A blizzard is supposed to hit the DMV (District of Columbia, Maryland and Virginia) today, January 22. I’ll finally have to put my bike away.
I lost a job in October. Quit, resigned, fired, laid off, mutual parting of the ways – it doesn’t really matter. I was on the unemployment line. But it was for the best. It has allowed me to focus on ramping up my graduate program in counseling and focusing more time and attention on my internship, as I make a midlife transition.
Still, the last few months on the job and its loss was stressful. To cope, I engaged in Cycling Fridays, taking the day off from other activities to travel to Carroll County, Maryland, bordering on Pennsylvania, to ride routes through backroads, rolling hills, farmland and small towns.
I have nostalgia for Carroll County, a largely rural and agricultural county that has been
steadily suburbanizing. I worked there for four years as a reporter for The Baltimore Sun, covering agriculture, small towns and county government. I visited dozens of farmers in picturesque settings, writing stories about droughts, dairy operations, beef cattle, breeding, hog farming, farm wives, spring plantings and soybean production. I always loved the country roads and the scenery.
After my job loss, I thought I would make one trek back to my old stomping ground and hang it up for the season. But the weather stayed mild, so I returned for a second Friday. The calendar turned to November, and I thought for sure my Cycling Fridays would be
numbered. But November was often positively summer-like, with temperatures in the 70s, so I continued. December would surely be the end.
But December turned out to be a record-warm month for the area, by far: The average temperature was 51.2 degrees, 11.5 degrees warmer than normal, and 5.5 degrees warmer than the previous warmest December. So on Christmas Day, I was back in Carroll County, cycling in my shorts, temperatures in the 60s. It rained that day – hard – but I didn’t care. How can you complain about riding a bike outside in the Northeast on Christmas Day? I had the whole county to myself that day; there wasn’t a soul outside.
All told, I made seven cycling pilgrimages, lifting my spirits through near-weekly rides
along creeks, past barns and grazing cows, into valleys, through village outposts that time forgot with names like Pleasant Valley and over hills with panorama views of endless farmland and the Blue Ridge Mountains.
I saw a few interesting sights along the way, featured in photos here: The guy with the
tricked-out, burgundy and gold Washington Redskins car with the gold wheel rims and the “F Dallas” license plate, a reference to the Redskins’ longtime rival; the front yard sign hanging from a tree reading, “Welcome to Redneck Paradise;” and a Used Car lot that could have employed the creepy Norman Bates, proprietor of the Bates Motel in “Psycho.”
I’m resigned to the chill and shutdown and difficult mobility of the pending blizzard, but glad that it held off long enough for me to rejuvenate my mind, body and spirit on a bike.