Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Fresh Air

Sometimes when I ride it feels like freedom, like gliding effortlessly up and over hills, mountains, across streams and rivers in a state of exhilaration. Almost bliss. Sometimes when I ride it feels like an exercise in self-preservation. I'm focused on conscientious, predictable behavior. Look left, look right, signal, check over the shoulder, be one of the cars. Sometimes when I ride it feels like therapy. The left/right motion of the pedals a soothing balm to my troubled, anxious mind; with each mile, with each hill things that seemed so pressing lose their power over me. And, sometimes, well, when I ride it feels like the simplest of things: fresh air and exercise. Today was the latter.

Of course, it was cold, very wet air because we have entered Portland's rainy season. You don't need to check the weather. It's 40s and raining for the next few months almost non-stop. Still it felt good to be out, my cheeks and hands turning rosy pink as the wind whips and the rain bites. I was running an errand and I always do those by bike. It's probably been six or eight weeks since I drove my car. I have only one rule about riding. It's almost like the Star Trek Prime Directive. I don't have to ride unless I want to. I still have to cardio, stretch, do pilates. Those things I will force myself to do. But, I never force myself to ride. I always want to do it out of love. It's funny, though, that when it comes to doing errands, the prospect of getting in my car and driving that beast around always seems like the worse choice. Oh, and parking. I hate to park. Bike racks right by the door (especially the covered ones) are where it's at. So, today, like most days, I zipped up my coat, donned my helmet and hit the road. I may have been soaked when I got back home, but it's only water. I'll dry. It's definitely better than driving.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Relishing the Blue

The sky is thick with clouds. As I pedal through my neighborhood I notice that we're not to the thick, ever-present, soul-crushing, uniform dark grey of winter. No, it's more like a painter has carefully brushed the sky with different shades of grey. And every once in a while, barely peeking through the lightest of the grey clouds, there is blue. A remembrance of summer, of long days and long rides, the hint of blue reminds me that it is still Fall.

As do the leaves and as I wind my way through the bike streets I crush them under my bicycle tires. Many of the trees in my neighborhood have lost all of their leaves, some are nearly there. Others are holding on to their brown, orange and yellow leaves tenaciously and a few even still have green leaves.

As I pass Pho Van I think of my ride there earlier today. When I called to order my favorite pho ga the waitress said, "For Sara, right?" Riding home from their I was so excited about my chicken noodle soup that I started to sing, "I've got pho in my bicycle basket! Tra la la la la!"

I don't have too much time to ride today and I'm still being careful with my back so I'm on my way to Tabor. As I begin to climb I'm reminded of my last month of very little riding. Between resting my back, my husband's accident, and getting sick I haven't really done much climbing. I can feel it as I get to the steep section and you know what, it feels great! What a wonderful feeling to really have to push yourself to get to the top.

I round the top, passing a man with a golf club in his hand. Weird...I give him a wide berth. I carefully make my way down the mountain and through the bike streets home...the whole way relishing those little bits of blue. And, hoping that they stick around just a little bit longer before we are really in the depths of winter.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Riding at Night

It's amazing how quickly time can go by. I know it's cliche to say that I'm noticing this more as I get older, but somehow, in my internal clock, I feel like it shouldn't be mid-November; it should be, say, August 15th. My riding as of late has consisted of trips to the grocery, library, doctor, pharmacy. That kind of thing. I suppose our lives would be considered painfully boring from the outside, but we're trying to save money so we've been sticking close to home. We're both introverts so our favorite thing is to spend time together, cooking and laughing, eating cheap delicious food and drinking wine. A trip to Whole Foods by bike has become quite the outing; about 30 minutes of riding each way, hot mulled apple cider when you walk in the door. A couple of weeks ago we rode home from Whole Foods with 2 cases of a cheap but very drinkable wine called Three Wishes. That was fun.

I did take my road bike out for a ride last week, but sadly I didn't have time to write about it. It was a ride filled with long shadows, slippery pine needles and cool Fall air. But, mostly I have settled into a more sedentary lifestyle. My appetite is a pittance of what it was during my heavy riding weeks. (Which is actually kind of nice). I still get at least an hour of exercise a day, sometimes 2 or more, but I've also been playing my piano and guitar more. It feels like a nice, welcome change in this cool, rainy weather.

Then, last week, my husband had a freak accident. He hit his head really hard on a doorway and because of the severity of the bleeding we had to take him to the ER. It was just one of those crazy things that can happen and luckily we have good insurance, but instantly, in both of us, fear of cycling reared its ugly head.

It's such an uncomfortable thing to be afraid of something you love so much. This seems to keep happening to me, though, so I guess I better get used to it. I actually think a healthy respect for the dangers inherent in cycling keeps you from having accidents. And, if anything, Peter's accident should remind us that nothing in life is completely safe so you should just do what you love and trust that you'll be able to handle it if something bad happens. Oh, how I wish I was a person who could glide through life with that kind of confidence.

Anyway, last night, I had an hour off so I decided to go for a short ride. As I pulled out of the driveway, I thought, It's dark, wet, and there are leaves all over the road. If there is a way to get over fear of cycling, this is it.

Like always, I had a great time. I have fabulous lights. My front Cygolite is like one of those prison lights; it's absolutely blinding. My rear light (Planet Bike, I think) can be seen a mile away. It is so dark here in November, December and January, it seems like you are always riding with your lights on.

So, that's what I've been up to. Simple living, music, food, wine, laughter and an unpleasant dose of fear of cycling angst. I love my bikes, though and I love to ride so I always work through it. Always.