The bike ride: John’s version

This is a guest post by John Johnson, Mimi’s brother. At our invitation, he and his wife, Kim, are sharing a “2 Roads Diverged” view of their recent trip:

Kim had suggested a bike ride a couple times in recent weeks.  I love that she wants to do these things together, but I also know this is one of the angles she’s working to encourage me to get out and exercise more – a lot more.

A couple weeks ago we were staying in the city for our anniversary and walked north along the bike trail from Scioto Audubon Metro Park to Scioto Mile, a revitalized area of Columbus along the Scioto River with a great riverfront park and restaurant we’ve become fond of. That’s when she first wondered aloud if there was a trail we could ride from the north suburbs all the way to downtown.  We often talk about spending more time in the city. I’m continually surprised by how vibrant Columbus is, and equally surprised we don’t spend more time enjoying the city now that the kids are gone.  A bike ride to downtown sounded like a great idea.

Olentangy – Scioto Bike Trail Information (warning – video is 8 minutes):

Starting at the trail head in Westerville, a suburb north of the I-270 beltway, makes about a 15-mile ride to the city, most of it right along the river and passing through several parks along the way.  It’s a perfect early summer Saturday.  As I’m putting the bikes in the truck I’m thinking it wasn’t that long ago I was biking a lot, and a 30-mile round trip is nothing.  Then I realize it’s been almost a year since I’ve ridden and 2003 since I really cycled regularly.  Is that possible?  Where did the time go?

As we’re strapping our helmets and mounting up to ride I’m acutely aware what a physical mess I am compared to Kim.  She’s so fit! Eats healthy all the time, goes to the gym each week – yoga, tennis, aerobics, salsa work outs, marathon training.  I’m a slug.  Drink too much, late-night dinners on the road, almost never out of my office chair, except to get to the car to drive to the airport and then spend countless hours in an airplane seat.  My knees hurt all the time.  My balance isn’t what it used to be.  I’m reminded I have to think about balance when I take my pants off. Move too quickly to balance on one foot and I could literally be taken down by my own underwear.

Once on the trail it feels great to be riding. The path is relatively flat and the breeze created from our pace is refreshing. There’s plenty of shade as the path winds through a continuous stretch of greenway along the river, connecting one park to the next. Kim gave me one of those cycling mirrors to put on my helmet. I always thought guys with those mirrors on their helmets looked kind of dorky. I can feel her right behind me. I try repeatedly to adjust my mirror so I can see her. No matter how I move the damn thing, all I get is alternate views of tree tops and my own shoulder. I tell myself to give it up and enjoy the ride.

When we reach Antrim Park I ask Kim to lead the way. Antrim has a nice little lake with a separate looping trail. There’s always a decent crowd here. Bikes, roller blades, runners, walkers, and always a few dogs fetching tennis balls from the lake. The people watching starts to get interesting.  It’s an eclectic mix of people at Antrim – black, white, Asian, Indian, old and young, hard bodies to obese, piercings, colorful sari’s, an occasional burka, and many wearing as little as possible to cover themselves.

Now behind Kim, the pace is faster and I’m working harder. Riding behind her I spend more than a few minutes thinking about how attractive she is, her hair flowing out from under her helmet, parting to the left and right around the back pack she’s wearing. Her firm body and muscular legs. Real nice – and I tell her so. She says she’s glad I’m enjoying the view, and I pick up my pace a little more.

Cycling through the OSU campus I’m surprised how much bigger the university seems when transiting end to end on a bike.  Our daughter Lauren is in there somewhere. I wonder what she’s doing right now.

I go through the same thought process with the other three kids.  What are they doing right now? What follows is a good ten minutes of rapid fire worries about them. Emily has a baby — holy shit — Really? Yes, really. David’s girlfriend is living with him this summer and it seems they’ve started addressing us like they’re a married couple — Really? Yes, really. Keep up the prayers for all of them to find their way, and for patience and wisdom for Kim and me to do our best with these things that are not ours to control.

When we reach Park of Roses, Kim asks if I want to stop for a while or keep going. I’m thinking about reaching our downtown riverside restaurant, Milestone 229, and enjoying a cocktail at the shaded outdoor bar, so let’s keep going. I think it’s about five more miles now.

A glorious ride to downtown Columbus

As we reach the north edge of downtown the path continues to wind along the river, but the shade from all those mature trees gives way to more concrete, steel, and direct sun. It’s hot now. A replica of Santa Maria, flagship of the city’s namesake Christopher Columbus, is moored along the river near Broad Street. There’s a decent crowd in the park alongside the ship and just next to city hall, with performers dressed in period costumes playing music, talking to the crowd, and firing an old cannon. Riding in the city, I can’t help noticing how many really fat people are out walking the trail, shuffling slowly along, sweating in the hot sun with their young kids in tow or out in front, mama yelling at them for one thing or another. I wonder if they are enjoying their day?

