Good Friday Ride

In conjunction with much reflection on the eternal verities, a good night’s sleep, as I knew it would, resolved the melancholy that every time assails the one who observes the passage of time and the odd juxtapositions of time, circumstance, person, and place recorded by various means and lending themselves to ideas of meta-reference.  That way, of course, lies madness or despair.  So much better to engage in vigorous outdoor exercise activities that free the mind and body of the foolishness begotten by the imagination fixed upon the past.

This morning I packed five generic fig newton cookies in a ziplock bag, put air in the Miyata’s tires, then bunged keys, cookies, and a cargo net in the seatbag and set out to explore Old Stepford on the other side of the tracks. This was the first time I’ve ridden the Miyata with a rack – a many years old Cannondale. Installed, the rack doesn’t leave much clearance between it and the tire. Rubber protects the frame where the rack attaches at the seat-stays. Installation did not require the removal of the back reflector.


My route zig-zagged through neighborhoods on the way and looped back on itself more than once before I reached the alleys on the mansion-side near the tracks. Then through the Walgreens parking lot crossed the Stonewall Street and pedaled around odd industrial area adjacent Stepford High School, then crossed Sporting Goods Avenue and explored the neighborhood and alleys leading up to the bluff overlooking the currently run-down commercial strip on West Abraham Street.


While over there, I rode through the parking lots at a Catholic school. In back, across from the school’s athletic fields, a pieta against a wall attracted my attention. The carved figure of the Christ’s mother looked many years younger and less careworn than I imagine the woman described in the Gospel accounts would have been. From most angles, the face looked almost serenely happy. From one only, the mother figure’s face looked as if a moment away from crumpling in bitter grief. The face of the Christ looked noble in death, eyes closed, visage unmarred. No ragged hole gaped in the figure’s side; no puncture wounds pierced wrists or ankles, stressed by having been used repeatedly to leverage the body against spikes attaching it to the cross so the condemned could breathe, swallow, cough, defecate, and otherwise struggle to function. I don’t think anyone looks noble in death, but far less the individual sculptured.


I rode down the hill behind the police station and eventually turned left to reach Abraham Street, and it was there that my want of planning caught up with me. I rode over what sounded like metallic junk on the pavement as I approached the intersection of Pine Lane and Abraham. The Miyata’s got 27” wheels and tubes with schrader valves; I never did bother to get spare tubes for the bike. And I remember thinking about a spare tube when I stashed my fig newton’s in the seatbag. D’oh! About a half mile later I heard/felt the back tire making an odd sound with every pedal stroke. Looking down, I saw the tire bulging out more around the rim at the bottom than it ought to. I got off and squeezed the tire, but I already knew it was flat. About eight and a half miles into my ride without a spare tube or a pump. Bummer.


Since I’d been riding over to my mom’s house to say “Hi” and get a glass of water (another forgotten thing – a water bottle – well, duh), and was close enough to justify it, I called her to see if she could give me a lift back to my own house. I felt ridiculous, pushing fifty, sitting on the steps of the Great Hope Baptist Church storefront waiting for my mom to come get me because my bike had a flat tire. It beat walking and I was glad to see her.

Tired Today

And so, a little automatic writing from whatever scrap of cloth and gristle I call my heart.

To be human is to be afraid. To seek comfort and to seek comfort in what cannot provide safety. Fearing what can do no ultimate harm – not death, but loss and lack threatening to unravel one’s hastily and unevenly seamed garment.

Nothing a good night’s sleep and an eye to the eternal verities won’t cure.

Why I Will Never Be Mistaken for a Serious Cyclist

It’s a nine-word title, so I’ll try to come up with nine reasons I will never be mistaken for a Serious Cyclist.  While I was out monkeying around on the Razesa yesterday, I met another cyclist pedaling toward me on the road, made eye contact and waved.  I think he acknowledged my greeting with a nod and a wave back.  I thought, “That guy’s a more serious cyclist than I am,” and here’s why:  he rode a newer bike than I’ve got; he had on a bright orange, bike specific jacket; he didn’t have lights or, if I recall this correctly, reflectors on his bike; his bike helmet looked like it cost a hundred bucks. 

