Monday, March 16, 2009

Memory And Memories

Today was my first bike commute for the year. (Hmm, the lycra shorts feel a little tighter than I remember.) It felt so good to be back on the bike, but as with any change in routine there were some issues. Just before closing the garage door I had this nagging feeling. (You're forgetting something.) Since that feeling has always proven to be correct I stopped for a second. In my mind I quickly went though the list of everything I put in the panniers and decided I had everything on the list. (That method indicates a problem right there.) I closed the garage and pedaled off.

The Trek responded well and my mental picture of myself switched to Lance Armstrong mode. (And if I change the speedometer display to kilometers it seems like I'm going even faster.) There's a small incline a quarter-mile from my house. As I charged the hill my body reminded that I hadn't done this type of riding since October and my Lance self-image started to fade a little. Then I looked in my rear view mirror to see if any traffic was coming up behind me. The mirror wasn't there. The mirror is attached to my helmet. The helmet that was sitting in the garage back home. Doofus Armstrong returned home, knocked on the door, suffered his daughter's mocking laughter and got his brain bucket--though it seems there's increasingly less for it to protect these days.

With, if nothing else, the rear view mirror now providing me a visual of gaining traffic I got onto Highway 2--and hit a headwind. It spite of the slight incline I normally do 15mph. "Normally" means what I remember doing when I'm pumped and in shape. (Not like last March either.) But since I'm a wimp in a headwind I used that as an excuse for slogging along at 10-12mph. That and my panniers are pretty like they always are. I tried to ignore the burning in my lungs (Hank and the Phlegmatics sing "Cough, Hack and Spit") and the complaints from my legs (Hey, winter ain't over yet! What happened to riding the bus?) thinking that once I got warmed up everything would smooth out.

The roadway leveled off and instead of the "normal" 18 I was flailing along at 13mph. (Should I switch to kilometers to make myself feel better?) With hard-nosed reality pressing upon me I figured it was time to I ease the effort meter down a bit. (Like I had a choice. Don't drop me, Lance!) The ride through town was mostly pleasant and uneventful except for one car attempting to cross the road in front of me--more precisely right next to me. I hit the brakes. (It's a good thing one of us was paying attention.) Then he saw me and stopped, blocking the northbound lane, and let me continue in the southbound lane. The driver had one of those "Where'd you come from" looks on his face. Despite the bright flashing white light, the highly reflective screaming yellow zonker jacket (LOOK AT ME!) and a cloudy but bright enough morning I was still a surprise to him. He was probably looking for cars, not bikes, which is why we need more bikes on the roads. But it's early in the season so hopefully that situation will improve later on in the year.

I pulled up to a stop at Foothills and a school bus coming down the road stopped and waved me out into the four lanes of traffic. (Is he nuts or something?) There's an unsafe situation waiting to hurt someone. I refused to go, waved him on and got into traffic when I had an opening. Going along Buckeye the bike lane was absolutely full of crap so I right-wheel tracked in the vehicle lane. A street cleaning crew (My favorite people. Give them a wave.) was sweeping up the other side so it'll be clear sailing on that stretch going home.

Riding on Howard a group of kids were having a smoke (Hey, I used to be one of you.) and hanging out across the street from North Central (Class of '74). The NC running team (Go Mead!) was coming out of Riverfront Park. Looking at the clock on my speedometer I saw my "normal" 40-minute commute was going to be more like 50. The Lance Armstrong image was long gone and a belt patiently waited in the pannier to remind me that I might need to loosen it up a notch. I arrived at work with just enough time to shower and shave. The Powerbar I brought was only three weeks after the "Best By" date. (I should check those.) It wasn't bad--as far as Powerbars go.

For the next couple of weeks I should probably leave a little earlier--with my helmet on. And I should probably get my work badge out of the coat I usually wear to work. Hey, at least this time I didn't have to dry myself with paper towels. (Can't...reach...between...shoulder blades.) All in all, a great day for a bike ride. I look forward to more. And getting back to "normal".


Jacque Hendrix said...

Hurry Hank! You go. It was nice to read about a daily commute from another fair weather rider.

John Speare said...

Yay. Welcome back Hank!

Pat S said...

Don't even talk to me about forgetting stuff - I've forgotten EVERYTHINNG at one point or another and if there was a way to actually forget my bike and still ride away, I would have done that too. Great to hear you're back in the saddle.

Lucas said...

Do you ride down Standard/Addison? I saw someone blast by me on Friday afternoon (heading north, between 5 and 5:30) in a screaming yellow jacket, riding a Trek (as I was) with panniers. If you ride that way often maybe we could ride together. You can email me at

-Lucas McIntyre