When I was waiting for Jeff to throw the finishing touches on the Tri-cross I noticed an Oakland County Trail map sitting on his counter, actually there was a stack of them. I snatched one up with the hopes of finding new and exciting places to ride. Unfortunately the map was only of the County “Rails to Trails” projects, perhaps unfortunately is the wrong word to use. I have been knocking off these trails in earnest the last few days. Yesterday, I spent a few hours on the Clinton River Trail which snakes its way from Auburn Hills to downtown Rochester Hills the start of the trail quoted several mile markers which I was not really interested in. I set off and found a nice Autumn like envelope of trees that hug the trail as my tires crunched the fallen leaves. The trail crosses over I-75 and dumps you right into downtown Auburn Hills which is quite confusing to go back and forth from the trail to sidewalks then back to a trail again but I managed. Then came a long desolate straight flat shot into Rochester, a welcome treat. I tried to find that state of indescribable blankness in the ride but I couldn’t get there. My mind raced with thoughts of bank accounts, transferring retirement accounts into my mom’s name, medical bills, and the growing list of things that still need to be done to get all of my dad’s affairs in order.
Perhaps it was an unconscious decision to head to Rochester or perhaps there was some reason I needed to go I don’t know which. Some of my earliest memories of my mom and dad took place at Rochester Park. My brother and I playing on the swings and trying to cross the Clinton River by jumping from boulder to boulder while mom and dad watched from the banks. Inevitably one of us, or both, would fall into the lazy current soaking us from the waist down. It was no big deal, it simply meant a wet ride home. I saw the sign that welcomed me to Rochester and the trail skirts around the back of Downtown behind the Old Mill Brewery. I had forgotten that my dad was singing at a winter festival several years ago on a sub-zero freezing night. My wife and kids and I bundled up as best we could and stood in the absolutely horrid temperatures watching him and his group sing. It was his birthday. After they sang he found us in the crowd and told me he and some of the guys were headed to the Brewery for some dinner and some adult type beverages he asked if I wanted to tag along, he said he would drive me home. My wife and kids headed home, I headed to the Brewery with him. We laughed and raised many a pint and finally headed home. I continued to ride until the trail ended and I saw a sign that said there was another trail connection a few blocks away. I hit the street and I found myself inside Rochester Park and soon after that I was headed up the Paint Creek Trail which goes from Rochester to Lake Orion. Still vexed with thoughts of insurance claims, and bills I just continued on. I have strayed away from cycling as a weight loss tool to cycling as a form of therapy and stress relief. I used it as stress relief the whole time but now it’s just that and nothing else. If I shed a few pounds in the process…well that’s fine as well. The air was crisp at just a touch over 40 degrees but I was fine with it. I was alone for miles with no cars, no people, and no visible distractions. There are just good memories no bad ones, for that I am eternally thankful. If he and I had a problem it got hashed out quickly. All I am left with are the good ones, the laughing from the river bank as I sloshed from boulder to boulder soaked and dripping wet. Riding on the back of his bike with arms stretched out like an airplane probably annoying him half to death with calls of “Faster, go faster!”
I made it all the way to Orion and had to turn around and make it the 8 miles back to Rochester and then the 8 miles back to Auburn Hills. This is where I found the absolute blankness I had been looking for 16 miles of nothingness and it felt good.