But to hold such thoughts was to miss the point of our outing. As fellow fat-tire freaks, we didn't just share common ground during this ride. Thanks to recent heavy rains in the area, we wore it. On the final climb, a moderately steep pitch called Balkan Hill, so nicknamed because it is where Condoleezza Rice once delivered a lecture on the Balkans to the President and First Lady while they were taking a walk, Bush's breath grew more labored, but he kept up a tough pace. As we crested the hill, I asked him what his pulse was.
"Hundred seventy-four," he said--gasped, really--glancing at his watch, which measures his pulse and heart rate. "What's yours?"
I was at 172.
"Nice little climb, isn't it?"
"It is that, sir."
I never did get used to it, over the course of two hours. Here was the man who'd delivered the last four State of the Union addresses, whose voice came through the bullhorn at Ground Zero, describing his most recent tumble, inquiring as to the best gear to make it up Achilles Hill, asking me if I needed some water.
"Fantastic way to start a Saturday, isn't it?" he said, after we'd finished. We, the members of Peloton One, nodded our agreement, shook his hand, then climbed into the white van that would take us past the protesters, back to our lives. I concluded, bumping along in that van, that regardless of whether or not I had ever voted for the man, I'd ride with him any day.
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