Monday, May 21, 2012


In one of his recent, typically wry and insightful posts, non-nutritional role model Kent Peterson said something like a rain shower is nature’s way of encouraging you to stop for coffee and after today, I definitely concur (not that I didn’t before; it’s just that today provided a particularly convincing example of the principle.)

I left Bothell in a drizzle, clad in all my rain gear.  True to form, it didn’t take long, therefore, for the skies to essentially clear.  After pedaling along then, for a quarter of an hour or so wrapped in unnecessary plastic, I stopped by the side of the road and peeled off all the outer layer except for my booties.

I had about an hour of pleasant cruising with just wool to keep me warm when, all of a sudden, as I headed away from the U-District, the skies began to darken menacingly.  I had just enough time to gear back up before it started to pour.  It occurred to me that I could press on towards home and dry off when I got there, or, I could drop into the nearest coffee shop and test Kent’s maxim.

So, I pulled over to Vox Coffee on Eastlake and ordered a cappuccino.  It turned out to be a delightful way to spend a quarter hour, watching people ride by in the deluge looking miserable.  And when the rain still hadn’t let up, I treated myself to a hot chocolate and sat a while longer.

By the time I was running my finger over the sweet residue in the bottom of my cup, the rain had essentially stopped.  I got up to return my mug to the counter and the barista remarked that I had timed things perfectly, being on a bike and all.

But give credit where credit it due: it’s not like I knew something special; nor even that Kent is so smart.

It’s Mother Nature herself who sprang for the coffee.

Sunday, May 20, 2012


So, I’m hauling a trailer over to West Seattle to drop it off at Aaron’s Bike Repair which, having sold two of the rigs, now qualifies as the nation’s number one Haulin’ Collin retailer, and so, I’m moving pretty slowly, especially on the uphills, but I’m doing my best to be aware of cars in the vicinity and stay out of their ways, although at this junction, I’ve got to take the lane so I can bear left onto Fauntleroy.

The light is red so I figure this is a good time to make my move and I do so, pulling up to the intersection and planting myself in the lane.  At this point, some guy in a truck behind me starts honking and waving his arms.  I turn around to see what his problem is and he rolls down the window and yells, “You don’t impede traffic on a bike!”

At first, I try to calmly explain to him that I’m not impeding traffic; the light is red; there’s nowhere for him to go anyway.

“You don’t impede traffic on a bike!” he yells again.

Impressed as I am with his vocabulary—it sounds like he’s quoting from a Driver’s Ed pamphlet—I can’t help but feel my gorge rising.

“I’m not fucking impeding anything!” I yell back.  “The light’s red and besides, I have a right to the lane!”

Now he pulls up alongside me in the other lane.  “Asshole!” he screams.  “You don’t impede traffic on a bike!”

The light turns green and I start to pedal away.  “Fuck you!” I retort.

He punches the accelerator and roars off.  “Get a car!” he yells.

“Suck my dick!” I scream back.

As I head down the street, watching sidestreets warily for his return, I think that I probably could have handled the interaction better.  I shouldn’t have gotten so mad. And I shouldn’t have yelled “Suck my dick!”

“Kiss my ass!” would have been fine.

Saturday, May 12, 2012


I knew I had to be close to catching up to the ride when I was forced to pedal up and back through a switchbacked handicapped-accessible ramp into the deserted park.  And when I crossed not one, but two darkened baseball fields and descended into the lightless bowl of trees, I was confident that if I called out “Brother! Brother!” in the classic Wreyford-style, I would hear the echoing calls of one familiar voice or another, which indeed was the case, as the Angry Hippy welcomed me into the fold of several dozen intrepid miscreants arrayed about in the north (suburban) woods.

There’s something especially satisfying about heading out solo later in the evening to rendezvous with the bike gang, especially if they’re in the out of doors, and even moreso if you’ve already been out for a solid pre-funk of a sushi dinner with your loving family: it’s an embarrassment of riches, frankly, but thanks to liberal applications of sake over the meal, you’re not embarrassed at all.

