When my wife gets home in the afternoon, I sometimes act like a dog that's been locked up alone all day: "Hi hi hi hi hi hi hi!"
See, I'm a bit isolated by the writing process. Trying to finish a dissertation is a lonely endeavor, especially when one's advisers and fellow students are 1,500 miles away. I also live in a town with no doctorate-granting schools. I know Creighton University awards law and medicine degrees, but those folks are just a different breed.
No one I know here in Omaha has been through this process of writing a 300-page academic book. I could try to reconnect with my old faculty at UNO, but they have students and projects of their own to worry about. So I have very little human interaction in my work. I basically sit inside all day and read .pdf scans of documents owned by the British or Bodleian Libraries. I try to get out every now and then by volunteering in Abbey and Katie's school and by riding my bike, but lately the cycling's been a bit solitary, too.
I think the riding here in Omaha could be great, but pedaling along the Keystone Trail in late winter is a motivation-killing slog through a succession of browns and grays unrelieved by any aesthetic beauty. The hills north of town are pretty, but I don't often have time to get out there. I either ride an out-and-back south from Country Club through UNO to the Keystone, or I head east down Burt to the Bob Kerry Pedestrian Bridge toward the levee trails in Iowa. I need to find a more inspiring loop--but then again, I'll never find the Vaca mountains beckoning me, will I?
I used to reach 47 mph on that descent--notice the root word has a "c" that's missing in the video's title. God, I miss Cardiac Grade.
I'm also spinning alone these days because I haven't met enough people to ride with. I'm a bit too fast for casual recreational riders (although I love riding with slower folks--just not on my harder training days), and I'm still too slow to hang with the real racers. My training right now is all about the long, slow base miles which the other racers all finished by mid-January or February. The Cougar has invited me to sit in on the Bike Masters Wednesday night ride, but a race pace would be really counterproductive right now, especially so soon after recovering from my back injury and with so few base miles in my legs.
That's one of the things I miss most about Davis, I guess: lots and lots of people on bikes. On warm Spring days (which usually occur from November through May), you'll see more bikes than cars on the roads around town. And the racing? Here's the Pro 1/2 field in Winters, CA, a 20-minute drive away:
Popular races would fill 7-10 categories with 50-100 entries each, and many of these events were less than an hour's drive away. I sometimes drove two or three hours to a race, but not that often. And one could race both Saturday and Sunday every weekend from February to September.
If I ever rode or trained alone in Norcal, it was by choice--a decision I made about half the time. But if I wanted company, I could post to my collegiate team's listserv, email my master's team, or drop a note on the message board of the local club. If I simply said, "Leaving Bike Barn at 2:45 pm for 2.5 hours with 5 ME intervals," 6 random people would show up. And the recurring race rides on Tuesday afternoons, Tuesday/Thursday evenings, and Saturday mornings would average 30-60 people--some of whom were professionals fast enough to string the ride out at 23 mph during warm-ups, 27 during accelerations, and 30+ for the sprints. Imagine pulling through in a rotating paceline with 30 other guys at 30 mph for five miles while another 20 are hanging on the back and 25 more are getting dropped.
Trade that kind of riding for the long, solo, freezing traverses I've been putting in lately? It's been tough. Yes, I know the weather's about to turn. I know that I'll meet a lot of cool people at races and on group rides. I know that nearly everyone who rides a bike is constitutionally awesome, even if there are fewer of them per capita here in Omaha than in Davis. And I've met some great people in the last five months, so I'm optimistic about the season.
But I gotta meet more people. I need to get out of my attic every now and again. So I accepted a job offer from my old friend Miah Sommer: I'm going to work one shift a week at the Trek Store here in Omaha. I know, I know--people who work in bike shops don't actually ride their bikes. I call this phenomenon the "Andrew Wike Corollary," so named after a pretty good Cat 3 racer who's quit riding his bike since he went full-time at Davis Wheelworks. Miah himself supposedly has a custom Serotta hanging in his garage, but I've never seen it.
However, I hereby pledge to use this part-part-part-time job as a cycling-inducing aspect of my life. I'll use the weekly commute to the store as a training ride, and all my earnings will go toward gear and nutrition purchases. And, hopefully, I'll meet a few like-minded members of the clan, fellow devotees of the noblest invention.
Now if I could only find some other doctoral candidates in the Humanities to talk to....