Last month, I went on a bike ride and I met my guardian angel.
Over the past few months, my bike has been a refuge. At a time when chaos reigns in my life, I find a certain purity and unambiguity in spinning your legs for hours on end over the country roads that wind their way through tobacco country. Each day, I would go further. First, 20 miles. Then 30. Then my first-ever 50 mile bike ride. It was time to set my sights on a new target: the May Gran Fondo, a 100km ride.
It was a glorious spring day, one of the days that makes putting up with the summer humidity totally worth it. I was well-rested and well-fed. Everything was lined up for my first ever 100km ride. But I came up short. I misunderstood exactly how many miles were in a 100km, and the result was this 89.4km ride. The disappointment was real. I had the perfect opportunity to achieve my goal right in front of me, and I failed entirely due to my own inability to keep track of the small details.
After a day of rest, I woke up determined to achieve my goal—no matter what. I stuck to park near my house which gave me the chance to ride on car-free roads so I could listen to my audiobooks. But the loop was soul-crushingly boring. I realized without variety, there would be no way I could stay on the bike for the time required to hit my goal. So I pointed my front wheel out of town and started pedaling out. Right away, I realized this might have been a mistake. The wind was blowing hard and out on these country roads, there is no respite. The wind whips over the freshly plowed fields right into your face.
Still, I pedaled on. I crossed the 20 mile mark, then the 30 mile mark. But I was flagging. As I came up on one of the toughest climbs on my route, I heard a voice behind my left shoulder.
“COMING UP ON YOUR LEFT!”
It was another cyclist, overtaking me on the climb. Now, I had ridden out this way consistently for the prior three weeks, and I could count on two hands the number of other cyclists I had seen out and about, and had never seen anyone headed the same direction as me. And not only that, but despite the lack of ambient environmental noise I didn’t hear him pulling up behind me. It was like he appeared out of thin air. I was so startled I would have jumped right off of the saddle if I hadn’t been clipped in.
The mystery rider slotted in front of me and slowed his cadence.
“How about this wind?!” he shouted over his shoulder. “You wanna ride together for a bit? Suck up on my back wheel and take a breather.”
I had never ridden in pelotons before so I had no idea how much of a help this would be. And not only that, but this guy was massive, easily 6’6”. You couldn’t ask for a better wind screen. He starts asking me about what I’m up to. I mention that the reason I can spend 4 hours on a bike every day is because I lost my job due to COVID and I had nothing better to do.
“Well, what do you do?” he asks. “I’m hiring some folks onto my team at work.”
“Oh,” I said. “It’s good to hear you’re hiring. I’m a software engineer. Not a lot of people around here doing that sort of thing.”
“That’s actually perfect! I work at the largest engineering firm in town and I’m looking for a test engineer. Send your resume to my email!”
I was so shocked (and winded) I could barely stammer out a thank you.
“Well, I’m gonna push up this next climb. It’s been nice riding, let’s do it again soon!” He dropped me and was gone.
To this day, I’m not sure if it the encounter was real or just a exhaustion-induced fever dream. Another cyclist, one that is perfectly built to be a windshield, comes out of nowhere on the windiest day of the year, at a time when nobody is out riding, on a segment that no one else rides, right when I am hitting the hardest climb on the hardest part of my ride, and also just so happens to be hiring engineers for a job? You can’t make that shit up. I ain’t religious, but if that wasn’t an everyday miracle I don’t know what is.
Thanks to my guardian angel, I finished the Gran Fondo. And shortly after that, things picked back up for me. I’m back to my old self now, although I don’t ride as much as I used to now that the humidity has set in. But it was a great reminder that even a seemingly trivial interaction can have a big impact on someone, good or bad.