“It is by riding a bicycle that you learn the contours of a country best, since you have to sweat up the hills and coast down them.” - Ernest Hemingway
I live in the small but mighty beautiful state of New Hampshire, the base camp of all my explorations on two wheels. And I could wax and wane for days without doing this great green swath justice. But for a cyclist, the state can be summarized in one easy word . . . hills.
The majority of my riding is local to the Keene area. Miles racked up with work, and errands, and dental cleanings, and grocery shopping, the contents of most Saturday mornings. And though I typically ride over 80 miles a week, I have to confess, I usually encounter less than 100 feet of elevational difference daily. I live in, what appears to be, the only part of the state where you can bicycle without sweating through your work clothes, and play croquet. These are indeed sweet miles. But next weekend . . .
Next weekend I test the full range of love and consciousness in the hills of Alstead for the second annual “Dirty Pizza Ride.” It is a ride supported with outstanding wood-fired, sourdough pizza and Orchard Hill Bread. It is bursting with community, and the love of velo. It is an opportunity to face the contours of nearly 5,000 feet of elevation over 40 miles of dirt and asphalt. Last year, I rode over the finish line and comforted myself in calories and the certainty of never doing that again . . . but they added a slightly modified version called the “Clean Pizza Ride” with ten miles shaved off, removed the largest climb, added a few intriguing prizes, and the pizza is so tantalizing . . . so now I’ve done it again.
I’m a local. And it’s important to ride off my own beaten path and into the asphalt ribbons and byways that stretch into these lush green hills. It’s important to explore and celebrate the awesomeness of neighborhood with all its contours.
I will roll over my 2000th mile in 2016 this weekend. And as I reflect over these miles from Boston to Belgium, I am happy for the hills. Happy to imprint these inclinations, because I learn most when the road is not flat out before me.