The sun, wisely, was still sleeping when I arrived for the ride, my headlight leading the way to the start line where a growing gaggle of cyclists lined up for the long miles ahead of us.
I saw no familiar face.
I was meeting two friends for today's ride, or at least I was supposed to. It was an old man bike day for us aging freaks. Each of us had been bitten by the velo bug late in life.
I called one of my friends to see where he was. He was running late, clearly, and was still looking for a parking spot. The other was delayed by an inbound train problem. Strangely, I was the first to arrive.
So here I am, the first to arrive at an event that required much physical activity and at a time of the morning just before dawn when I used to be more accustomed to pouring myself in to a bed and waiting for the spinning to stop.
It used to be that I'd meet my friends at a bar. Or a club. Or a show. More often than not, the location was chosen based on who we knew would be working the door and could get us in free. It's good to have friends in low places.
But wherever it was, it was always somewhere loud where ill-advised choices could be, and frequently were, made -- much to the chagrin and delight of all of us.
* * *
I was in a locker room recently helping my nine-year-old son get changed at a pool party held for one of his classmates' birthdays when I caught a glimpse of some old, grey-haired man doing exactly the same thing, and for a split-second I thought to myself: "Wow, dude looks old.''
You could tell his hair used to be brown, maybe blond even. But now it was mainly grey. It was cut short -- real short, like a 1950s-ish "G-man" short. He was wearing eyeglasses that matched the era -- all black and nerdy looking.
It didn't help him look any younger.
And although I shouldn't be judgmental or so completely vain, I felt comfortable for a split-second that there were people around me who looked older than I did.
We're a youth-obsessed culture. No matter how you try to avoid it, some of it seeps into your psyche, especially as you march headlong into age, I guess.
* * *
When I was still smoking, it wasn't infrequent that I'd get asked for my ID when buying cigarettes.
Since I'm more than 40 years old and you only have to be 18 to buy cigarettes, it seemed kinda silly to ask -- especially considering the cashiers asking me have never known a world where there were two countries named Germany nor have any idea the significance of the letters "CCCP.''
But it was nice nonetheless, because anything that contributes to my self-deluded vision of myself, forever stuck in time as a 27-year-old skinny punk, works for me.
That man I saw in the locker room mirror -- the grey-haired nerdy dude who looked so old? That guy'd never get asked for his ID.
I already miss those days.
* * *
So there I am, early and waiting for my friends -- not at a club, not at a bar and not where ill choices can be made. This is where I am. How I got here is no matter, really, it's just the road I took.
My friends do arrive. We ride. We ride longer and harder than any of us could have when we were not old and gray. We laugh, we sweat and we make fun of each other, like old dudes do.
None of us were hung over the next day. And we had every bit as good of a time.