Along the final stretch, I notice the really nice covered benches facing the river, some with rocking chairs, all along Civic Center Drive. Classic rock music is playing all along the way from speakers in the shelters over the benches. How cool is that? There are a series of artsy fountains with metal fish swimming in formation and streaming water from their mouths. I wonder why we don’t seriously consider moving closer to downtown. We should be thinking about downsizing now, and as we cycle along I try to imagine living in a much smaller home in the city, hopefully with a much smaller mortgage. I feel it’s time to make a move to get out of the suburbs. I wonder how it would be for Kim to live in the city. She has so many good friends in Dublin. Would they stay connected?

We reach the restaurant, Milestone 229, the end of the outbound ride.  The fountains next to the restaurant are part art and part water park.  The area is packed with kids and a few adults, walking, running, and lying in the water.  We find a place in the shade of the outdoor bar where we can watch the action.

They feature Columbus Brewing Company on tap at Milestone 229.  I abandon the earlier cocktail idea and try the Columbus Brewing Company “Summer Teeth” Lager, which is billed as a “Crisp, Unfiltered, Golden Kellerbier”. I learn that Kellerbier in German literally translates to “Cellar Beer.” In any case, Summer Teeth is very good, and Kim has been thoughtful enough to remember that I liked it, and now it’s in our fridge at home.

Looking around the bar, I start some debate with Kim about the people around us. There is a guy and his wife to our left.  He looks like he’s in his fifties, clean-cut, ex-Marine look. He and the wife look like they are enjoying each other’s company, smiling as they talk, sip their cocktails, and order appetizers. He’s wearing an OSU shirt, and they are both dressed in OSU colors.  My hypothesis is that he’s an  OSU athletic coach. Kim takes the opposing position, saying she doesn’t believe he’s a coach, and pointing out the city is completely full of crazy OSU fans that all wear OSU colors every day.

We do agree the two guys over to our right are a gay couple. They also seem to be enjoying each other’s company, smiling as they talk, and ordering another round of rum cocktails. At the table behind and left, there’s a young woman with a small boy — maybe five years old. She looks very young to have a kid that old. She has shafts of green in her brunette hair, pierced nose and lip, and colorful tattoos on her arms and shoulders. It seems like they are waiting for someone to join them.

It’s been a glorious afternoon with Kim.  We made the fifteen mile ride easily, and along the way appreciated a different perspective on our city by bike.  Now if I could just call someone to come pick us up after a few more beers, that would be perfect.  As we’re mounting up, I start thinking how the elevation here must be lower than where we came from, so although the trail seemed relatively flat, it’s really all up hill to get home.  Oh yeah, and what direction was the breeze coming from?  Will we have the wind in our face riding back?

Before we get out of the city, Kim wants to stop and take pictures of the fish fountains.  I fancy myself a knowledgeable photographer, but when she asks me for some pointers on how to set the shot up for shallow depth of field, she quickly gets annoyed with how I explain things — too technical I guess? She just wants to know where to set the knobs and dials, not why. Remember that.

We stop at a wetlands observation stand on the return trip. In the blazing sun we are searching the marsh for signs of life. After finding a duck and a red-winged blackbird we decide to press on. On the return, we do stop at Park of Roses. Kim is interested in taking a few pictures there. As we are approaching the rose garden, we realize there is a wedding ceremony in progress just ahead. It’s a beautiful park, and I can understand how a young bride might want to be married here. We both notice and comment on how hot, uncomfortable, and unhappy most of the guests look.  More than a few clearly have the “let’s get this the hell over with and get in the air-conditioned car” look.  When they release the butterflies, nobody seems to smile.

As we’re admiring the roses and Kim is taking some pics, I learn something very important. We’re looking at these big beautiful pink roses, and they smell fantastic. Kim  asks me what the variety is. “The sign says Pink Heritage”, I tell her. “I want these at my funeral”, she replies.

The time at Park of Roses is peaceful and calm, and we linger for quite a while.  Finally we realize it’s getting late, almost 6 p.m. now, and we have maybe eight to ten miles to go.  As we get back on the trail, I don’t really have much left. Kim is holding a steady pace that’s probably three or four mph faster, and I’m just not going to keep up. I lose sight of her several times as she rides on ahead, but then she eventually stops a couple times for me to catch up.

As we are loading the bikes in the truck to head home, she tells me how awesome I am for getting out there and making a 30-mile bike ride after basically spending a year on the couch. I appreciate it, but there’s something a little humiliating and unnerving about this.  Maybe it’s that I have this really healthy, fit, active, sexy wife — and she’s trying to get me off my ass and in shape so I can keep up with her while we’re still young enough to do stuff. I get it. The following day we go for an hour of tennis in the 90 degree heat — me hopped up on Motrin from the bike ride.

Pink Heritage Rose, photo from Water Daily blog of the New York Horticultural Society

2 thoughts on “The bike ride: John’s version

  1. Pingback: The bike ride: Kim’s version | 2 Roads Diverged

  2. Great first ride John! Proud of you! Remember when you challenged me as too old and too fat to do RAGBRAI? And I haven’t stopped riding since!
    Currently training to do a century in Sept. Want to join? I’d be easier to draft behind than Kim:) But not nearly as attractive. On second thought, send Kim.
    Mike, the oldest brother-in-law

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