As to the relative age of bicycles ridden out in public, I’d guess most people’s bikes are newer than mine.  The Razesa I rode yesterday was made in about 1985.  My other bike, a Miyata, was manufactured in 1981.  Yesterday, I wore my grandfather’s gray, zipper front fleece pullover on top of inexpensive American made fleece cycling tights with polypropylene thermal long underwear underneath (I bought those in the early nineties when I lived in Portland, Oregon).  I did have on a new pair of cycling gloves, a pair of lace-up cycling shoes I bought from REI on sale and some 10 year-old hiking socks.  Like facepalmword, I prefer to wear “whatever” is handy, doesn’t cost too much, make me look like I’m dressed up for a Halloween party, is at least marginally clean or doesn’t stink badly from its most recent use.  Although unlike her, I don’t think most of the gender-specific bike clothes available to me are horrible, even though a lot of it is made for stick-figure boys under the age of 20.  Pushing fifty, I wouldn’t mind being thinner, but don’t expect to find me modeling clothes in a catalogue.  I use blinking USB rechargeable bike lights for visibility on the road; I don’t think that’s something serious cyclists do.  My bike’s got reflectors fore and aft, as well as in the wheel-spokes.  My bike helmet cost $36 on sale at the bike store.

I spent some time thinking about this stuff while I rode around the uppity end of Stepford, yesterday.  Wondering about why I can’t engage in activities like normal people do – buying new stuff, conforming to the attitudes and practices of those engaged in similar activities, and so forth.  This morning, I remembered that when I was a child of I don’t recall what age, my mom gave me a copy of this quote from Henry David Thoreau,

"If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured or far away." 

I thought at the time the statement was an insult or indictment because I was thought not to have kept up with my peers in any number of ways.  Probably at the time, my mother earnestly hoped that I would grow into something recognizably human that would pose little or no threat to others or society.  The fact that I have so turned out is a testimony to the fact that God hears and sometimes answers the prayers of desperate parents, grandparents, and friends.  What I’ve found, regarding that quote, is that when I walk, there are few who can keep pace with me; this is true in other pursuits, as well.  Cycling’s not one of them, however, a lot of people can ride faster and farther than I can ride.

That said, here are some of the reasons I will never be mistaken for a Serious Cyclist:

  1. I ride for the fun of it – to both get exercise and explore my surroundings – it’s monkeying around, sightseeing, and I make up my goals for the ride while I’m riding.
  2. I sometimes ride 3.3 miles around my neighborhood in the evenings after work and still think of that as a bike ride.
  3. 27 miles feels like a longish ride to me.
  4. My average speed, when I’m in shape, is about 15 miles per hour; here lately, my average has been about 14.
  5. My bikes are really old – 28 and 32 years, respectively.
  6. I don’t use clip-in or toe-clip pedals.
  7. I don’t care at all about racing.
  8. I sometimes stop and take pictures of things I see while riding.
  9. I ride through neighborhoods on my routes, not past them, because I like to see what’s in them.

Here’re the stats and map from yesterday’s ride:

Today's RideRoute Map

Old Stepford Ride

A few weeks ago, I explored Old Stepford along “mansion-side” of the tracks, a designation that no longer means much that close to the tracks.  Now, when that term is used by my co-workers, they mean “out by the Country Club,” which is on the same side of the tracks, but further from them.  Here are a couple of pictures I took while riding around down by the tracks.

Loram Track Machine

Some kind of track-cleaner, I’d guess.

Old Frame House

An old house along the tracks.

Mansard Roof House

An old house with mansard roof along the tracks

At mansard-roofed house - storage and trashburner?

At mansard-roofed house – storage and trash burner?


Storage unit propped-up as seen from the alley behind the house.


The alley that runs behind both houses pictured in this post – parallel to the tracks.

Cold Saturday Morning Ride

Last Saturday morning I rode the Razesa for a few miles after a light snow had fallen overnight.  The roads were grimy with cold, wet salt and slush, but none of the snow had much stuck to paved surfaces.  I think the temperature was around 32 degrees, Fahrenheit, when I set out, and not much warmer than that when I returned to the house.  For warmth, I wore a pair of Pearl Izumi select softshell gloves, Aero Tech Designs fleece bib tights, polypropylene long underwear, smartwool socks, and a weather-proof runner’s 3/4 zip pullover.

Razesa Bike

Razesa ready to ride on a cold morning

I was in no hurry, just monkeying around averaging less than 10 miles per hour and covering less than 10 miles, I rode through neighborhoods nearby.  I didn’t get across town to explore the streets on the other side of the main thoroughfare.

By the time I got back to the house, the small fingers of both hands were numb, as were the toes of both feet.  The gloves were less effective than a less expensive pair of thermal fleece North Face gloves I bought three or four years ago for winter walking.  The smartwool socks were not at all effective in the mild but moderately cold weather riding conditions of the day.  Maybe liner socks would have helped; I’ve got a pair and may try them next time.