Rolling at last

Published 8:31 am Thursday, November 3, 2016

I haven’t had many opportunities to ride my bike this year.

One early obstacle was the bike itself. After years of faithful service, it started slipping gears. Then, sometimes the pedals would seize up, a surprising glitch that threatened to unseat me several times. A tune-up fixed all that, but other difficulties continued.

Some challenges were automotive. My husband and I had always used his car for bicycle transport. Our bike rack strapped easily on its back, and we could take off whenever we wanted. The same task couldn’t be done with my car because the rack didn’t fit. His 10-year-old vehicle had served us for many more than 100,000 miles, but due to various mechanical issues, we could no longer depend on it to get us from point A to point B. So, instead of going for bike rides, we rediscovered the joy of walking.

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Another complication arose related to a change in my work schedule. For many years, I’ve had adjustable hours. If I wanted a morning off, I just worked later into the evening. This flexibility enabled me to be outside enjoying nature when conditions felt idyllic. My new schedule requires that I sit at a desk in an office during specified hours. I haven’t been able to get any sympathy for this predicament, however. For most people, this is just how work works. Nevertheless, for me it was a limiting change that kept me indoors.

The weather also presented a host of trials. It seemed winter lingered longer than normal this year. March and April were cold. May was wet. And, if I remember correctly, June started off cold and wet. Then, with practically no transition, summer arrived, and it was too hot. Temperatures reached into the 90s with matching humidities. Almost daily, the National Weather Service issued warnings about the dangers of doing too much in high heat. By the time a day cooled off enough to enjoy the outdoors, it was dark.

Then one weekend morning not long ago, I woke up to discover that fall had arrived. It was a perfect Goldilocks day — not too hot, not too cold, but just right. Glorious, in fact. My husband had recently acquired a replacement car and our new bike rack was eager to show us what it could do. We strapped up our bikes and headed for High Bridge Trail State Park.

I chose the route. I selected what I remembered as a relatively easy path from the parking lot in Rice to the trail’s end near Burkeville. It’s only about 6.9 miles each way, and a year ago, I considered it a routine ride.

It took me about half a mile to realize that pedaling a bike used entirely different muscles than walking. My legs suggested that I consider turning around. They pleaded. They begged. I compromised by downshifting to an easier gear, but I kept going.

We got to Moran Road, approximately the half-way point. I told my legs that I’d consider turning around at Orchard Road, only one more mile. But once we got there, I gave them a pep talk about how we were so close to the end. Then, before my legs knew it, we’d reached the end of the trail. From there, the only option was to turn around, so my legs gave up complaining and simply carried me back to the car.

The entire trip took 2 hours and 15 minutes. If you do the math, you’ll discover that my speed averaged 6.1 miles per hour. I clearly hadn’t set any records. For comparison, consider a bike ride undertaken by Denise Mueller, a woman from San Diego. In September of this year, she set the women’s bicycle land speed record on a course in the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah. Her record, 147 miles per hour, is safe with me.

Still, I felt a thrill of accomplishment. I’d finally gotten back on my bike. I’d persisted, and I had reached my goal. I’m looking forward to the day this route can once again become routine for me.

Karen Bellenir, a Farmville resident since 2009, blogs for Pier Perspectives at and serves as Editorial Director for Wordwright LLC ( A book titled Happy to Be Here: A Transplant Takes Root in Farmville, Virginia, featuring a compilation of her past columns, was published in September 2016. Her email address is