The oatmeal ride.

I sat in my car in the parking lot, tired, hungover. It was early, too early for how late I had gone to bed the night before. I felt more like snuggling in the warm covers than hopping on a mountain bike and pedaling through the snow for a couple hours. But I refused to be the one to bail.

He was running late. Part of me hoped that he wouldn’t show. But then, I saw the little red Toyota pickup rumbling down the road. Game time.

He swapped pedals for me, and in doing so, caught his wrist hard on a chain ring, drawing blood. He found some tape, patched it up, and we were off.

The snow was mushy, thick, and several inches deep. Deep enough to make pedaling through it a grueling slog. By 20 minutes in, I began to have thoughts of quitting. At the next intersection, when I caught up to him, I’d tell him I’m turning around, that I just wasn’t feeling it this morning, that I was too tired and the snow is too deep and I felt like I was going to die. My brain listed excuse after excuse.

But by the time I made it to the next intersection, where he was waiting patiently as always, I had convinced myself to forget about all my excuses. There was no way in hell I could quit. If I turned back, he’d write me off and might not invite me to ride again. I couldn’t let that happen. I was enjoying myself too much on these early morning adventures we’d been having the past couple of weeks. And if I quit, I’d just feel crappy about it the rest of the day. So I smiled and replied with a cheerful “Yup!” when he asked if I was good, and we continued, straight up Tussey Mountain.

As we rode the ridgeline, and I pedaled and pushed my way through rock gardens amid the slushy snow that had the consistency of oatmeal, my thoughts wandered away from all the excuses and instead to my riding companion, who was far ahead at this point. We’d known each other for years (about 5 to be exact), and were work acquaintances, but had never become friends until recently, when my interest in fat bikes peaked his interest at a party. He invited me to ride, I accepted, and in the month since, we’d met up several mornings a week to mountain bike.

And the night before, we’d had dinner together. I wasn’t sure if it was a date. Maybe it was just friends having dinner. Or maybe it was a date. A strange chemistry had developed between us during those chilly mornings. Strange because we’d known each other so long, but had always been so distant. I actually never particularly liked him, thought he was a bit stuck-up and could come off like a jerk. But I had never really gotten to know him. Now that I was, I had changed my opinion entirely. I liked him a lot. And my efforts to remain emotionally stoic were failing miserably.

The snow grew soggier as the temperature warmed. At times, it was necessary to pedal even downhill to make any forward progress, and maintaining control of the bicycle in the slippery mush was nearly impossible. But we continued to plod along, him waiting every now and then, and me trotting up to him with a smile every time I caught up, amused by the insanity of it all.

By the time we reached the parking lot where we had started, the 1.5-2-hour ride had turned into 3. He rushed off to work, and I to class, a big silly grin planted on my face. I was falling in love—with fat-biking and with the man who had introduced it to me.

The next evening, I discovered that Evan reciprocated my feelings. We kissed, we talked, and we began what would turn out to be so much more than I ever anticipated.

That was two years ago. Here’s to many more.

morning bike
Not the Oatmeal Ride, but the same time frame—when I still rocked the duck-taped helmet. Photo by Evan Gross.

4 Replies to “The oatmeal ride.”

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