Friday, December 13, 2013

Bikes Feel Good, Even When They Make You Cry

It had been two weeks since I threw a leg over a bike and pushed off, let it roll, a morning commute on an old beater 9-speed with fenders and a Miller Lite cooler bag (I'd been given at a Nats game for showing up early) strapped to a rack carrying my lunch.

Temperature 31 degrees and I wore a tie.

It was my three-mile commute; it was no real ride.  It was only 20 minutes through heavy traffic, stopping and starting and always with cars and never outside of the city.  It was purposeful, directly to the cubicle, where every weekday I work, with not a window in sight, rolling my crappy chair over stained carpet and walled in taupe.

It was not a ride, the kind where the day and the road lies open before you and everything within fifty miles comes within the range of places to go.  Even if I'd had the time for a ride, it was not the kind of weather for a ride.

So that hop on my bike was not a ride.  It was only a commute.

I had not done either for a while.  I'd sat and slept in a hospital; driven a car to and from the hospital; wandered my home rocking a newborn boy who wanted to be shown Christmas lights at 3:00am. 

I had not thought much about bikes, my mind on other things.  That's how it is, and not only this year; November and December are the down time in the annual cycling cycle.

Do others cry from the cold?  Before I enter the workplace I have to clean the salt lines from my cheeks so they don't think I have emotional problems.  I also have to wet my hair and try to fix the disaster my helmet has made of it.  I cannot fix the red, strained junky eyes the cold has given me.

This morning I am the only cyclist out.  Wisps of clouds are lit gold and azure above the Capital dome. With the wind at my back I am hammering, flying down Pennsylvania Avenue and up Capitol Hill.

Whether my legs are fresh from the layoff or I've simply forgotten the speed of a bicycle, I'm unsure, but in any case it feels terrifically swift.  The waiting, the lumbering, the bloated and complex travel-by-car I have been stuck with these past two weeks, leads me to conclude, thankfully...

I've missed the bike.

Because you never know.  Maybe one day you'll get in a car and you'll feel happier there.  Maybe one day it will seem easier, faster, simpler.  Who am I to say this won't be me one day?

Maybe I will want to be propelled rather than propel myself.

Maybe I will be cushioned and warm, listening to WAMU.

Maybe I won't want to cry involuntarily in the cold, as my newborn now cries at the mere air.

But, thankfully, not yet. 


dj cyclone said...

Another stellar relay Papps. Those initial roll out commute or what ever downtown miles on a cold urban day are the hardest especially descending the tranquil neighbourly hill confines into the vortex of center city. It hits hard and I wonder how an entire day be done. Getting bit and hit just trying to make it to some coffee or something. Then back out again. And all day long it goes. Because that is my gig. But somehow the body gradually generates heat. The days temps bump slightly and buildings are islands of warm respite yet the street is a stream of calm cool focused fury (or a metric of it depending on...) - at any rate moving and grooving on the wheels a full sequence that miraculously, with very few exceptions, drops consistent and complete yield by the time darkness falls and temps go back the other way.

Kevin Cross said...

I'd been so busy I hadn't seen your comment, DJ. Nice. I used to work outside, and it was brutal. It's not all birds chirping and flowers. But I think you're getting at what you gain from it--that's pretty cool.