Sunday, September 17, 2006

One Hundred Miles Down Memory Lane

My longest bike ride in over a decade was yesterday - 100 miles! About thirty miles of it was on this gorgeous bike path that skirts a lake, one of the many Rails to Trails conversions that have turned old, unused railroad lines into wonderful paths for biking and walking. As I was riding along, enjoying the amazing vistas out over the lake to the mountains beyond, I was struck by the fact that I had taken a train ride here on these tracks when I was a kid.

I thought back to that younger me, and pictured myself riding along in the railroad car, looking out at the scenery rolling past. That 11-year-old me in the train car was chubby, spectacularly uncoordinated, and the least likely person to become an athlete in my grade school class (I finished dead last in the 400 meter walk/run that year, if I remember correctly). I could not have predicted that almost 30 years later, I would be powering my bicycle along the path of those rail lines, mucles working smoothly together to travel over 100 miles under my own steam (don't you love how many of our cultural idioms still come from the time when the world was powered by steam?).

As a side note, several wonderful movies were filmed along this rail line, notably at the trestle that used to cross the river before it was dammed to form the reservoir that is now there. Here's an article about the filming of Buster Keaton's The General, in which a real steam locomotive was crashed off of the trestle (no CGI or special effects, they had only one take to do it in). The 1986 movie Stand By Me (rent this if you've never seen it, it's excellent) was filmed there as well. Here's one bridge that was in the movie, and here's a photo of it as a trail today. Emperor Of the North with Ernest Borginine was also filmed on this railroad line.

All of this proved a most welcome distraction from a pretty difficult ride. I think my legs are still recovering from last week's race, although I was able to ride two of the main big hills on my route staying seated, when just a few weeks ago I had to stand up to make it up and over. I love seeing all the incremental improvements that a body makes when it keeps adjusting to increased distances!

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