Archive for August, 2009

A year ago and a couple of days ago

Monday, August 17th, 2009

Wow, it is hot!  I’ve been writing this blog since 8/13 – I keep thinking back on what I was doing, 365 days ago.  I remember it being stunningly hot, hotter than it is here in my apartment and we had completed the Cascades and were now in the bosom of the high Oregon desert.

If it sounds like I’m nostalgic it’s because I am.  I want to do those 40 miles of climbing over Santiam pass again.  I want to climb through the Snake River Canyon, over Drinking Water Pass and on to Stinking Water Pass.  I want to watch Pete experience his first ever bonk and throw a nice sandwich I made for him into the dirt out of frustration.  I can still feel the high, hot sun burning my flesh as I repair a flat.  I want to climb where there’s snow on top of the adjacent mountains.  I miss the loneliness of being on my bike with no one around for dozens of miles, nothing around but scorched earth, rattling snakes, sizzling insects and soft tarmac.  I want to get to Bend and drink another Black Butte Porter. I want to hang with Jeff and Patty.  I want strangers to true my wheels and adjust my gears.  I want to wake up in a place I’ve never been before and look out my hotel room window to see the three volcanic buttes of Sisters, vistas I’ve only dreamed about.  Ah creating memories.

Julia created a book of photographs she had taken from each state and gave it to me for my birthday, an awesome gift as each picture brings me back to those places.  I can remember how fast I was or wasn’t going, I can certainly remember the stories big brother raconteur told me that day, tall or true, either way entertaining.  I can sometimes remember the smell, what we ate, drank and where we went to the bathroom.  I really want to get back and borrow these roads again.  I know I will it’s only a matter of time.

With Lance Armstrongs remarkable and inspiring return to professional cycling and his dominating win in Saturday’s Leadville 100 this could be one of the best times to be out riding.  Bikes seem to be on peoples mind.  My friends are asking me to pick bikes out for them, go with them to the stores to make the purchase.  My rock star friend Dave even bought a single speed bike with a Brooks saddle to roll around on between shows.  Lately, I hear people tell me how much they are enjoying biking again.  My dad went for a ride a few weeks ago and called me to tell me it was the first time in a while he’d noticed how beautiful the hills were beyond the street where he lives.

Biking is freedom.  It is freedom even in urban environments, some of my pals might say more so.  Wherever  I go I’m assessing if it would be a good place to ride.  And the answer is always yes.  Every surface is ride-able and someone is always out riding.

My friends aren’t the only people buying bikes; the shop down the street is selling bikes more than ever now and not just lame cruisers.  I had my eye on a single speed Raleigh 29er.  It sold within a week, not nearly enough time for me to decipher a way to steal it.  I hope that orange gem gets ridden properly but the sad truth is that it’ll probably sit in some neo yuppie’s apartment until it’s found in a classified ad on craigslist .

More people out riding is the point.  As much as it is exciting to see and feel the buzz within my small cycling community, I am still very worried.  Too many drivers are running people over, the rate is alarming and it’s happening every week now.  Too many kids are out cycling without helmets on.  Too many adults are out without helmets on even while their children are strapped to a seat on the back of their bikes.  No one is immune to an accident.  Helmets now are super comfortable, they look cool and they save lives.

Recently a cyclist was caught beating a pedestrian with a U-lock by some passerby’s cell phone camera.  I, along with most cyclists abhor this behavior and believe this negates all the positive work that is being done to make the bicycle an equal member of our roads.  As a community that wants and needs to be allowed access and opportunity to ride in all areas of this country we need to quell our violent behaviors.   We MUST signal to cars, we MUST NOT pull out in front of cars and also NOT roll impossibly slow without affording motorists an opportunity to pass us.  Cyclists are only guests on these roads, as are the cars and trucks.  However if we do not abide these simple courtesies we will continue to endanger all riders.

I have some recent tales of dangerous interactions while riding.  While riding in midtown a couple of weeks ago I came across a ghost bike memorial for a 65 year-old man who was killed by a car a few weeks before Christmas.  A simple millisecond for that driver could have spared the life of a father, husband and brother, not to mention the driver’s own horror knowing that this momentary carelessness ended another person’s life.  That could be my biggest fear when I get behind the wheel of any car.

Last week during a ride “Carlos from Columbia” and I were pulling each other at a suffering (for me) pace of 31 – 32 mph when a woman in a grey Toyota FJ Cruiser began beeping her horn and flailing her arms.  (The speed limit on that stretch is 30 mph) Both CC and I gestured to her that it was all clear and to pass us, she didn’t.  Obviously not in a real hurry, she pulled along side of us and rolled down the passenger window to get into a screaming match.  I didn’t swear at her because I didn’t have the air (& CC doesn’t really speak English) but I was able to muster one sentence, “do better lady, share the road.”  In all honesty I wish I slashed her tires or sprayed her with a water bottle full of urine, like some messengers do to the reckless cabbies when their windows are down.  But that never makes things better.

A few months ago I did actually swear at a women in a white Mercedes near Wykagyl, New Rochelle.  She shouted at me to get off the road and that I was going too slow.  Startled because I was in the bike lane, I responded to her with the timeless F&#k you since she had all her windows down.  I shouldn’t have said anything especially since I was passing a big yellow SHARE THE ROAD sign.  Wykagyl is suburbia and contains part of New Rochelle’s 13 miles of marked bike lanes.  A Tool Academy reject in his pimped out white Lexus witnessed her harassing me and nearly rear-ended me, gave me a thumbs up and tailgated her until he could flip her off. Equally unacceptable although comical.

In other news one of my favorite musicians Peter Mulvey is doing his yearly bicycle powered tour. This one is called “The Long Haul” and it’s taking him directly across New York State!  From Buffalo to Syracuse to Saratoga, please make sure to see one of his performances, you won’t be sorry.