The Greatest Fuel

August 24, 2012

I’ve believed since discovering them that Hammer makes the best fuel for endurance exercise. And they’re definitely great.  But on this evening’s ride, I found something even better.

Got in a good 27-mile ride this evening, on a new route suggested to me by my friend Mr. O.  I was a little weary at the end of a hard-working week and the first 10 miles or so were very challenging – some hills (nothing outrageous but more than my legs wanted to climb without protest) and a respectable headwind, plus a smattering of rain and sweat-dripping humidity.

After roughly 13 miles I began to find a second wind and settled in to enjoy the ride.

After a brief stop at a favorite break location, I turned back north for the final ~9 miles home, on Highway 59.  Glancing off beside the shoulder, I caught an unmistakable glimpse.  The American flag, or some portion thereof.  My folks raised me right; I can still hear my mom telling me as a child, “You should never let the flag touch the ground.”  A flash of thought passed in which I was annoyed with whomever allowed this to happen; I hope they somehow weren’t aware it occurred. With alacrity I stopped and retraced the short distance to pick it up.  To my joy I found it wasn’t a tattered part of a flag as I first suspected; it was a full, beautiful flag – a fairly large one, mounted on a wooden stick.

Beaming with pride, I mounted the flag between my handlebars and cables such that it could fly out to my right side as I made my way home.  This was truly the best kind of fuel for a weary rider – I could most assuredly feel a surge of strength from the flag, flapping in the wind as I pedaled, brushing against my arm.  I felt very humbled to live with the freedoms I enjoy, represented by this symbol I carried, ensured by the sacrifices of so many.

Many cars passed me, in both directions, on the ride home.  I like to speculate as to their thoughts at this sight – a guy riding along the side of the highway on a bike bearing a fairly large American flag which flapped happily along beside him.  I hope it brought a smile to many faces.

As I entered my traditional edge-of-town haunts – what I sometimes think of as “re-entering the real world” from a long ride – I passed by gas stations, restaurants, a Wal Mart.  I could feel the surprised glances of shoppers and pedestrians as I passed by – or was it in my imagination?  More than once I wondered, in this highly polarized time, at a fever pitch of political wrangling, was it possible for a proud American to simply ride his bike through a small town holding a flag without it being interpreted as a political message?  As a challenge?  As a threat?  As some deeper meaning than the simple pride in country which increasingly seems to be ebbing into the pages of fondly remembered past?  I managed to weave through my normal “fly-by” points and arrive home without getting my ass kicked…maybe there’s hope yet.

[Postscript – Making this post, I read that it’s traditional to burn the flag if it should touch the ground.  I wasn’t previously familiar with this.  I take this stuff seriously and am going to do some reading to decide upon the proper disposition of my new gift.  Till then, it resides cheerfully beside my bike.]

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