Memory Lane

He pushed down on the pedals, and the cranks turned the gears went round and round. Forward through  the streets of the old neighborhood. Past the old house with the tall chain link fence, where the old man sat on his stoop all day, gospel music floating out through the front door;  where his nephew stood in the street all night, drugs floating out through the front door. Once, in a bad storm, an old friend from school now a cop gave him a ride home his cruiser. As they drove the officer pointed out all the houses that were dealing, weed on this corner, cocaine on that one, crack all over. The police knew about it all, but were too busy “investigating” to make any arrests.

The cranks turned the gears went round and round. Onward still turning left down the road where the old duplex apartment sat, the garden they planted overgrown, the rosebushes turned to briers. The windows still boarded. They had such big plans, a future, a family. Making do in the meantime with what they had. Then the people in the next apartment passed out with the stove on. Every stitch of clothes, every stick of furniture gone; the fire burned through their entire lives. They were out celebrating their anniversary that night. The next morning they had to start all over again.

The gears went round and round. Farther up the playground where the bus dropped off the elementary school kids each afternoon. The slides and jungle gym covered in tags and pseudo gang signs drawn by thugs and wannabes each, depending on the time of day, claiming ownership of this insignificant corner of the world. They all had guns but were all afraid of being shot, so provided they ignored each other there was rarely a problem. In the end they could have it, the whole pile of garish plastic, cigarette buts, shredded rubber, broken crack pipes and sand.

Round and round. The new job afforded a better area of town to live in, but each evening as the sun went down he pedaled his way through the old neighborhood, and it’s ill repaired roads. Past the drunken overly friendly people he came to know over the few years they lived here. The old folks who always had the time of day, whether he did or not. Who always asked about how she was doing, and if her tomatoes had come in. The handful of neighbors that made the place tolerable. He waved to the last of them and turned up the ragged bike path towards home.

This story was written as part of Bicycle Stories Month

Back in the Fold

Forgive me bicycle for I have sinned… I think as I disentangle my ride out from the dusty, cluttered garage. I check the tires for air, and pump the brakes. It’ll be several hours before my ride home, so I flash my headlight across hand to test the batteries before fixing it to the handle bars. With maintenance excuses eliminated, I roll my bike through the gate to the driveway.

…It’s been over month since my last riding session… That was only once too, on our anniversary the wife and I spent the afternoon biking, we ate Indian food for lunch and shopped at the farmer’s market. The Goat Vindaloo was spicy and delicious, I had the Chicken Marsala. That was a nice pleasant ride, easy with all the time in the world. Before that I’m not sure when I rode last. I can’t say at all the last time I rode hard. I retrieve my work clogs from the cab of the truck, and I drop them into my panniers. I wonder how I have let this fall into such a state of laxness.

 It only took getting caught in a few downpours to put me off riding during the long dreary and wet winter. Weeks would go by without suitable weather. I felt somehow I had betrayed my bike, through neglect. On the rare occasions when I did go riding I would no longer use the fitness tracker, with its encouraging, metallic, feminine voice that would urge me on with reports on my time and distance. I grew more and ashamed of ignoring the notifications on my phone letting me know how much she missed me, until I finally deleted the app from my phone.

I would sometimes feel guilt towards my blog and its readers as well. So many of my early followers seem to come from my posts about cycling. However, as I continued to write my interests evolved elsewhere. Still those early readers gave me the confidence to keep writing and to stretch myself, to work towards my larger goals. I must owe them something, even just an explanation.

I strap my helmet on and I have tighten down the ratchet on the back to make it fit, I had removed nearly a foot of hair since last I wore it. I check my time and breath, if I’m going to do this I have to start pedaling if I am going to make it to work on time. I climb onto the saddle and commit to it. I turn the crank over awkwardly, stiffly and move forward.

The rain earlier in the day has loosened the grease and grit on the road, and my rear tire fish tails as I turn out onto the narrow bike lane painted along the highway into town. I reach the first mile and already I feel the stiffness in my legs and the extra pounds on my out of shape butt, gained through months of sedentary living and several holidays worth of eating.

Halfway through my ride and I begin to struggle. A short shower falls again onto the hot pavement, the heat of the afternoon evaporating it quickly driving the humidity up.Sweating and wheezing I crest the last of the hills and paused for water from my canteen. The trip I had grown so accustomed to over the spring and fall, now seemed to be too much. Pushing on I wonder again, how could I have let this happen.

Finally, after taking much longer I expected, over heated, dehydrated, and my knee aching, I roll to a stop in the alley outside work. Wearily dismounting  I stagger around the back lot for a moment, sipping from remainder of my water. Sweaty and tired I made it through my commute for the first time in months, I had have pains but it is nothing a little ibuprofen won’t fix. Now I just have an eight hour shift before I can start my ride home.

It’s going to be a great season.

This is my contribution to this weeks portion of Bicycle Stories Month. I hope you’ll join in and share your stories.
Bicycle Stories Month Semi-official Badge

Bicycle Stories Month Semi-official Badge

Commuting and Exercise | The Full 180 Completed

At the beginning of this month I set the a few modest goals  for myself to see if I could stick to cycling as more than just a means of transportation. I started off very strong achieving nearly a third of my mileage goal in the first seven days. This bulk of miles served me well going into the following week when illness and maintenance issues kept me off the bike enough that I didn’t even make eighteen miles that week. When I did start to ride again a few close calls reinforced my decision to buy a helmet and ride a bit more cautiously for my third week and I brought my miles per day average back to where it should have been. At the posting of this journal I have exceeded my goal of one hundred eighty miles for the month by two and a half mile with a couple of commuting trips left to go before November lets out.

I also  easily beat my goal of riding at an average of six minutes per mile, coming in at 5:32. This goal was a gross under estimation of my own capabilities and variations in this number tended to have more to do with the route I was taking than anything else; obviously I was slower when my travels involved more inclines, bringing to mind that my total elevation climb for the month was 2,757 feet, which is nearly a thousand feet higher than october. I will also say that my faster averages also came out of purposely taking longer, better planned rides where I could get a going at a good pace without having to get caught at every single traffic signal.

The final few rides were, I think, the most disappointing. As I approached my goals I just kind of rolled into them in small increments. I would take the shorter way to work and took a more lazy pace once I knew my speed average wasn’t in any real jeopardy of falling below my target. In short the closer I came to success the less ambitious I felt about the whole project.

From here I think that my main concern is maintaining my speed and distance for the month of december. It’s going to be a busy and stressful month personally and my daughter will be spending a lot of time on holiday breaks; she is a bit young for really intense riding, though I do plan on getting her on the bike to help keep her entertained and get her at least some exercise while school is out. I think my major objective will be to just spend as much time as possible riding for the next few weeks, for both my physical and mental health. I will be pushing myself from time to time, I just won’t get too caught up in the numbers.

Yeah I think December is going to be mostly about biking for fun and travel and we’ll see where we are come the new year.

Happy biking.