In anticipation of the upcoming spring bike-riding season, I’ve been riding a bunch of strenuous miles over the past few weeks to get in shape. I’ve been climbing steep inclines, pedaling long, fast sprints in high gear and gliding into curves at a pretty good clip while leaning into them at a steep angle. At the end of each ride my clothes are drenched in sweat and my quad muscles can feel the strain. The joints in my fingers are tight and a little stiff, and I can feel my core muscles tightening from the hard riding workouts. There’s also a slight pain in my upper arms from all the leaning and effort it takes to ride at this level. You’re probably wondering, “Where has this guy been riding in this cold snowy winter?”
I can tell you this: I haven’t been getting this incredible work out on the streets of Detroit!
I’ve been riding in a place where the lights are low, and hard rockin’ music fills the air. It’s a place where the high-energy tunes are played loud, as a motivator to get those legs moving and heart pumping… songs like “Sweet Child O’Mine”, from Guns and Roses, Aretha Franklin and Annie Lennox doing “Sisters Are Doin’ It For Themselves”, or The Doors classic, “Break on Through”. Mixed in are songs from U2, Aerosmith, Rolling Stones, and other various bands and singers. This is all new to me. I’m used to the urban sounds of dogs barking, car horns blowing, music blaring from ice cream trucks, sirens and other sounds of the city while riding!
The place I’m talking about has an instructor with a headset, sitting atop a lead bike, calling out commands to the riders…commands like, “stand, lean forward and pedal harder, harder! Ready lean left! Hold it, hold it, one, two, three right!” and other endless instructions yelled out without taking a breath. Meanwhile, the 18 or so riders (including myself) are struggling just to breathe and keep up while sweat drips down our faces, arms and backs! Think pedaling across the Belle Isle Bridge in high gear on a hot, steamy August day!
This place has a room full of stationary bikes that swivel sideways, left to right. Riding them feels pretty darn close to actually cycling on the streets. The banking is there and so is the left, right leaning motion. Simulated steep hills are climbed and steady sprints designed for endurance are blended in. Although demanding, it’s great training and it builds endurance for the upcoming cycling season. It’s a perfect workout for getting in shape and preparing a rider, like me, to dodge broken glass, bone jarring pot holes and other urban road hazards such as out running stray dogs that may have an interest in tasting my leg.
Real Ryder Revolution is the place. They have the stationary bikes that simulate the authentic world of bicycling. You can check them out by clicking here.
“South of Broad” by Pat Conroy
Set in the late 1960’s, the story is narrated through the eyes of Leopold Bloom King, a nerdy paperboy who serves the upper-class Charleston neighborhood South of Broad. A troubled teen, he’s been traumatized by his older brother’s suicide. A series of unlikely neighborhood events leads him to a circle of lifelong friends from diverse cultural and economic backgrounds. This book, divided into five parts, is their story. Not only is it a story of enduring friendship over their lifetime, it’s a story of cultural differences and how they shape lasting friendships. These differences include money, race and class. Religion also plays a major role in the characters lives, as does mental illness. All of these are familiar topics in many of Pat Conroy’s character themed books.
Early on, Conroy introduces us to Leo, his new dramatic neighbors Sheba and Trevor Poe and their alcoholic mother. Two orphans – Niles and Starla – are written into the story when Leo finds them chained to chairs to keep them from escaping the neighborhood orphanage where they have recently arrived. Later, Leo attends a luncheon with his mother at the stuffy Charleston Yacht Club, and there he meets Chad, Molly, and Fraser; three affluent teens. Lastly, he meets the new high school football coach, the first black coach ever for that school, and eventually his son (and his orphan girlfriend Betty), who will co-captain the team with Leo. This sets the stage that follows the group of lifetime friends through several decades of their lives.
Using clear, crisp descriptive writing, Conroy realistically captures this diverse group’s lifestyle, background and many of the challenges they face. The novel shifts between the past and present and touches on a variety of issues the friends are exposed to, such as the AIDS crisis, suicide and murder. Even hurricane Hugo plays a major role in the story.
Top notch story telling seems to be one of Conroy’s strengths, and it is evident throughout the book. The dialog between the friends is written as if the author was there, sitting at a table listening to them. While reading the character descriptions and quirky scenes, there were times I found myself laughing out loud. Other times I felt sad and moved by the heartbreak drama found throughout the book. I must admit, with so much going on, parts of the story seemed a bit melodramatic and contrived. What I enjoyed most about South of Broad was Conroy’s undemanding writing style that flowed seamlessly through the book keeping me engaged. I also liked his keen insight into the lives of teenagers and the day-to-day struggles they dealt with.
I recommend this well written book.