IMG_20150217_095921“It’s just above freezing, Emily. I can drive you to school.” The kitchen was bright with the sunlight reflecting from the winter wonderland in the back yard.

“I’ll ride the long way around, Mom. It’s clear all the way, and there is plenty of room on Rio Road and the John Warner Parkway to avoid any frozen puddles.” Emily finished her breakfast and started clearing the table. 

The Dempseys did not expect to find a home in the winter, because most of the moving took place in the Spring. They were surprised to find a number of homes in the City that met their needs: room for the cars, three bedrooms and a home office, and room for the bicycles and the repair stand. They settled on a home on Brandywine Drive in the Greenbrier neighborhood. The large covered driveway could hold both cars and the van. The basement became the bicycle storage room and repair shop. It was only a mile from the rental on Foxbrook Lane, and close enough to CHS for Emily to ride to school. The hills were challenging first thing in the morning, but she did not mind arriving each day with her heart pumping and her brain awake.

Winter jewels 20120121They had moved in the middle of March, as soon as the snow from the blizzard was cleared. The weather had disrupted Emily’s training for the Blue Ridge Parkway International. She never thought the hours on the spinner indoors could ever make up for the real thing on the road. On days when the black ice on Yorktown Drive made riding through the neighborhood dangerous, she went the long way around, which gave her clear bike lanes and gentler gradients almost all the way. Either way, she was enjoying the commute to school more than the training time.

“Why don’t you ride to work, Mom?” Emily asked, as she closed the dishwasher and picked up her book-bag/pannier.

“I will. Right now, I’m still hauling stuff between the office and the house getting settled.”

“For two months?”

Katherine eyed her with a stern look, then smiled. “OK, I’m a little lazy, but I’m about out of excuses to myself. The last one is that I don’t have a good bike for commuting, like your Bianchi.”

“You could use a backpack like Professor Gualtieri next door.”

“And leave my Pinarello in a bike rack on Grounds? I would not press my luck, even with the Honor Code.”

“Seems that you need a bike.”

Katherine thought for a moment. “Mark won’t be back until Sunday. Want to go bike-shopping with me Friday after school?”


“Good. I’ll meet you at school. We’ll go from there.”

Emily went to the garage, where she clipped her pannier to the rack on her bicycle, donned her helmet and rode carefully to the end of the street. The melted runoff tended to collect at the bottom of Brandywine Drive then freeze overnight. Today the intersection was clear and dry. The last vestiges of the blizzard disappeared by the end of the week.

Friday, they rode to five different bike shops, Katherine on her Pinarello and Emily on her Bianchi. They had fun with the same routine in each shop. Katherine would walk in first. The Pinarello would command immediate respect. After allowing time for her mother to size up the sales staff (did they see a rich sucker or a serious rider?), Emily would come in. At that point, the store owners would show up and start offering discounts to make a sale to the phenom’s mother.

She settled on a Specialized Diverge with fenders, racks, lights, and a gel saddle. The owner lived in Greenbrier, also, and volunteered to drop it off on his way home that evening. Emily and her mother rode home from the south side of town, while the wrench was putting the accessories on the bike.

“Not as fast as your Bianchi, but it will get me everywhere in any weather and take any kind of road – or even dirt,” Katherine said. “And I loved the feel. That bike fits me like this one but feels as solid as a truck.”

“I never pictured you on anything with fork shocks and wide tires.”

“You weren’t in the picture when I was shredding trails in Marin County, dear. Even your father hadn’t shown up for that yet.”

“I’ve seen the pictures. Somehow it doesn’t seem real, but I am really glad to see you enjoying riding again.”

“This bike will just be for around town and anything the Pinarello would not be right for.”

“Like a little dirt?”


They reached the house, parked their bikes and went in to fix supper. The new Specialized Diverge arrived as they were clearing the table.

The next day, they both rode to UVA. Emily joined up with the Cycling Club for a fast training ride. Katherine ran errands between her office, Alderman Library, and the house. She also swung by Whole Foods to do some shopping. She was putting away the groceries when she heard the basement door open. Emily came in, covered in sweat and grinning.

“That was a good run. We averaged 40 km/hr even with a climb up Afton Mountain.”

“Where the Blue Ridge Parkway meets the Skyline Drive?”

“Uh-huh. It’s a serious workout.”

“Won’t that be the finish line for the race at the end of the month?”

“Yup and guess what.”

Katherine raised her eyebrows and shrugged.

“The National Park Service will let anyone who is registered for the race use the course even while it’s closed to the public. They finished the paving and only have to put up signs and paint stripes before they open it to the public.”

“Doesn’t that give the locals an edge?”

“No more of an edge than locals at any race venue. Besides, teams from all over will be coming early to scope out the course and train. It’s going to be big-time Bike Week here for a while.”

They heard Mark pull the handbrake in the driveway (the only thing on his Tesla that made noise). Emily and Katherine looked at each other in surprise, then turned as he walked in.

“You’re home early.”

“So I am. I called, but you both had your phones off. We finished this morning in time for me to catch a flight back today.”

“Well, we just got back ourselves.” Katherine looked at the groceries. “Nothing is planned. Want to take us to lunch?”

“Sure.” Mark brought his suitcase in while Emily ran to her room to shower then stretch.

They took Mark’s car to Stonefield and had lunch at Travinia. Conversation was light with the two women restoring their carbohydrate balance as quickly as they could. While they were having coffee, Mark’s phone rang.

“The office on a Saturday. Must be serious.” He got up and went outside to take the call. When he returned, he looked puzzled.

“DOD put out a notice about possible terrorist activity around military facilities, but it’s so vague, no one knows what to do with it.”

“What kind?”

“They don’t know, but a small fringe group called the Forebears of the Mahdi are supposed to be planning something around a base in the mid-Atlantic area.”

“I heard about them last fall,” said Emily. “They attacked the Sheraton Hotel in Chicago.”

“I remember that,” said Katherine, “but weren’t they arrested rather quickly?”

“Apparently, not all of them.” Mark sipped his coffee. “I’m glad we don’t live near a base now.”

“What are you supposed to do?”

“According to our security people, nothing except to be alert. We don’t even know who or what to look for, but we get called because contractors like us are moving on and off base all the time.”

“Maybe they’ll have something more specific when you go into the office on Monday.”

“Probably. If not, I’ll make a point of getting a briefing at Langley Air Force Base. We’ll be there Monday and Tuesday.”

Mark called for the bill. They paid and walked silently back to the car. At home, Emily took a nap, then rode across town to see Fran and Taniqua. They were going to see Black Panther together, which was still showing on the Downtown Mall. They had already seen it, but it was fun to catch things that they missed the first time.


Until next time,

Smooth roads and tailwinds,


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