On occasions like this, it takes but a moment to feel re-integrated into the fold; before you know it, you’re telling lies with the best of them and blowing on the fire to coax it into a blaze cheerful enough to inspire a moment’s panic from some of the assembled when a car rolls by (a feeling  not long-lasting enough to discourage the taking of questionably-legal routes on the way home, but I digress.)

And so, even though my night among the ridership was, all things considered, fairly brief, it clearly had all the elements necessary for complete enjoyment: bicycles, bushwhacking, and beer, and a brief stop at a bar that will forever have a special place in my heart for its bringing together of disparate elements in my own life.

Which I guess is part of the ongoing appeal of nights out on two wheels: when you eventually catch up to the ride, you find yourself, too.

Monday, May 07, 2012


To all those spandex-wearing carbon fiber-riding cyclists who blew by me in both directions on the Burke-Gilman trail today, I just have one question: where we you in December when it was dark at 3:30 in the afternoon and the rain was blowing sideways into your face as you struggled against a headwind whether heading north or south?

Oh, I know any biking is good biking and props to you for taking the two-wheeler out of storage on this beautiful afternoon, putting it on top of the car, and driving out to Logboom Park so you can hammer up and down the trail for an hour and get a real workout, but still, don’t you know who I am?  (Obviously not, or you wouldn’t look askance at me as you zoom by; rather, you’d hold me in the appropriate awe for having been out there on many a day you wouldn’t dream of pedaling your fender-less Cervelo on.)

Sourpuss?  Sure, I admit it, but I’ve earned it, see?  This is my trail, the one I had to put up with not being able to use for nine cold and rainy months but instead had to mash up Lake City Boulevard with busses and cars deafening me.  So pardon me if I’m less than thrilled to see you out on the nicest day of the year riding three abreast and talking on your cellphones as you pretend to be Lance Armstrong, okay?

Of course, I have to laugh when your rock-hard 23mm tires bounce high off the tree roots and send your diaper-covered posteriors skyward while meanwhile, I cruise gently over all such obstacles on the Saluki’s cushy 42’s.

And so many grimaces, as riders pushed themselves to their limits and beyond.  I, on the other hand, just kept smiling, watching as my fair-weather friends clenched their jaws and bared their teeth, heartened by the knowledge that rain will soon be back and with it, the madding crowd.

Wednesday, May 02, 2012


Monday, on my ride out to school, I was a monster, hammering away in the big ring the miles flying by, strong as an ox, Eddy “The Cannibal” Merckx eat your heart out.

On the way home, though, I was completely defeated; I inched along at about five miles an hour it seemed.  It usually takes me about a hundred minutes; this time, though, I clocked in at closer to two and a half hours.

What happened?  Did I sustain an injury?  Did I “bonk” hard?  Was I drunk?

As a matter of fact, the explanation is much simpler: the invisible enemy defeated me.

Fucking headwind.

Gusts as high as twenty miles an hour from the south/southwest smacked me right in the face the whole way; a couple of times they even almost pushed me over.  It was relentless; I felt like grandma and even almost gave up and walked a few times.

And complain!  The whole time I bemoaned to myself how awful it was; you could have easily convinced me that bikes suck; too bad I didn’t drive.

By contrast, the morning’s tailwind—almost as gusty—was barely palpable to me.  All the power I felt was my doing; the wind only added a touch, if at all.

I’m sure I’ve gone on about this before, but it bears repeating (at least to me). 

When we’re helped along by forces out of our control, we don’t really notice them.  People born with economic and social advantages think they are completely “self-made.”

But when the difficulties are in our faces, we can’t help but be aware of them.  Fighting the headwind, swimming upstream, going against the grain: it’s always there, you never don’t see it.

This is why, for instance, people born with silver spoons in their mouths tend to be unsympathetic to quite reasonable affirmative action programs and other such accomodations for the disadvantaged.

It’s why, I think, Mitt Romney should ride against a headwind.