A couple of weeks ago, I went on a long bike ride on one of those 102 degree days. This was not as daunting as it sounds. While biking, one gets a breeze most of the time, especially when whizzing downhill. And in Macon, one's t-shirt is soaking wet within the first ten minutes. A wet, clammy t-shirt plus a steady breeze makes for pretty effective cooling.
That day I had a route mapped out in the countryside beyond Bolingbroke. At first, I was blissfully breezing along, marveling at the beauty of the pastures, horses, and farms that rolled past to my left and right. I took care to stay hydrated, gulping frequently from my water bottle. The ride was a lot of fun, but taking longer than I anticipated. Much longer.
Finally, after about an hour of riding, I stopped to assess my situation. I was way out in the country and clearly lost. Somehow, I had missed a turn (or two or three). Further, my water bottle was now empty and the sun was reaching its zenith. I had a cell phone with me, but I was nowhere near admitting defeat and sounding the SOS.
Sweating profusely and road-weary, I climbed back on my bike and chugged up another couple of hills. To my relief, I saw an intersection in the distance but when I arrived, none of the roads had a sign. There were three choices: straight, left, or right. I didn't have a clue which road to take.
That's when it hit me, as a smile slowly spread across my face: "My dad would be so proud of me!"
My dad, who died in June three years ago, was an avid bike rider. When I was a boy, we took an annual ride from our home in Greensboro, North Carolina, to Hanging Rock. That was a long ride in those days, especially with old, heavy, five-speed bicycles. And my dad would not let me push my bike up the mountain. We had to ride up that long, torturous climb, stopping to rest, occasionally, but never permitted to walk or hobble up the hill. Pedal power only.
Fathers, even when gone, are part of us forever. I'm always surprised when mine shows up unbidden in my consciousness. Usually it is when something special happens that I want to share with him; and sometimes, glancing up at heaven, I do. Sometimes those bittersweet moments of recollection occur when I yearn for my father's advice or guidance; thankfully, I have rich stores of his wisdom to draw upon when needed. Occasionally, my father visits me in my dreams; he reminds me of the Hope we share that means someday, I'll see him again.
Meanwhile, back in the hinterlands of Monroe County, I flagged down a driver at the intersection and got my bearings. Then I set off again and Dad and I rode all the way home.