News radio seeps from the tinny speaker of my alarm clock. It is 6:40 am and the headlines weave their way into my dreams. The sun is just barely up and the thermometer reads 45 degrees Fahrenheit — a perfect temperature for sitting at the dining room table with a steaming cup of Earl Grey tea.
It is Sunday morning, and for nearly a year, it has been my weekly tradition to drag my ‘donkey’ out of bed and take it for a ride around the city of Atlanta aboard my trusted friend and confidant, the road bike.
I have a three-year-old son, which means that there is not much space in my life for anything, including exercise. But the accumulation of flab has no respect for life’s circumstances. Last January, my daily encounter with the bathroom scale posted a clear reminder that the matter needed my immediate attention, and my wife was kind enough to respond by granting me a Sunday morning exercise slot.
In a former life, I cycled several times a week, and I was becoming fairly decent, as hobby riders go (one time, I even placed third in a local mountain biking time-trial). I was trim and energetic with springy legs and a swirling, whirling metabolism. And best of all, when it came to the uphills, I could climb all of my friends into breathlessness, mashing up to the summit without a hint of fatigue.
That all changed with the advent of my son, and it goes without saying that I am thrilled with the trade-off. However, lipids are lipids, and muffin tops are simply not welcome on these thighs. So I now choose to wake early, don a ridiculous amount of spandex, brave the elements, and head out into the streets for my Sunday ride.
My preferred route leaves my modest saltbox neighborhood and weaves through the prettiest, wealthiest suburbs Atlanta has to offer, generally mimicing the sinewy banks of the Chattahoochee River. In 30 short miles, the course traverses pockets of forest and clusters of skyscrapers, rows of strip-malls, and swaths of industrial structures and railroad yards. It is a great ride made all the better by the fact that nearly all of the city’s inhabitants are soundly sleeping, rendering even the busiest thoroughfares of the Atlanta grid desolate. Though the weather has not always been cooperative, I have been faithfully forcing myself out of bed and into the saddle all year, only missing the ride when I am out of town or rare sheets of rain scare me away.
The past several weeks have been the peak of Autumn in the Atlanta, which in my opinion is the glory of the south. The weather has been balmy, the air crisp, and the leaves a vibrant fireworks display of fuschia, sienna, and gold.
What a contrast to this gray, dismal morning. The piercing outside chill has already found its way between the covers and is nibbling on my toes. I smack the snooze button thrice as I salivate over the thought of my tall, white mug filled with Earl Grey.
No. I crawl out of my queen-sized coccoon. I slither into my spandex tights. I wiggle my fingers into my gloves. I clip the clasp of my helmet. And I throw my leg over my bicycle, shivering as I climb that first curvy incline out of my neighborhood.
I can not claim to love today’s ride in its entirety. Only after an hour and a half did the sun warm the earth enough to allow me the relief of feeling my fingertips again. But I got out there. I pedaled the morning away, burned off last night’s order of fish tacos, and found myself a brief respite from the grindstone.