Cycling: It’s not all about the workout

On Memorial Day, I was on a two-hour ride into the Wake County countryside. At the light on Green Hope High School Road and NC 55, a retro-ish looking Trek tandem pulled up next to me, dad in the pilot’s seat, son behind him in the stoker’s seat. “My son’s autistic,” the dad began. “This is a great way for us to get out and explore together.” Their rides, he said, were generally in the 20- to 25-mile range and inevitably wound up at McDonald’s. The two couldn’t have looked more content.

The light changed, we crossed NC 55, then shortly dismounted to cross the railroad tracks before Carpenter Upchurch Road. As we did, Stan and Jan Cox were crossing from the opposite direction. We struck up a conversation — the father/son tandem continued on — that continued a few days later with an email exchange. From those conversations I learned this about the couple that, had it not been for the dismounting disturbance of the railroad tracks (there is no crossing and concrete barricades actively discourage cyclists from hiking over the tracks), I would otherwise simply have passed with a wave and a hello.

  • Both commute by bike to work, Jan as a teacher at Green Hope High School (which we happened to be across the street from), Stan to N.C. State’s Centennial Campus. Said Stan: “My commute is 11 miles one way and I cycle commute around 3 times a week.  Jan commutes 4 miles one way and she commutes around 2 times a week.  Commuting is my favorite riding because I feel like I’m accomplishing something and weekend riding is not what it was now that the roads west of Cary have become more and more crowded.  We are both fortunate in that we have routes that take us off main roads; not easy in this cul-de-sac road planning area.  I put a lot of thought into finding a good route.”
  • About dealing with motorists: “Most drivers are courteous to me and I try to be courteous in return,” says Stan. “I never run lights, stay to the far right side of the lane.” Cyclists are common on Centennial Campus, so it tends to be more bike friendly. As for Jan, Stan says she sticks to the back roads. “She tries to avoid the high school drivers; I cannot say that I blame her!”
  • On how they got into cycling: “I’ve ridden road bikes pretty much all my life but mostly just casual riding,” says Stan. “I started cycling more seriously to do triathlons. Jan got a road bike a few years ago figuring if I was going to go out cycling then she might as well join me!  It has been a nice hobby for the two of us.”
  • On living a well-rounded active life: “My preferred sport is swimming; unfortunately I cannot swim to work. (Ever see the Burt Lancaster movie ‘The Swimmer’?) … “I do the FS Series swims.  Jan swims and runs so she can do an occasional triathlon.”
  • On goals: “We also ride with an MS team that cycles year round,” says Stan. “This year we would like to ride double centuries — 100 miles on Saturday and Sunday, something we’ve never done before.  The MS ride is a different experience from the swimming/triathlon events I normally do as you aren’t racing a clock so it is more relaxed.”

After 10 minutes or so, our respective lures — mine of finishing up, the Cox’s of getting a ride in before the afternoon heat hit — ended our conversation.

The entry in my workout log book for May 31 reads “strong ride,” but I can’t recall what made it so (climbed the hills with ease? Smoked on the flats?). But I still remember my stoplight exchange with the father/son tandem — they get ice cream at McDonald’s — and my crossing paths with the Cox’s.

Good workout, better conversations.

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