Riding with Sly

by | Nov 25, 2021

Photo by Jorge Ponce on Unsplash

Riding with Sly

I took a break from pretending to work today for a wintry ride on my bicycle. The air is cold, but the sun is bright and the roads are dry ~ a good day for cycling.

A few miles into my ride another cyclist, a man, pulled up beside me, and we began to talk.

“I’m trying to work off THREE PIECES of cheesecake,” he told me.

“New York style? The creamy kind?” I asked, as we peddled along together.

“Oh yeah,” he said. “Made by my goddaughter.”

And so it went, with casual talk about the merits of deep-fried turkey versus baked, and of smoked salmon, and of pumpkin pie crisp served with real whipped cream. Just two strangers talking the same language, of food and family, as the bucolic Virginia countryside, with its flaxen fields and weathered gray houses drenched in the afternoon sun, slid by our silent metal horses.

My gears slipped unexpectedly on a shift.

“I can fix that,” he said, and with a few expert twists of a barrel knob he did, and I was back on the road, my bike shifting as smooth as I imagined his goddaughter’s cheesecake to be.

I learned he taught elementary school for 18 years, and then retired to become an administrator. I learned he was 5’10” tall and 165 pounds, and in good shape ~ able to ride 100 miles in under five hours. I learned his name was Sylvester, although he told me everyone calls him “Sly,” and that I could too.

I learned Sly is 57 years old ~ my same age ~ although I might have guessed it by his whiskers, which looked like shaved coconut on a chocolate cake.

Back and forth we talked for five, maybe 10 miles, his baritone voice rich and earthy, with an American dialect so familiar and musical I pray it never perishes from the earth. When we came to a fork in the road, we said our goodbyes. Sly turned left, and I turned right.

I may never see him again, but for that one stretch of road, on a bright, cold winter’s day, I felt like I had been dipped in warm, melted chocolate. 

God bless you, Sly, fine sir. I pray your journey is a good one, that your days will be many and filled with too much cheesecake.

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