Friday, September 23, 2011
“Rush hour” was one of many things the white pickups carried away. What they brought in its place was a near-constant stream of light traffic, day and night. The first group, led by Charles and Max, left immediately after breakfast and a hurried conversation with Tim and Cleve.
“Keep them in single file, mostly,” Tim said. “Most of them know what they’re doing. I think your biggest problem, though, is going to be reminding Stefan and Palmer to not get ahead of you. I’m more worried about dogs than people, but either way…” he waved his hands. “You guys be safe, okay? I’ll see you at the clubhouse.”
“You too,” Charles said. “Don’t feel bad about pushing the laggards if they’re going too slow. See you there.” He took the lead and they rode away.
“… we can come back for stuff later if you decide you want it,” Cleve was telling the newbies as Tim joined them. “You got water, sport drinks, energy bars, and y’all took your potassium tablets, right?” Everyone nodded. “Good. Red, you got anything you wanna tell ’em?”
“Just stay together,” Tim said. “Ride single file, give the person in front of you enough room so both of you are comfortable. If you have any kind of problem, pull off to the side and call out. If anyone behind you says they’re stopping, pass the word up so everyone knows to stop. It’s better if you don’t cramp or wear yourself out in the first place, so pace yourself. No shame if you have to walk your bike up a steep hill. We’re not racing the other guys, or each other, we’re trying to get somewhere. Remember to breathe slow and deep while you’re going uphill, so you don’t get dizzy. Janet will ride the line and give you some tips if she thinks you need them, or if you ask. We’ll start off by going a mile or two, see how everyone’s doing, and make adjustments as needed.
“Everyone ready?” They all nodded or voiced agreement. “Then lead us out, Cleve.”
To Tim’s surprise, the oldest — even the trike riders — kept up well, and they made reasonable time. Everyone was willing to push on after the first two miles, so Tim let them continue on to the first five-mile stop, then tightened a couple of loose axles and cables. Everyone was glad for the rest, but ready to move out after Tim finished his adjustments. Occasional clouds and a light breeze kept the morning pleasant. Nobody developed cramps or wore out, and everyone was in good spirits by the time they reached the exit to Laurel Hills shortly after 11:30.
“Hey, we really are gonna make it in time for lunch!” Cleve grinned. “Red, you lead us in, you know the way.” Tim took the lead for the last two miles and brought them to the gate where Sara waited.
“Is this everyone?” Sara asked Tim, opening the gate. “The others have been here a couple hours.”
“They must have took their time, then,” Tim said. “Any trouble?”
“Max said he shot at a dog that got too close, but that was it.”
“Great. It’s good to see you.”
“Yeah, you too. Get ’em all in here, and we’ll get on up to the clubhouse. Cody and that Sondra girl are grillin’ up a storm.” A stray breeze carried the smell of food. “I think some of your friends worked up an appetite.”
“I dunno about Red there,” Cleve grinned, “but I sure did. He might-a wore himself out keeping his speed down, but that’s all.” They mounted up and Tim led them to the clubhouse, Cleve glancing back at Sara before the gate disappeared around the first curve.
The first group cheered as they walked in. Several of them splashed in the chilly pool; others sat or stood with drinks and snacks. A generator chugged in a far corner, powering the pool filter and a refrigerator inside the clubhouse. Charles napped in a lounger; Max chatted with Tina and Kelly. Cody and Sondra waved to Tim from two grills standing side-by-side.
“I made him save you one!” Sondra said, handing Tim a beer from the cooler at their feet.
“Hey, it’s even cold!” Tim said, opening it up.
“Yeah, that stuff is pretty nasty otherwise,” Cody said. “I guess when we can’t make ice anymore, we’ll have to save it for winter.”
“Sooner or later, we’ll be making wine or moonshine,” Tim said. “A college buddy of mine used to make his own beer, but Lord knows if we could do it now.”
“Why not?” Cody said. “There’s probably a store that sold supplies over by the mall.” He turned back to the grill and checked the meat. “The fish is done, burgers are about done. The chicken and steak will take a little longer.”
“I guess you have that worked out, then,” Tim said, sipping his beer. “I think I’ll go change, maybe take a dip, and you should have it all ready by then.” Several others who rode up with Tim jumped in the pool without bothering to change. “Too bad this isn’t indoors,” he said. “If we could figure out how to keep it warm through the winter, we could have a public bath like they did in the Roman days.” He looked around. “Everyone we know, the people who didn’t drive off, are here… and we’re not even enough to crowd a suburban community pool.” Tim shook his head and walked off.
“Now there’s an encouraging thought,” Cody said, flipping the burgers. “If there’s other people around, I sure hope we start finding them soon.”
“We will,” Sondra said, scratching Cody’s back and making him smile. “At least, we’d better. We cleaned up a lot more than thirty places while Tim was gone.”
“Yeah, I don’t want that effort to go to waste. Speaking of which, the burgers are done.” Cody lifted them to the warming rack. “Do I dare ask you to hand me a couple of plates?”
“Any time.” She kissed him and went to the table where they piled the supplies.