that. We stopped back by my place for something, maybe just the bathroom, and then to the second food stop of the day. Sweet Ritual is a non-dairy ice cream shop, and I had a coupon. It was a pretty warm day for October, so I got more sun than planned riding but also sitting outside. I’m good with putting on the sunscreen, just often forget to reapply it.
While there, Guest Rider #2 Jonathan joined us. He was a former neighbor who used to work at a bike shop. He had some ice cream, too, while we talked about biking and such. Jenni headed home and Jonathan and I stopped at the Trek store. Coincidentally, he was wearing a free Trek t-shirt. No free goodies were on offer but it was nice to say hi. Unfortunately because I was behind schedule, so it was a pretty quick ride before he had to go to a class or something. But that was okay because he’s quite young and super fit. In any real long distance ride on the open road, both of them would have left me eating their dust. Which is free, but not on my menu, birthday or any other day. After a while of riding on my own, I discovered a lemonade stand set up by some kids, which was tasty because it was getting warmer and I was getting more tired.
About this time I was trying to meet my next accompanist, but he was delayed. So I kind of headed in a direction where that was still possible, and fortunately it worked out. Guest Rider #3 Alan, who’s also no slouch on the bicycle, is a former roommate/landlord. He sometimes rides with his little dog Gizmo in the back, but only for short distances. I guess I had subconsciously picked people who were way faster than I to help me get the miles down, but he kindly held back and rode with me about 15 miles without serving me a helping of dirt soup. We stopped by one of the free birthday food places, but they were closed. I introduced some routes he wasn’t aware of, so that was fun. Eventually he needed to head home and I thanked him for his service.
I stopped by Sun and Ski Sports to say hi, but again nothing free there except the air. Next up was three time birthday ride repeat offender Guest Rider #4 Rhodney. We met at a Juiceland, where I had another coupon, for smoothies. We tooled around for 10 miles or so, landing at Black’s Barbecue. I made it 56.56 miles for good measure. Although not a free food place, Rhodney offered to treat, along with Saurabh. Actually a human bear who is a former cyclist and walker who went back into exercise hibernation, he did show up for food. After a sumptuous serving of meats, beans, and more, I noticed two guys had left some of their turkey and ribs left untouched. Hating to see such food go to waste I wrapped it up and ended up with some freebies after all.
Rhodney headed home so Saurabh and I ended the night at Amy’s Ice Cream. If you ask they will give you birthday ice cream, usually by throwing it over the counter for you to catch in a bowl, which I’ve done for several years. Fortunately, the server admitted to not being any good at tossing it through the air, so she just handed it to me. He put my bike on the car rack and dropped me at home. I proceeded to take my walk, do my yoga, flute and reading and writing. A few days later he and I saw No Time to Die using my free movie. I still have a few other freebies to collect. Sadly I forgot my free toy at Toy Joy and I Luv Video is closed forever so no free DVD. A few others I just didn’t bother with.
It was a long, exhausting day, but well worth it. I was fortunate to be able to share it with friends, not have any crashes, tickets, flat tires, or other mechanicals, and finish the ride. The only bad thing that happened was I got more sun than intended and didn’t re-apply enough sunscreen. Another year on the books. I’ve never been this old before. If I make it to my next birthday, there’ll be an extra mile. Someday I may have to switch to kilometers, or the dreaded pedal-assist bikes. But not yet. Thanks again to Jenni, Jonathan, Alan, Rhodney and Saurabh.
Hey, maybe I’ll start a trend — birthday bike ride with fun and friends to get food, free or not. Let me know if you do it!
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