Yesterday Tommie and I joined friends from the Oxon Hill Bicycle and Trail Club for a 44-mile ride in southern Maryland. The air felt cool (even a high of 92 can feel cool after riding in 103 degree heat days before), we were feeling good, and our goal was to make it up the final hill on Bumpy Oak Road without difficulty.
Bumpy Oak kicked our butts last week when we encountered it in 103-degree heat, and we knew that it was the heat that bested us rather than the hill. So yesterday, I was committed to climbing it without having to stop for a rest break.
As the climb began to steepen I heard an exhaust motor approaching from behind and looked over my shoulder to see a utility truck struggling to make it up the hill. I shifted into an easier gear as the percent grade increased a bit more while The Little Truck pulled up next to me. “This hill is a piece of cake today,” I thought, reflecting on how well I was breathing. And then the truck farted. I was covered in exhaust fumes and choked a bit.
Should I pull over and let the truck pass so that I can get some clean air? No. I made a commitment that I would not stop until I reached the top of hill, and exhaust fumes or no, I was not going to do it.
Next thing I knew, The Little Truck stalled out. So I pulled ahead. When The Little Truck got its engine going again and pulled up closer to me, we both knew that IT WAS ON.
(Side note: For years I’ve dreamed of producing a short film about an old person on a Rascal scooter traveling about an inch an hour from from the left side of the screen to the right and off. Use that image in your mind to get the pace of our hill-climb drag race.)
I was ahead by a front tire, but The Little Truck was determined. He pulled up within a half a tire, but I was more determined. I pumped harder on my pedals and resumed my full tire lead. We bobbled back and forth a bit, but in the end The Little Truck pulled away. As he made it to the crest of hill, he even found the strength to pass Tommie and beat out both cyclists (and fart on Tommie too).
I made it up the hill without stopping and accomplished my day’s goal. But now I have a new one. If I ever encounter The Little Truck That Could again, I will win that next race.
Well played, Little Truck. Well played.