It’s rarely windy in Springdale Cemetery.
This is a plus if 1) you’re the kind of person who doesn’t like to ride a bicycle in windy conditions and/or 2) worry about possible wind-related damage to mausoleums, ossuaries and obelisks, some weighing thousands of pounds and seemingly immune to anything short of a couple of tornadoes accompanied by a meteor strike, so, really, what are you worried about again?
But what Springdale lacks in wind it makes up for in short, sharp inclines and a road surface that could best be described as irregular–sometimes paved, sometimes lightly graveled, sometimes lightly graveled over pavement.
If you ride here, be careful: Gravel over pavement is not gravel; it’s an Etch-a-Sketch ready to erase you at any time. Keep your weight over the contact patch of your tires at all times or be prepared to patch the many points at which your clothes and skin make contact with the ground.
When I ride through Springdale, usually with my friend Robert, I keep score of the ride’s quality the same way I score golf: Zero is perfect–no falls off the bike, no golf balls lost.
And while a score of one is regrettable, I’ve never scored more than one on a ride (although I have recorded three on one golf course).
I’m happy to report today’s was a perfect ride.
That doesn’t mean it was easy.
Oh, for Robert it was easy. He’s been riding through Springdale for years, and his power-to-weight ratio handily exceeds my own.
He’s the perfect riding companion, though, always waiting for me at the top of the hill.
Every single one.
One part of me imagines that Robert likes to ride with me because he likes to ride with anyone. We humans are, after all, social animals.
Another part of me imagines that Robert likes to ride with me because my willingness to follow his line may indicate I am coachable. Here’s an imaginary conversation to underscore this possibility.
Climb this hill.
Right behind you, coach.
Jump this curb.
Following your line, coach.
Hang onto your Etch-a-Sketch.
Both knobs, sir. Yes, sir!
Go ahead, catch your breath.
As soon as I find it, coach.
Yet I suspect the real reason Robert rides with me is I keep showing up, like a lab rat more willing than expected to run through his maze. In other words, he keeps riding with me to find out why I keep riding with him.
The answer, of course, is shockingly simple: Riding a bicycle is cheaper than golf, at least while I keep scoring zero through Springdale.
Finally, an honest-to-gosh headwind: 19 mph on Hakes Road, no less.
I couldn’t be happier.
Because I’m riding into the wind at the start of my the ride, and the wind is so strong that’s it’s unlikely to change direction before I get home, which means a tailwind on the way back.
Which means a free push.
By free I mean a push that costs me nothing except the effort I’m putting into moving against the wind as I head south, which I’ll forget about as soon as I head north.
After every tailwind ride I’m like somebody who loses a wallet full of money one day, forgets about it, and then gets excited by finding a quarter.
Hey, free quarter! Maybe someday I’ll find a wallet!
But right now, it’s hard to ignore the headwind because I’m riding a fixed-gear bicycle with a 64-inch gear.*
If I had a lower gear available, I’d use it. But when you have one gear, you keep grinding away.
You. With your hand up. You have a question?
Yes. Why are you riding a bicycle with just one gear?
Good question. I guess I ride this bicycle because it’s simple. Less to go wrong. And it’s quiet.
Sorry, I didn’t hear your answer. It’s pretty windy.
Yes, it is. And sunny. Beautiful day for a tailwind ride.
But it’s not a tailwind yet. Don’t you wish you were riding the bike you rode with Robert this morning? You’re pedaling so slowly…
I won’t be when I turn around.
But with the wind at your back, wouldn’t you be able to go faster if you could shift to a higher gear?
I like your curiosity. But surely there are others who would like to ask a question. How about you? What’s your question?
Why are you pedaling so slowly?
Don’t think about it as slow. Think about it being appropriate for the conditions.
But wouldn’t a bike with gears be more appropriate for the conditions?
Maybe, but what if the conditions change?
You mean what if the wind goes away and the world turns out to be flat?
Exactly. It’s possible that conditions will change as soon as I reach the next corner. The only way to find out is to keep pedaling.
I’ve never been stopped by a headwind.
But as I pass a country graveyard south of Edelstein, I’m rethinking my understanding of the wind’s effect on cemeteries.
That’s because I don’t see any mausoleums, ossuaries or obelisks. None.
Think of the sheer tonnage eliminated. The force involved, not just to upset them, but to erase them.
And yet I see not a single funereal structure beyond a small number of headstones inexplicably left behind.
Must have been a heck of a wind storm among the corn fields yesterday. Maybe a meteor. I’ll check the news when I get back home.
*A fixed-gear has one chainring and one cog. The cog is screwed onto the hub and held in place with a lock ring. There’s no freewheel mechanism. If the wheel is turning, so are the pedals. Now imagine pedaling a kid’s tricycle but the front wheel is 64 inches in diameter. That’s a 64-inch gear. A Specialized S-Works Roubaix, definitely not a fixed gear bicycle, has two chainrings in front and 11 cogs in the back, offering gears ranging from 30 inches to 122 inches. That’s a tall high gear—makes you wonder what kind of tailwind Specialized engineers regularly encounter.