Secret Santa '13 Grande Finale

Hi everybody (sit down, put kettle on, etc...)

Did you have a good change of calendar lately? I do hope so, and hereby extend my best wishes (cycling related and otherwise) to all. Oh, and if you're wondering from whence my interest in Secret Santa stems, I've recently asked our benevolent boss for a namechange. I've disliked the "Pro" part of my screenname ever since the hasty conclusion of a VDS team login several years ago. So no more Palm Pro Cycling, but CycloPalm it is. But enough of that, as this posts' title stated, Secret Santa's where it's at...

So far this has been a successful Secret Santa campaign on podiumcafe this year (you know what I mean...). Many have received their gifts and posted about them in one of the several Secret Santa threads. I've seen many nice gifts, ranging from homemade jams, useful cyclingaccessories and an assortment of crazy carbohydrates to artsy cards, good books and, well, happy penguins.

Making a list, and checking it twice (something our wonderful organiser Sarah obviously didn't do when posting her 'recieved gift' update, glaringly missing both her own Santa (geert), and the post right above hers (dunno why I spotted that...)) shows at least 17 of the 24 gifts (is that right, Sarah?) have been reported either recieved or opened, mostly the latter. Some pictures might still be forthcoming but those Santas can rest asured. Seven Santas (whose Santees are: maybe, Katiek, snickwell, Retancourt, Amybc and JustJoshinYa's daughters, JustJoshinYc and JustJoshinYd on my list...) are still in metaphorical Santastic limbo. They might know a reason why the parcel is late, or have no clue whatsoever why their gift is taking such an exuberantly long journey. With the global year-end madness over, and even Jens finding the time to tell somebody else to mop the floor, postal services worldwide shall be returned to their regular irregular state. I presume, therefore, that soon we can all drool over the last presents of this year (again, you know...) and maybe even gleefully speculate over Santa/Santee connections of those not yet known.

On Xmas morning I was out on my bike, alone. As I rounded lap after lap on a designated cycling course a thought struck me, and stuck with me. In the runup to the holidays many people, both in real life as online, had expressed their good wishes for this day to me. None of them, I think, could have envisioned what they'd actually wished on me. But their wishes came true.

Even though my life is anything but perfect at the moment (unemployed, and sort of forced back to live in with my parents at 36) and my bicycle reflects that (early 90's simple steel steed in passable though dirty condition, if you look past the cracks in a break lever hood and paint, the rust (everywhere), noise (everywhere, though intermittent), the occasional auto-shift, and assorted minor and major issues), despite this, I was happy. Extremely happy.

Almost mindlessly I'm churning out the 2k fairly square laps on this man-made hill with 20 altimeters per round. And I know it ain't much, willj or any other lucky bastard livin' close to a true hill or above, but I can reach over 300m altitude gain within one hour easily, in the middle of the Netherlands. So no complaints from me (shut up, legs). Two pheasants, who apparently have survived Xmas thus far, are strolling and strutting below me, a meter from the track. A few turns later two huge hares, also still around in these perilous times for these critters, hop away from the asphalt as I turn one of the seven 90 degree angles of the track. On this stretch of the parcours the cold and just a bit too forceful wind blows in my face as I look out over the meadows. In the early morning light I can see for miles from these heights (well, I am about 10 meters above the fields, which for those who haven't seen how effinly flat huge parts of this country are must be hard to comprehend what a sense of height that can give a native flatlander). A few pedalstrokes later I look out over the small lakes which' "pre-lake-material" makes up this hill as well as the neighboring ski facility, as well as some local roadfoundations... Ironically these waters failed recreationally due to some sort of pollution thus becoming a success naturally, stunning to behold under typical dutch skies of intermittent white clouds (occasional grey allowed, and preferably with flat underbellies) with just enough clear sky to promise sunshine, warmth, and more breathable clothing.

I had no idea how many times I had gone round the track, how many more I'd do, or, when I came to think about it, how tired my legs were. It didn't matter. There was me. There was the bike. There is always the bike. And I was riding it. As thoughts of my small family, of memories with friends, and of the many pleasantly weird people here in the cafe mingled with the invigorating vistas from the four sided hill I just felt warm and fuzzy despite the uncomfortable cold. I am almost always happy when I ride, or at least feel better than before, but this ride made me happy, incredibly happy. Nearly indescribably happy (well, I tried). And you were part of it. Thanks for that.

Now let's make the last of our Santas happy as well, seeing their gifts opened in another part of the world by equally happy Santees. A few days waiting should be enough to resolve any postal problems. Oh, and if you have any trouble posting pictures, just ask in the comments. Nobody is supposed to know everything, but together we can get pretty close. If necessary I'd happily host your pics on my flickr to repost here if you mail them to me. Just ask.

Wow, long one, exhale, convert from paper to digital on mobile phone (oh wait, that's a stage-direction). Thank you all for reading, and in advance of final conclusions thank all participants and in particular Secretary of Santa, Sarah, for a sublime Secret Santa '13.

Ho Ho Ho


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