Thursday, May 11, 2006

Big steps and little 'uns!

Wow! Back to the normal blog posts. By "normal" I mean actually writing about riding to work. The weather's been so awesome for riding these last days. I fall in love with riding all over again.
It looks like the nice weather's been inspiring other commuters. Time to brush the rats and spiders aside, blow the dust off the bike and ride! Despite the variety of riders I haven't really seen any "regulars". I did see the man on the old Goldwing whom I've seen over the last three years. So far he's pretty much the only one.

There's been a blast from the past for me the last two mornings. Not long after I leave the house and get onto old Hwy 99 I've encountered another rider. This is a young man on an old Honda Twinstar 200. We both head out the same direction but his trip's only a few miles. Good thing, too, for his sake. This little bike has no fairing. The young man hasn't been wearing gloves the two times I've seen him. He's got a jacket but no riding pants. His slacks flap in the breeze. That leaves a lot of space between the bottom of the pant leg and his tennis shoes. With the clear skies the morning temperature is hanging around 38 degrees(F).

When I look at this rider my first thought is "He must be freezing!"

I know from personal experience. In the mid 80's I had a bike just like it. Figured it would be a good commuter bike for running into town for work. We lived just out of town in a semi-rural area. This was in Yakima. Even in Winter the roads in town are passable for the most part. The crews up there do an excellent job of scooping off the snow. So I could ride most of the year. Yakima is in Central Washington. Sort of a high desert setting. Hot in Summer and cold in Winter. Did I mention cold in Winter?

This was before the days I had good gear. Most days it was a leather jacket and jeans. Yes, I pretty much arrived at work frozen. I remember getting snowmobile pants with a bib top. To go with them I got a jacket made by Arctic Cat. Black with snazzy green stripes here and there. Not motorcycle specific but what an improvement!!! The jacket came with one of those thermometers that hang from the zipper pull. Now I could see how cold it really was and how much the gear helped. By the way, does Bieffe still make helmets? They were inexpensive but worked well for me.

So seeing this rider the last couple of mornings has me thinking of younger days. Oh, the good old days! You know what's really scary? THESE will be the "good old days" for our children. Blows your mind, doesn't it?

I've gotten into the habit again of riding to work on the freeway and then wandering home after. Blame it on this blogging thing. I want to keep somewhat current on posts. There's just so much going on anymore. With it being just Katie and I at home we're spending a lot of time bumming around together. What's been happening is that I get up early in the morning to write and drink coffee. Then I take the more direct route to the office.

Backing up what Gary wrote about on his blog, the freeway is a more intense environment. I'm not so much bothered by other vehicles. In fact, it's very entertaining to take bets with myself on what I'll see next. Today I saw some young gal braiding her hair. Both hands. She must have been holding the steering wheel with her knees or something. Everyday is some new spectacle to behold.

My problem with the freeway is that The Monster wants to emerge. The Monster's name is "Impatience". I hate being help up by traffic. Those spots where everyone's bunched up together for Eternity. Drivers who are doing 2 mph faster than the right lane traffic and won't get out of the way. A convoy of trucks with the last truck in line deciding to pass all the others. Sophie and I suffer for miles and miles. I have to keep clubbing The Monster down for fear it will drive me to do something stupid. It's not about the speed, it's about the flow. Being on the freeway reminds me of how some old farmer described his first visit to a big city. He wondered how anyone got anywhere walking around there. This man had a lifetime of walking in wide open spaces with nothing to get in his way. Here's how he described walking on a crowded sidewalk.

"I couldn't get anywhere. I had to keep taking big steps and little 'uns".

Commuter traffic does the same thing to me. It denies me the "flow" I find so relaxing.

Speaking of flow, it crossed my mind this morning how much I enjoy the familiar flow of the streets I regularly ride on my commute. While there's still so much that's new each morning, woven through it all is the fabric of familiar. I see the same weird fellow waiting at the bus stop. There's a lady who jogs. The way she runs it looks like the only thing that can bend is her legs. There's Darnell, who works at the bank. He lives in some apartments nearby and walks to work a lot. Speaking of banks, the old bank guard's been riding the 'Wing off and on. Looks like he hasn't given up riding after all.

And then there's the kids waiting for the bus. At one corner there's a whole group of grade school age youngsters that gather. Several of the boys always wave enthusiastically at the bike. That's one cool thing about commuting on the bike. The kids see car after car that blend into each other. The boys probably don't pay them much attention. I'm not just some faceless figure in the steady line of cars. Ok, I'm faceless because of the helmet, but you know what I mean. To the youngsters I'm "that guy on the bike".

After I pass the group of kids I turn right onto a new little street connector. There's brand new cement. The road makes a sweeping "S" turn. A lefthander that I late apex. Followed by a righthander that I center apex. It flows so beautifully when I have it to myself. I look forward to it everytime I get close to it.

Commuting on a bike is so awesome to me. I experience the world in a unique way that would never happen in a car. Speaking of commuting, time to saddle up and head to work. I'm teaching this weekend so it will be a busy, but fun, weekend for me.

Miles and smiles,

1 comment:

Steve Williams said...

Riding is excellent practice at defeating the Monster. Defeating on the road pays lasting benefits throughout life.

I found myself racing through parking lots to get ahead of traffic at lights. It works but there lurks the Monster. Even a lowly Vespa is not protection against it....