Summer Come; Summer Go

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I love summer.

Its my favorite season.

I love the sunshine.

I love the long days.

I love the heat.

The only part I don’t like about summer is that it comes so late and leaves so quickly.

Already, on August 18, when I’m writing this, I am entering my second week of teaching sixth grade for the 20-21 school year. In-SANE. Speaking of things gone quickly, this is now my 9th year teaching. How old am I, anyway? (Answer: way old).

COVID-19 changed nearly everything about my summer. As it did most people’s I’d imagine. (I think I only realized just how accustomed I’ve become to the “new normal” when I was watching “Ozark” on Netflix last weekend and started panicking when large groups were gathering without masks. Anyone else? No. Just me? Fine then.)

But I’m not complaining.

My summer was epic.

The summer went incredibly quickly, but was packed even fuller.

Thanks to an early dismissal from school this spring (thanks, COVID-19), my summer started Memorial Day weekend with an unplanned trip to Roanoke, Virginia. The trip itself was planned, but we had originally thought that there was no chance of making the trip until Labor Day weekend. Of course, I also at one point had 20+ races on the calendar this season, packing nearly every weekend this summer with competitions ranging from Las Vegas to Vermont. Not so much.

Riding at Carvin’s Cove

So when Memorial Day weekend’s race was cancelled and school got out early, I drove south. Its been years since I was in Virginia and OMG it is gorgeous. We revisited Liberty University’s mountain bike trail network, where I first rode as a very non-mountain biker back in 2011, then spent the rest of the time in Roanoke, where I fell in love with Carvin’s Cove and Mill Mountain and the Appalachian Trail (yes, hiking). We camped, cooked over the stove, and ordered takeout from local restaurants in our best efforts to stay masked, socially distanced, and COVID-safe throughout our travels. Driving back to Indiana after four days in Virginia instigated more summer plans: could we perhaps take an entire week off of work and go to South Dakota this summer too?

As it turns out, we could. In early July, we borrowed my mom’s Subaru Outback and headed west to South Dakota with six bikes in tow (two road bikes, two mountain bikes, and two gravel bikes). Stopping in Minnesota on the drive out, we discovered some phenomenal gravel riding (and a sweet local coffee shop in Caledonia, MN!), drove through North Dakota (a new state!), and experienced the terrible fuel mileage that comes with loading way too many bikes on a single car. Once in South Dakota, we dodged hailstorms and found some of the best campgrounds I’ve ever seen, putting in 250+ road, gravel, and mtb miles in on some epic roads and trails (and yes, I got to ride THROUGH a herd of bison. WHAT?!). With a stop in Iowa to ride gravel near where my great grandfather used to have a farm (accidental connection, but cool), we returned to Indiana with more travel plans.

Hiking to the highest point in South Dakota

A month later, we were driving north, this time to the U.P. of Michigan. My first trip to the U.P. meant the requisite riding in Copper Harbor and some delicious Mackinaw Fudge Cherry ice cream as a “reward” for the day’s efforts, plus a short tour of Marquette’s mountain bike trail network and a pasty for lunch. Our tour back through the lower peninsula included a stop in Petosky, riding at Boyne Highlands, and much discussion about the impending school year.

Marquette Mountain Biking

Between these epic trips, we packed in weekend voyages to Potowatomi Trail (Dexter, Michigan), Brown County State Park (Nashville, Indiana), Hoosier National Forest (Nashville, Indiana), Potato Creek State Park (South Bend, Indiana), Mohican State Park (Loudonville, Ohio), and Fort Harrison State Park (Indianapolis, Indiana), plus gravel and mountain bike rides in Huntington and Fort Wayne. I still don’t know how we managed to fit it all in. But we did, and it was awesome.

Gravel exploring in Hoosier National Forest

Now that summer is over, I realized a few things:

  1. Part of the joy of summer is the time available to invest in the things I love–lazy mornings with coffee and breakfast and reading, or time to cook garden-fresh dinners in the evening.
  2. The absence of racing this summer not only gave me the opportunity to train more consistently, it also gave me the chance to travel and ride new trails and invest in my budding relationship with Seth.
  3. Just because summer is over doesn’t mean that I need to give up the above. I can prioritize time and relationships and training; it just will look a little bit different. So maybe, I can learn to love fall and the start of school just as much as I love summer (after all, a little consistency and structure might be nice).

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