Matt knocked on the door. He had come to fetch me. His big pickup backed out of the drive and got on the highway. He had driven over from Austin, and now we were headed to Sugarland to meet Russell for a bicycle ride. I didn’t have a bicycle. All I had was my kit, shoes, and pedals. Russell had borrowed a bike for me.
It wasn’t too hot outside but the humidity was slaughtering.
At Russell’s, Matt pulled his bike out of the cab. It is the same bicycle he has had for thirty years now, a beautiful red and white Rossin with the original Campy Super Record components. I screwed in my pedals and put on a loaner helmet and off the three of us went. The brutal sticky heat felt like you were swimming in hot syrup on a bicycle.
But before we could really get started with that I had to stop. My legs felt terrible. I supposed it was the heat or because I wasn’t very fit. Or fast. Or good. Then I realized that in my haste I hadn’t eaten breakfast, and that my last meal had been at noon the day before, when I ate a big pizza. We stopped at a convenience store, where I drank a coke.
Before long it became time for us to do what old bicycling friends are obligated by law and custom to do with one another; we were obligated to try ride each other into the ground. Then we proceeded to maul each other. After the sprinting and the hammering and the dropping concluded, we pedaled easily for the remaining twenty miles. Matt and I reminisced about the terrible thunderstorm we encountered riding home from Marble Falls to Austin one day in 1985. We had had a 30 mph tailwind until the front came through, lashing us with rain and terrifying us with lightning strikes. Then Russell and I reminisced about dropping Matt a few miles back and how much fun that had been.
Matt was thinking about upgrading to carbon, so Russell gave a brief doctoral presentation on the subject. Matt had a lot of questions. Bikes and wheels had changed in the last thirty years. Who knew?
Back at Russell’s we changed and went to a taco shop. We ate the tacos and they tasted good, with taco sauce dripping onto my hands. Food that drips onto your hands and requires you to lick your fingers always tastes better. There must be something ancient and therefore good about sucking juice off your hands. We ate outside on the patio under slow, creaking ceiling fans because even though it was ferociously hot and humid, the taco shop also served giant frozen glasses filled with ice-cold Sierra Blanca pale ale.
People who drink cold beer in an air-conditioned room when they could drink cold beer in the sweltering hot outdoors, there is something wrong with those people. Also, if you are very dehydrated and you drink three of those giant mugs of beer you will feel it immediately. In fact, you will feel it even if you are not dehydrated at all.
Matt has been going through some tough times, like we all do. But a lot of things recede in significance after you’ve gone on a hard bike ride with your buddies and then topped it off with tacos and cold beer. There is something about being able to reach down through the years and grasp old friendships, those smooth, worn relationships that so perfectly fit your hand.
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