Normally, a ride with someone else would be a real rideblog treat. A ride with The Beloved? This should be off the charts.
But first things first… I feel like I need to call him something else. Not because he isn’t Beloved and adored, but because every time I type this, I immediately see him creepily surrounded by ladybugs. Seriously, being an English teacher doesn’t just ruin your ability to read most literature, it impinges on EVERYTHING, including the use of the word “beloved.” Any suggestions for other titles? The Man? The Guy? We’re not married, and “my boyfriend” feels like I’m in seventh grade. “My partner” makes it sound like I’m dating a woman. “My lover” sounds like I’m having a fling with a French guy named Jacques-Pierre. Come on, people, help me out here.
He’s so cute when he’s doing what he loves!
Okay, so why wasn’t a ride with uh… The Wonderful Man I Love a perfect experience? Well, for a couple reasons. But let’s back up, shall we? I’ll set the scene…
It’s July 4th, and we have no children at our household. The Girls are away with their mother’s family, and The Boy is with my ex. We’re alone. Dear god, but that is amazing. Then, on top of the aloneness, we’re both home all day! The Man Formerly Known as The Beloved is not at work or on a mountain. I am not at work or… at work. The liberty! “Let’s take a bike ride!” I exclaim. He’s on board with this. We load up both bikes, and head out to the Soos Creek Trail, because it’s so dang pretty, and I’d like him to see it. So far, so good.
The Guy Who Lives With Me (he’s starting to sound like He Who Shall Not Be Named, but I’m enjoying this anyway) does not have a very nice bike. Hopefully next week, we’ll be finishing the Shogun for him, assuming it fits him properly, with bar tape and fenders and a new saddle. It should be a very good bike. In the meantime, he’s riding the used Columbia “mountain bike” he bought two years ago, before I knew anything about bikes. It is Not A Good Bike. It also needs a tune-up, very badly. Listening to him change gears behind me the entire ride was unnerving: “Ca-CHUNK-click-click-click. Ca-CHUNK-click-click-click.” But he was a good sport about it and didn’t complain, despite the fact that he couldn’t use a third of his gears, since the bike wouldn’t shift onto the large cog.
I look just like my mother in this photo, but with larger boobs. That is a bit dispiriting, as she always said she looked “like a gnome” in photographs. I look like a gnome with larger boobs, I guess.
Anyway, the trail was actually fairly crowded, it being a holiday and sunny. Since it’s in a bit of a valley, the trail was very warm. The Handsome Guy Riding the Terrible Bike behind me was soon sweating up a storm. This also told me that his bike sucked. I am not as strong as he is, in any way (he’s right this instant booking a climb-up-Mt.-Rainier-ski-back-down trip that involves literally 14 hours of climbing and six hours of skiing), so I couldn’t have been kicking his butt that badly on a vintage 3-speed. And he’s not one of those guys who just drips sweat as soon as you look at him. I’m telling you, it was the bike!
At least the mountain came out to play in his honor. Honestly, having ridden this trail three times now, I had no idea that Mt. Rainier was even visible at this point. Ah, the Pacific Northwest… where a 14,000 foot mountain can hide most of the year.
Many years ago, I had a boyfriend from Ireland. When he came to visit me in the US, he refused to believe in Mount Rainier: “That thing isn’t real. You people just prop up a giant cardboard cut-out in all your brochures and claim you have a mountain. I’ve never seen it!”
Here’s a Raleigh-and-Mountain shot, utilizing that cardboard cut-out nicely. Oh, and horse poop! The Guy on The Crappy Bike pointed out that I’d just photographed poop only after I had ridden another mile or so. So helpful, that one!
At any rate, it was strange to ride with someone else. Whenever I stopped to grab a photo, he would say: “Why are we stopping?” Not in a fussy way, but just curious. Still, it made me want to stop less. I paid less attention to nice photo opportunities. I rode faster, and goofed around less.
And I did kick some butt up a few hills. “Was the Lake Washington ride like this?” he asked at one point. “Like this, times twenty,” I noted, thinking that the Soos Creek Trail is really pretty flat. “Really?” he said. “That hilly, huh? This is a great work out!” I guess it’s all relative, but seriously, he climbs mountains so he can ski back down them. It’s hard to believe this seemed particularly tough. I have seen my thighs, up close and personal (to be fair, so has he) and they are NOT stronger than his. Again, it was the bike! The Raleigh rocks the Columbia’s world (it doesn’t even earn a capital “the”).
After riding the six miles to the end of the trail, we turned around and headed back, still just chugging along. The Nice Guy with the Killer Smile doesn’t talk much, and this is even more true when he’s biking. So we were just cruising… nice sunny day… wind in our hair (sort of)… and then suddenly a large brown dog darted out in front of me.
I stopped. There were two girls down the trail. “Is this your dog?” I called, already knowing the answer in my sinking heart. “No,” they called back. “He’s lost. We’re trying to find his owner.” I suggested they call animal control, as the dog was a: old, b: terrified, c: not friendly at all and d: clearly not doing well. Though it had tags, it wouldn’t let anyone within 10 feet of it. The girls said they didn’t know the number for animal control, and I as I pulled up next to them, I realized they were really young, perhaps 16. “Okay,” I said patiently, “I’ll call. Next time, just dial 911 and ask for animal control.”
But I am a moron. It was July 4th. There wasn’t anyone at animal control. There wasn’t going to be anyone at animal control. Oddly, the police didn’t feel that a stray dog warranted a cruiser. Nor did the sheriff. By this time, we had established from passers-by that the poor dog had been there for at least two days. And of course, it was July 4th. Every time someone set off a firework in the distance, the dog started up and ran around frantically.
For many years, I owned a dog who was absolutely flat-out terrified of loud noises. We had to literally lock her up 24 hours a day for a week around the 4th, or she would have done the exact same thing this dog had clearly done. After much fruitless dialing, and nearly 45 minutes of standing around, I had to admit defeat. No one was going to come rescue the dog. The girls then had the very smart and practical idea of calling on mom and dad to drive over with a bowl and a bottle of water to leave for the dog. Given that we were three miles into the trail, this was something of an undertaking, but they were happy just to take any action that would help.
In the end, we had to go. I left a message with animal control, so hopefully someone went out later to look for the dog. Perhaps it went home after the fireworks. I guess, of all the places a frightened old dog could go to escape the fireworks, a bike trail in the middle of a nature reserve isn’t the worst possible spot. Still, riding away, there was a damper on our former enthusiasm. I found it hard to enjoy the rest of the ride.
I did make My Patient Companion take a photo of me actually riding The Raleigh, as I thought that might interest folks, and this was probably one of the few opportunities I’d have (especially given the crap bike he was riding and the likelihood that he’d want to ride it again anytime soon).
The rest of the night was lovely, actually, despite moments of concern for the dog. We had a great dinner, and The Man Who Actually Bakes Pies made a pie for dessert, which we ate when it was too hot, in bowls with vanilla ice cream. How patriotic is that? In the end, we sat on our balcony and watched the five or six fireworks shows near enough to see from our porch (ironically, the nearest one was the least visible, as it was perfectly positioned behind a neighbor’s giant maple tree).
So what happened to the old dog? I don’t know. I choose to believe, having done everything I could at the time, that it all turned out okay. Sometimes, that’s the only option we have.
Parting shot of the mountain, foolishly trying to crouch down behind a couple power-thingies. Stupid mountain. We can totally see you.