Gerund or present participle: drowning-
To die through submersion in and inhalation of water.
“She drowned in the pond.”
Synonyms: suffocate in water, inhale water; go to a watery grave.
“He nearly drowned.”
According to Webster, drowning only ever happens in water, though to be fair, the sensation can just as easily happen on dry land. For me, this usually occurs shortly after returning home from a walkabout and find myself faced with an ever-expanding list of tasks and responsibilities, that no matter how far away I get from home, never seem to dissipate.
The upside to any of this however is obviously the previously noted walkabout, for without one of them every now and again, I most assuredly would lose what few marbles I seem to have retained this tenuous grasp upon.
This time around my rag tag group of Shimano Gravel Alliance ne’er-do-wells and I found ourselves in Dulles, Virginia, which as near as I can tell was a small town near that particular airport, which has since turned into a sprawling mass of empty roads, and shopping centers.
However, this would just be our meeting spot, and would serve as our home base as we rode our bikecycles along meandering tow paths, and century old dirt roads for the following few days.
In my mind’s eye, I had hoped that during our Washington DC trip, we could potentially stop by the National Museum of American History and maybe be treated to a behind the scenes look at their collection. Moreover, I was looking forward to perhaps getting to take a peek at the fanzine I made last year that was somewhat recently acquired into their collection;
Alas, after weeks of going back and forth with my person there on the inside, our guided visit just wasn’t to be.
Instead, on our first day the whole gaggle of us rode to DC in the rain, and gave ourselves our own personalized, albeit super soggy visit to the museum, and the beautiful tow path that helped deliver us there;
While waiting in Georgetown to regroup, we were treated to a performance by Larry, Daryl, and his other brother Daryl as they taught a ferret to hunt rats;
Which if you haven’t seen it yourself, is a feast for the soul.
Anyway, immediately upon our arrival to the city, we saw Abraham Lincoln’s house;
-And the NASA headquarters, made famous in 1997’s blockbuster ‘Men In Black’:
Once at the museum, we locked up what could have potentially been in the neighborhood of $100,000 worth of bikes;
At this point I received a text from Cranpa mentioning that I should get kicked out of somewhere so that I can officially say that I was BANNED IN DC. Wouldn’t you know it, but just a short time later I got kicked out of the entry way of the museum. It was like destiny.
I eventually gave up on circling around with the video crew to get my bag containing dry clothes, so I went inside and met up with the group. As we explored the collection, we saw an array of goodies, some of my favorites being the shoes Prince wore in ‘Purple Rain;
Joe Breeze’s klunker, and Georgia Gould’s Olympic mountain bike, both of which were fashioned in 1812 from a block of granite by none other than the inventor of the wheel himself, Mr. Gary Fisher;
And the car from ‘Chitty Chitty Bang Bang’;
We also sat in a corner and huddled for warmth;
After a delicious lunch and a few hours of being looked at by all other museum attendees as though we ourselves were a display, we hopped back on our steeds and made the return to where we started our day so that we could get cleaned up and out the door for dinner. We ate, drank, and fell asleep, so as to do it all over again the following morning.
After a restful night’s sleep, we cracked our eyes open, ate a bit of food, and rejoined forces. Today we would be further treated to an array of local routes, and three hundred year old dirt roads by our teammate, and possessor of local knowledge, Phil Thomas.
Initially, I’d heard murmurings of a sixty mile day, which quickly whittled down to about more than half, as keeping the group intact as well as maintaining a proper clip proved to be a bit difficult.
So we rode until it was time to no longer, and headed back to the our start at the astonishingly picturesque Dirt Farm Brewery. We all were treated to a taste of local flavor/sadomasochism as we faced the Dirt Farm’s Driveway of Death®™©. It was about a mile long, with several sections that were (by my estimation) about a 25% grade. My chest hurt, and my legs hurt, but luckily we were met with some tasty food, beer and almost most importantly, a fire for our efforts;
Which after riding back and forth through the creek a few times, and then standing in it to get some photos, was mightily appreciated;
We chitchatted about the day, and talked about what might be next for the Gravel Alliance/Gang/Horde/Family before once again, loading up, heading out, and packing up, as all of us were to be departing in the coming hours.
In my time with the group, and on this particular trip, I reflected on my initial reluctance to sign up for this entire program. I repeatedly said no, and I consistantly offered up suggestions of people I thought would be better suited than I to be an ambassador for Shimano and their push into this somewhat outsider market.
What did I know about gravel riding? I mean, I always have just called it ‘riding my cross bike on dirt roads’. Needing to define it as something special and unique seemed to me contrived at best.
But here we are a year later, and the method to Shimano’s madness is crystal clear. While I hope that their venture into the world of ‘riding bikes on dirt roads’ is a successful one, the experiences and relationships their pursuit into this world has afforded me have become one of the most beautifully pure, and beloved pages in my existence.
Who could have guessed that eleven months after meeting this group and having these adventures, it would become a life preserver in amidst a world increasingly rife with conditions that conspire to pull me under.