Monday, March 13, 2006
One of the things I really love about commuting on a bike is the time to think. As we all know, being on a bike puts us right into the environment. We see and smell things that cagers miss. Here's some musings from today's ride.
It was well below freezing outside this morning. I know, not like the sub-zero stuff but still darn cold. The truck had frosted up windows. So did Cricket, Katie's little car. The bike had frost, too, but who cares? I just look over the fairing. I totally hate scraping ice. Don't know why, but I think it's because I can be a little impatient if left to my own devices. Ice is just one more thing to slow me down. Being a good husband, though, I did scrape ice off Cricket for Katie. I might freeze my rear end off on the bike, but at least I don't have to scrape ice.
My only concession to the cold was to pull out the balaclava. It's amazing how this thin material can block the cold air off my chin and neck. Katie told me I looked like I was ready to rob a bank. I thought about it on the ride. All bandits have nicknames vested upon them by the media. Remember the Cell Phone Bandit, recently? There's a guy going around robbing banks right now. He has his pants pulled down and crawls up to the counter. Katie reasons he might think he's below the surveillance cameras. Anyway, the media is calling him the "Bare Bottomed Bandit". What would they call me? With a balaclava and Hi-Viz 'stich? Maybe the "Conspicuity Bandit". If my gear makes me waddle a little maybe they'll call me the "Neon Duck Bandit". I could just see a TV announcer saying "Folks, it looks like the Neon Duck struck again yesterday. He got away with a bunch of money. Think how long he can run the bike on that wad!"
I saw sheep grazing in a field. The grass was obviously frozen. I could see it well from the bike. How does a sheep feel eating frozen grass? Does it give them brain freeze? "Ow, that's baaaad! My brain hurts!" "Just hold your tongue against the roof of your mouth and it will stop". Do sheep even know the difference?
Mental images were going rampant. Picture a lamb. "What's for breakfast, Mom"?
"Cold grass". Depending on the field she could say "Today we're having Frosted Mini Wheat" ( sorry, couldn't resist a bad pun ) Maybe the lambs like it. My kids always seemed to prefer cold cereal for breakfast.
At one point I slowed enough that I pulled my helmet shield up. WOW!!! Talk about an Arctic blast in the face. I was doing fine staying warm until I did that. I finally came to a stop sign. The wind chill stopped and I felt about 15 degrees warmer. It literally felt like a small rush of warm air. How many times do you feel small pleasures like that in a four wheeled box?
When I get to Eugene on the old highway I turn off onto a small freeway called the Beltline. It's basically an East-West connector. Just before I get to the street I crashed on, there's a ramp that brings traffic up from the Interstate.
The ramp curves up and around fairly severely. Today a log truck had rolled coming up. The logs all rolled onto the guard rail and down the hill. The truck ended up on its side smashing the guard rail even more on the way. I don't intend to be mean, but I just kept picturing what the driver's face must have looked like. The moment he knew the truck was going over. It's just not the kind of thing that's supposed to happen to you.
I have to park on the street in front of the office. Usually it's across the way. The lot is very small and there's very little space in front of us. So I go across. In a car this turning around thing can be very ugly looking. Pull in, back out, turn and park. On the bike it's just one graceful sweeping U-turn. A small pleasure to be sure, but very satisfying.
My lunch happened fairly late today. I took off about quarter to two. The day had been dry. Until I left for lunch, of course. I rode in the wind that signalled the edge of the front system. Don't you love how invigorating it is to be in this wind on a bike? I don't know if it's a particle charge in the air or what, but it stimulates me. Leaves are swirling around the bike. The breeze feels playful. I'm out in the open and play back with the wind. This period didn't last long. The rain soon came and it was down to business.
Even in the rain, it seems better on the bike. I stopped at Trader Joe's. It's sort of an old hippy type store. I buy different nuts and trail mix here. So I pull into the parking lot and dismount. I pull off my helmet and grab my baseball cap out of the saddle bag. All these people are scurrying from their car to the store and vise versa. In my gear I'm snug and casually stroll along. When I checked out in the store the young man asked me how I wanted things bagged. He had noticed the gear ( actually, who wouldn't? ) and wanted to pack things so I could more easily stash it on the bike. You appreciate these small kindnesses more, I think, when you're used to having to fend for yourself.
After stashing the goodies in the saddle bag I strolled around the shopping center. With the gear on it's hard for people to ignore you. Oh they try to. It's a very entertaining experience. Some really try to look like they're ignoring me but eyes always have to check me out. Some folks kind of smile. Some give me nasty looks. Very seldom is anybody really friendly. It's all part of the game and I enjoy it.
There's a picture of the bike. It's really dirty. Only on a bike is being dirty a badge of honor. This weekend at class my dirty ST was up there. Next to it was Pak Ho's gleaming Goldwing. The students were teasing Pak Ho about his "garage queen bike". On the other hand, I was getting comments about the high miles and road grime. You could see the respect in their eyes for a "real" road warrior.
Tonight coming home I skirted the rain storm. I got behind a farm truck at a rural 4-way stop. The thing ended up going on in the same direction as me. I muttered to the driver under my breath "You're going down!" This is said with utter conviction. It is so cool to know that all I have to do is roll on and go. In top gear there's an interesting feeling. The bike doesn't so much leap as surge ahead. There's not much immediate sensation but pretty soon I feel the big rush of air and off we go. Commuting by bike frees me up from being dictated to so much by other traffic. I love this two wheeled commuting thing!
I saw a Bald Eagle in a field not far out of a town called Shedd. It's actually a little burg. How many people in their boxes saw it? Probably very few, if any.
At the gas station I had an interesting conversation with the attendant. He looks to be fifty-something. All the questions about the bike. How big, looks neat, is that a stock fairing, and so on. Connections I would never have in a car. And talk about gas prices! I can bravely say "Let's fill it up" and not cringe. I love treading more lightly on the Earth and my pocketbook.
This is just pretty much one day of commuting. Each experience by itself isn't that big of a deal. They are like coins. Each day I continue to commute I drop several of these coins in the chest. Collectively they become my treasure.