Riding with the "Running Buddies"
My high school class had a 30th reunion six years ago, and last summer we had our 35th. What happened at both of these reunions was something that hadn't happened at any previous ones that I can recall. At earlier gatherings, we would all reunite, reminisce and get reacquainted with each other, and then go our separate ways. Except for a few close friends, I wouldn't see or hear from anyone for another 5 years. With the dawn of social media, this has all changed. We now come away from our reunions with a few more Facebook friends than we had before, and for the next 5 years we can keep track of each other (and actually recognize each other when we meet again...often with a few more wrinkles, gray hairs, and pounds around the waist).
Thanks to this connection, my high school friend Terry, who lives in Warsaw (about an hour and 15 minutes away) messaged me the other day asking for information on the Pumpkinvine Nature Trail, something Tom and I have biked a few times before. She was planning a biking outing for her "Running Buddies," and needed to know about routes, places to eat, etc. Then she invited me to join them if I was so inclined.
I was a little hesitant since I don't know any of Terry's friends (AND I'm not a runner...something they all have in common). But since I'm currently on my slow, summer pace my day was free, and I like invitations to bike with others so I said, "Why not?" It would be fun to catch up with Terry, and to meet her friends whose faces I often see on Facebook.
The plan was to meet at Abshire Park in Goshen (about a 45-minute drive for both of us), ride 5 miles up the trail and 5 miles back (they were limited to 10 miles for various reasons), and then have lunch together. Great plan! The only thing that we didn't plan for was road construction and closures all over Goshen. It took me an extra 10 minutes to find my way around town with almost no help from my GPS and no knowledge of Goshen streets...but I finally made it!
Terry and I hadn't seen each other for six years (at the 30th reunion), but neither of us had changed a bit! :) As usual, Terry was her spunky, chatty self, and quickly introduced me to the rest of the gang...Natalie, Sally, Shelley and Tina. (I finally had everyone's name down by the end of the day!)
I knew I was going to get along with the group just fine when our ride was delayed another five minutes so we could take about twelve group selfies on three different phones. They were in it for the memories and fun, as much as for the workout. A little aside here...I was just a bit intimidated by the idea of riding with a group of "Running Buddies." They do things like 5Ks and 10Ks and 1/2-marathons and triathlons. I ride. I don't run. In fact, I have always hated running and imagine people who do it to be really intense, serious athletes or fitness buffs. Anyway, I was relieved to find out that we had more in common than not.
It was great catching up with Terry. We chatted about our upcoming transition to becoming "empty nesters." Like me, she is gearing up for it, and excited to begin this new chapter of her life, while at the same time a bit apprehensive. We talked about kids and colleges, our work and our husbands' work, and of course, we shared everything we knew about the lives of our high school classmates.
Then there was the ride. It was a gorgeous, 80 degree/low humidity day, and the Pumpkinvine is a really nice, mostly flat trail. The first mile or so is crushed limestone, but then it is paved and smooth, running through shady woods and then alongside cornfields lined with wildflowers. I'm beginning to see a slight droop in the wildflowers compared to recent rides...a reminder that our summer days are dwindling.
We rode five miles up and five miles back (as planned), loaded up the bikes, and headed to the South Side Soda Shop and Diner for lunch. This place is an icon of Goshen, its origins dating back to the early 1900s. It's on a small triangle of land between two streets, and I was surprised to see it had NO parking lot, which I found quite unusual for a small-town restaurant. I parked along the street a block or two away, and met the ladies inside.
The menu consisted of salads, sandwiches, a few entrees, and...PIE! Walking in I noticed the counter covered with pies and cookies still on baking sheets that looked fresh out of the oven. We all enjoyed our choices, and yes, our PIE (or ice cream). It was Shelley's birthday, so the lights were dimmed as they brought out her pecan pie a la mode with a candle on top and we all joined in in a round of "Happy Birthday."
My long-time friend Terry, and my brand new friends Natalie, Sally, Shelley and Tina needed to get on their way, so we said our "good-byes" for now. I'm hoping it will work out for me to join them on their next ride too!
Feeling somewhat guilty about that fresh peach pie topped with a layer of whip cream about 2" thick, I decided to get in another ten-mile ride before going home. I knew there were trails around Goshen, but wasn't sure exactly how to get to them. I checked my phone and found I was very close to the Maple City Greenway, so I hopped on and began to ride. I rode through the beautiful campus of Goshen College where I came upon the Winona Interurban Trail, a nice paved path along the railroad tracks. I rode behind Bethany Christian School and Waterford Elementary School...noticing the kids heading out to the playground in nice straight lines behind their teachers...another sad reminder that summer is coming to an end (but thankful that I work in Michigan where school doesn't start until after Labor Day!).
At the elementary school, after 2.5 miles of riding, the trail abruptly ended. I had no clue where to go next, so I turned around and headed back the way I came. I rode past my car and on into the city of Goshen, on roads marked as bike paths and on extra wide sidewalks (part of the Maple City Greenway). Again, after about 2 miles in that direction, anything resembling a bike trail ended. I turned around and went back...again. (Lesson learned: study bike maps carefully at home before embarking on adventure.) When I reached my car I had only clocked another 8.5 miles...not quite enough to burn off all those pie calories, so I went back onto the campus of GC, and wandered around until I had reached ten miles. The last few miles of my ride were a bit tricky as school was getting out and kids were walking home, carrying their brand spanking new backpacks, blissfully unaware of the oncoming bicyclist, while the streets were crowded with cars and school buses.
All in all, it was a day of adventure. Enjoying the sunshine. Riding the Pumpkinvine. Exploring the streets of Goshen by bike. Reconnecting with Terry. And making new friends.
Sometimes when we step out of our own little worlds, we can be surprised in the loveliest of ways.