Friday, September 17, 2010

Big Dog

"I need to go on a long ride tomorrow," I said to my husband yesterday. As I rode off today dressed in my bright pink RAGBRAI jersey with my trunk bag velcroed to my broken bicycle beam I thought about what it really means to need something. I suppose, truthfully, all you really need to survive is safe food and clean water. Some clothing would probably help if you're not in the tropics. A roof over your head makes sleeping more pleasant. Anyway, what I really mean is that I need to do a long ride in order to be happy. Somehow, road biking has gotten under my skin. It's in my blood and I start to feel the need to ride more than 40 miles like some people feel the need to hear live music and see great art.

So, I decided to do all of the available bike paths on the east side that you can get to without an interlude on the road. I'm not sure how long this will be but that seems like part of the fun. This is mostly uneventful for the first 25 miles. I was feeling happy because my hip/SI joint finally feels better from my fall. Along the way I saw a hipster riding a fixie with a giant pig mask on his head. A lady yelled out, "You go, pink shirt girl!," which was fun.

Then, as I am climbing a rather substantial hill a few miles from the Columbia River (I coasted down the other side of it at 28 mph) I hear a loud whistle (which I ignore) and then "R-a-m-b-o!" I look back to see a hundred something pounds of dog (possibly a Rottweiler - I can't be sure) barreling down the grassy hill towards me. His muscles are rippling with the exertion and with each frighteningly swift stride he gets serious airtime. "Fuck!" I think. "Big dog. BIG. FUCKING. DOG!" Now, I've been bitten by a dog on my bike before and had another dog come really close to biting me and neither of those incidents was a quarter as scary as this gigantic canine closing in on me. This is when my survival instincts kick in and I start pedaling with such fury that a momentary, "Oh, cool!" went through my head when I realized I was going 20 mph up a pretty fierce hill. I have no idea if a dog can go faster than that and I was too scared to look back until I made it to the top of the hill and into Maywood Park.

My legs were really shaking at this point so I stop for a rest. I give a few cyclists a warning about the dog as they ride past and then start up again. It must have been adrenaline fueling me, but from then on I rode faster than I've ever ridden on a long ride.

Little brown tweety birds (LBTB) keep pulling in front of me to ride with me as I move along the Columbia. They would usually ride a foot to the right or a foot to the left, but one plowed along right in front of my tire for more than a hundred feet. "What are you doing?" I ask and it flew away.

My mind is focused on one thing. "I don't want to go back past the dog. I don't want to go back past the dog." I'm pretty sure the dog belonged to a homeless person and I'm weighing the odds that they'll be gone when I go back that way after an hour. It's very possible that they are free camping at the top of that hill, under the trees so I decide to go back the long way, skipping the bike path and riding along 148th. This has a section without a bike lane, but today I'd rather take my chances with the cars.

I leave the bike path, head down Marine Drive and turn right on 148th. There's a lot of traffic and I say to myself, "Own your space. Darryl says to own your space." I sit up straighter and tried to hold a steady line. 1.6 miles later I'm back on the bike lane and have moved into a soaring endorphin high. When I finally make it to Burnside I feel supremely confident and almost giddy.

Burnside is long and straight and I can see that a School Bus is stopped up ahead with the stop sign extended. A very long line of cars is waiting patiently behind them. Kids don't seem to be pouring off the bus anymore but are instead gathered around the right rear end of the bus talking to a kid inside. As I get closer I can see that the bus is shaking. "I can't tell who is fighting," the kid inside yells. Oh man, this could go on for a while. I decide to walk my bike past the entrance to the bus. The bus driver is nowhere to be seen and I assume he is caught in the middle of the tussle. As I ride away, I'm completely alone on Burnside! All the traffic is caught behind the school bus. I think, like all cyclists, I have dreams of being able to cruise all over my city (or even the country) on roads free of cars. What a glorious feeling!

It has been raining for over an hour now, but about 5 miles from home the sky really opens. I'm already soaked to the bone and couldn't care less. In fact, it feels great. I want to shout to the cars passing me, "I feel so alive!" I start to laugh at myself because I think the latest chapter of "Sara's Fear of Cycling" has been closed. Pulling off Burnside and onto the bike streets a postman wearing a full-length rain coat notices my ebullient grin and laughs. "How you doing today?" he cheerfully asks. "GREAT!" I reply.

After 4 hours and 53 miles I pull into the driveway, soaked, happy...blissfully happy and (as I would learn when I got inside) with two giant holes in my beloved Louis Garneau bike shorts. One on each cheek. I must have been quite the sight riding home and we got a good laugh out of this. Later, when we were eating dinner I was feeling sad about my shorts and I accidentally confessed how much these shorts had cost me ($140). Woops, I had managed to keep that a secret from my husband for a full 7 months! "But, I've probably worn them (and washed them) 140 times," I told Peter. At a dollar a wear, that can't be too bad. I'll have to wait to buy myself a new pair as we have put ourselves into Iceland-bound self-inflicted poverty. If there is any money for Christmas presents, those will be on my list (and I can't wait to wear out my next pair too!).

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