I wasn’t looking for a relationship. I had finally become comfortable and even happy being single after an emotional and tumultuous break up with a long-time partner. Several years had passed. I dated a bit and reconciled myself to not having a special someone in my life, and that was okay. I lived in my own house in a small town in Massachusetts. I had my work, my community, hobbies, and best of all, my bicycling buddies.
Joining BLAB, Bicycling Lesbians Around Boston, was one of the best decisions I made after the breakup. The group formed a few years before I came to it. Some of the original members were still involved, while each spring brought newcomers. There were a range of ages and abilities, long and short rides, from spring through fall. Once colder bone chilling temperatures arrived, bikes were put away for the season.
Tuesday nights were shorter two-hour rides close to the immediate Boston city limits. Those rides averaged ten-fifteen miles, giving us lots of time to talk as we peddled at a slower speed through the traffic and lights of the surrounding communities. Each time we went out we usually paired up with someone who rode at our pace so that we could talk as we peddled.
Saturdays were a longer ride, usually all day, meeting early in the morning west of the downtown city area in more country and farmland settings. These rides were scheduled by a ‘lead’ person who charted out the course and planned for lunch and snack breaks.
By my third year of riding with the Blabbers, I was a seasoned leader. I lived the farthest west of the city folk, close to apple and pear orchards snuggled in among the hilly farmland framed by quiet tree-laden back country roads. We all had our favorite routes and looked forward to new areas to explore. I was excited on this particular April Saturday morning to be riding with many of the core members who were my friends, as well as with one or two new attendees.
Standing in the MetroWest train parking lot, bicycles removed from the back or tops of vehicle racks, we made small talk waiting for all the riders to assemble.
“Do you know someone named Harley?” I asked. “She emailed that she had just joined and Katie referred her to me as the contact for this ride.”
Lauren retorted, “I hope she knows it is bicycling and not motorcycling with a name like Harley.”
We all laughed and watched as another car pulled into the small lot with a blonde woman at the wheel. We could see the tell-tale familiar style bike jersey showing on her shoulders.
Lauren whispered, “Do you think that’s her? She doesn’t look like a Harley.” No, I thought, she doesn’t look like a motorcycle mama.
I waited until the driver killed her ignition, and then approached the vehicle as the woman emerged, in full bike shirt, padded bike shorts and ankle socks—traditional bike uniform. Her chin length blonde hair highlighted her brown eyes and bright smile. Tight spandex bicycle shorts can make one look fat. This wasn’t true for her. She looked every bit the fit athlete.
“Are you Harley?” She’s too attractive to be a ‘Harley’ but you never know, I thought to myself. Don’t judge a book by its cover. “Are you here for the BLAB ride?”
“Harley? No. My name is Ellie. I emailed someone last night about today’s ride, and they told me to meet the group here. Am I in the right place?”
“Yes, this is where we’re starting this morning,” I replied. “Welcome. My name is Mona, and I’m leading today’s ride. Glad you could make it. We’ll get started in a few minutes if you want to get your bike ready,” I told her. “We’ll meet over there.” I gestured to the area most of the others were standing with their bikes.
“Sounds good,” she said. I turned around to return to the group.
“Is that Harley?” Lauren asked.
Ellie walked up to the group with her sleek thin-tired racing bicycle. Smiling, she introduced herself. “Hi, I’m Ellie.” No shyness about this woman. She would fit right in. Everyone welcomed her and told her their names.
“There will be a test to see how many names you can remember,” Lauren teased her. There were seven other core riders assembled today.
“We’re going to be riding out towards Sudbury and Concord, with a lunch stop at Verrill farm stand in Concord. Let’s have fun!”
Helmets and gloves on, we mounted our bicycles and started peddling single file until we got on one of the closer country roads where we could spread out. I always relished the first minutes of starting out on a bike ride. The feel of the seat beneath me, hands gripping the handlebars, legs beginning to pump, feet pushing and pulling the peddles. I was one of the few who still used regular bike peddles with cages, unlike the fancier bikes with clip-on shoes and peddles. I rode a hybrid bicycle—heavier tires than the racing bikes of my cohorts, heavier framed too. I definitely wasn’t the fastest rider, but I could keep up at a steady pace.
Soon we were on the smooth back roads canopied by huge oaks and maples that lined the streets. I loved these Saturday morning rides and for some reason, today felt extra special. I couldn’t have explained it at the time, but in retrospect I know why.
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