Please join me in a rollicking rendition of “Home on the Range.”

Oh, give me a home where the buffalo roam
Where the deer and the antelope play
Where seldom is heard a discouraging word
And the skies are not cloudy all day.

Home, home on the range
Where the deer and the antelope play
Where seldom is heard a discouraging word
And the skies are not cloudy all day….

What prompts this strange exuberance?

Today marks the 50th annual Octoginta,  an outing sponsored by the local bike club.  Though I am little more than a dues-paying member of this organization, I have ridden in about half of their annual outings, and have done the full enchilada on all previous occasions, not because I had prepared for the event, but to measure the passing of years.

This year promised to be different.  I had reconciled myself to being satisfied with half the enchilada, pedaling for a mere 40 miles. When I surveyed the folks who I thought might be interested in being my side-kick, some said that they were determined to do the whole thing, but most said that they were too out-of-shape to do anything.  I realized this would be a solo ride.

So, I awoke to a beautiful Kansas day.  The skies were clear – not a cloud in sight – and there was no wind.  The only problematic condition was that the temperature was 32 degrees at the scheduled start time, but was expected to rise to the mid-60s by the projected finish.  I got my bike out and realized that it was uncomfortably cold.  At the start, I would need not just the new jersey that my lovely wife, Lynn, had given me for the occasion, but my down sleeveless jacket. But what would I do with that jacket as the temperatures rose into the upper-50’s and 60’s?

It occurred to me that there was really little reason to freeze my fanny during the early morning.  Having not committed to riding with anyone, I could ride solo, at a time of my own choosing.  I went back inside our home, drank some more coffee, and began another read of the book I have been working on for months, correcting a few more errors, and updating some matters pertaining to Donald Trump’s “self-impeachment” – events related to ancillary material in my book on the Electoral College.

Finally, after a few hours, I saw that the temperature had risen above 50, high enough that I could begin my trek without the jacket.  So off I went.  I had the road to myself.  The route was clearly marked by the club and signs were posted to make drivers of SUV’s and pick-up trucks aware of bikers, enhancing my sense of security.  There still was not a cloud in the sky.  There still was no wind to buck.  The trees were starting to show signs of fall colors.  The rolling hills of Kansas, at this time of year and under these conditions, are lovely.

More than two-thirds of the way through my scheduled 40-mile route, I noticed that I was at the turn-around point when I had run a marathon in my distant past; that meant I only had about 13 miles to go.  And I was still feeling energetic.  Why not go for 50 miles? I asked myself.  So, I made some mental calculations and came up with an alternative route (to complement my alternative schedule) that would result in a 50-mile ride – more miles than I had done in a few years.

That alternate route took me through the lovely Baker wetlands, and as I got on that bike path, I noticed a stream of bikers coming at me – those who had begun their ride at the schedule time and had stuck to the scheduled route.  As I passed these bikers, many noticed that I was wearing the special jersey for the event and looked at me quizzically.  Some asked, “Is this the right way to the finish?”  I assured them it was, but I had no time to explain that this was, for me, a solo experience on an alternative route.

By then, it was early afternoon, and I was ready to get home. I wanted to see how the Chiefs were doing, and if losing, I wondered if I might see Patrick Mahone pull out another Chiefs’ victory when I parked myself in front of the TV for the fourth quarter. I also wanted to tell Lynn that the $50 I saved by missing the registration for this event – making me ineligible for breakfast at the 12-mile marker, for lunch at the finish, and for refreshments at the various SAG stops – was available to take her out to dinner.

But when I arrived home, now exhausted (as well as thirsty and hungry) from my 51-mile ride, she was already in the kitchen.  Anticipating my arrival, she had made a salad, cooked some sweet potatoes, and was grilling a steak.  She accepted a rain check on being taking out for dinner (which she can redeem tomorrow), asking only that I pour some wine to accompany her meal.  I was starved, and the meal she had prepared was far better (I am sure) than the normal soup and sandwiches offered by the bike club at the finish of the Octoginta.  Watching the Chiefs lose hardly qualified as a disappointment in my otherwise most satisfying day riding through my home on the range and arriving to the home I share with my sweet wife.