Flat is not a dirty word

According to Ed, a very accomplished cycling friend of mine, using the word “flat” to describe terrain on a bike ride will doom you to a puncture. Yesterday I rode in Dorchester County on the Eastern Shore Maryland. If an area can be more than flat, this is it. Over the course of four or five hours on the bike, I think I climbed less than 100 feet, and never more than ten feet in any one place.

Many years ago I did an early spring ride with my friend Heather. It was a shorter alternative to the Six Pillars Century. The six pillars refer to the six pillars of character. I can never remember them so I suppose one of the pillars is “recollection.” I used the map of the 56-mile Eagleman triathlon course as my guide.

The ride begins and ends in Cambridge Maryland, a small town on the Choptank River. The route makes a 56-mile loop mostly through Whitewater Wildlife Refuge.

Within a mile or two of town, I was pedaling past farmers fields. The farms reminded me of the Midwest, huge flat spaces with alternating crops. Most of the fields had yet to be planted though.

One curious thing about the ride is that nearly every road is bordered by a draining ditch. In the past they’ve been filled with croaking frogs but on this day the ditches were quiet. Sadly, they seem to be collection points of trash like beer cans (Natural Light seems to be a local favorite) and fast food soda cups.

Winds were light so I was pretty much under my own power for the entirety of the ride. Without hills to shake things up, I sat for the entire ride. After three hours of being in the same position, my buttocks began to complain. That’s the only bad thing I can say about this ride. It seems strange to say this but this was an easy 56-mile ride, quite a contrast to my recent 44 1/2 mile hillfest in Virginia.

The refuge is vast, allowing the waterfowl to spread out. I typically see more waterfowl on the Mount Vernon Trail than I did here. There were some noisy birds lurking near the road to keep me entertained. I disturbed one snowy egret in the ditch along the road. It rewarded me by taking off and flying back and forth across the road in front of me.

Along the way I saw a small red pickup truck on the side of the road. It was next to a ride on lawn mower. The driver of the pickup was talking to the rider of the mower as the driver tried to push the pick up, which was oriented perpendicular to the edge of the roadway. The driver was awkwardly positioned, pushing on the open door of the cab. He was perhaps 60 years old, round, in overalls, is white hair making a circle around his bald spot. He was not exactly the kind of person one would expect to be pushing a pick up truck, at least not with any success. Not surprisingly, as I approached, I could see the driver struggling as the pickup began to roll backward. In a few seconds the rear of the truck dropped into the roadside ditch as mower person looked on. As I rode past, another pickup came from the opposite direction and pulled over to help out the ditched pick up. Dorchester County, where excitement lives.

I brought along some munchies and snacked as I rode. I never once felt strain in my legs. When my mind drifted I’d drop down to 10 miles per hour, but mostly I was cruising along at 13 mph with very little effort.

As I came back into town, retracing the first few miles of the route, I decided to push the pace. I increased my pedaling tempo as farms gave way to houses. I was having such a good time that I missed my turn. Doh!

Missing the turn gave me the chance to meander through a residential section of town. It looked like Anytown, Indiana. Small, level lots with one-story houses.

When I finished, I was tired but not the least bit sore. This ride was just what my body was looking for: lots of miles and the reassurance that my old bones weren’t done with this bicycling thing yet.

Some impressively dense woods along the road
There were scores of inlets like this along the road
Swamp road
Look to the right to see the egret I spooked
Fields of yellow outside of Cambridge MD

I am happy to report no tires were punctured in the making of this bike ride and blog post.

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