a sunset too good to ignore and refining the route
So last night while driving home I was so taken by the sunset that I pulled off into the sprawling parking lot at the corner of Laurel and the 72 Bypass and managed to get this photo with the handy-dandy little iPhone - because, seriously, you don't get a good sunset like this every day. And a sunset like this calls for the appropriate Scripture, and hey, it's EASY to google "sunset" and "Bible" and get this -
"They who dwell on the ends of the earth stand in awe of your signs; You make the dawn and the sunset shout for joy." Psalm 65:8, NASB
- and that about sums that up for me, thank you!
This morning I really, really wanted to sleep in, but I prayed for a couple of minutes and threw my legs over the side of the bed and completed the dress-eat-cereal-grab-water-bottle-and-bike-get-out-the-door thang and was rolling by 6:10. I repeated the start of yesterday's ride - Durst to W. Cambridge to Chinquapin to Sunset, spinning along and thinking about a Facebook post by an associate which she had linked to a lengthy article on knee pain. That author had devoted a lot of space to cleat float issues, with specific recommendations for various clipless pedals. I wondered what the author (or my old associate, for that matter) would say about my MKS Sylvan pedals with clips and straps, and then I was warmed up enough to enjoy Sunset.
Seriously. I enjoyed Sunset, and prepared myself for the little wall climb, because Ainsley does it every time he goes for a ride, and it was a good day to be thankful to be on a bike. I decided to be thankful that there was a hill for me to climb and a speedy bike under me and I grinned my way up it, breathing easier than yesterday.
Today I turned onto Calhoun Road, which at this point was also the 225 Bypass, and stayed on it. I looked over to the left at the equestrian ring at Connie Maxwell, and considered stopping for a moment to grab a photo of the trains lined up in the rail yard over in Maxwellton on the right, but kept on. There was more traffic here, and faster, so I focused on going on up the road and maintaining a brisk pace. The motorists I encountered weren't bad, necessarily, but they weren't giving up much more than the statutory 3 feet of clearance as they went by. Maybe they figured, "hey, he's maintaining a straight line and wearing a helmet - he's fine." Whatever, it's not a road to dawdle on, and I was glad to turn off onto Epting and head towards town.
It was 6:41, and I was a few minutes ahead of the rush to Self Regional Hospital by its assorted staff folks that I knew was coming. I spun on down the long hill at a comfortable speed, topping out somewhere around 26 mph, then onto the little bottom land section. I saw an orange and white cat stalking something in the grass below the bridge and said hello softly. His head turned as I went past as he watched me, a near-silent blur seen through tall grass as it passes by, and that's an awfully deep thought to be pondering while riding a fixed-gear before having one's first cup of coffee for the day, isn't it?
Up now, and remembering to be grateful for the hills that make us strong and tall, now standing and feeling the bike swing under me, still feeling better than I have any right to feel - thank you, LORD! - and rolling up to the light at Spring Street and actually catching the yellow. Nice. I smiled at folks crossing the street to go into the hospital, complimented a guy working on his beautiful container garden full of tall corn, and generally had a lovely time.
Back into Uptown Greenwood now, where the light at Maxwell and Main is either set to pick up cyclists or it's on a timer - it worked for me, which is what I cared about most - and then around onto Bailey Circle and down Jennings to my new route home with its steep little climb up Sproles that was so good I looped around and did it again, because I could. My second time around I saw the same black cat I had seen yesterday, sitting in the same pose in the same driveway, and wondered idly if I would always be drawn to notice black cats. Probably. Then it was back to my own driveway, where I learned I had 12.2 miles for the day and a residual grin. Thanks for reading, and again - thank you, LORD.
another day, another route
So, today I wanted to do something different. This is NOT my nature - I am quite content to continue to follow a predetermined orbit, and frequently will, when left to my own devices. This happens sometimes when you grow up with a parent who has a compulsive need to re-arrange things continually ... but no, my main concern was to avoid the broken bottles on the Heritage Trail and have a morning ride without flats.
I went straight down Durst past Lander University and hooked a right over onto Cambridge and waited, waited, waited for the light - and then some helpful soul rolled up in a motor vehicle on the other side of the intersection and tripped it for us all. It had been a while since I had cycled on that road, and I was surprised at how fast I rolled down the approach to the bridge over the walking trail and how much momentum I could keep going up.
It was good to be on West Cambridge at 6:15 or so, because the traffic most definitely picks up later. Early on, though, it was almost peaceful, and I turned the 45x17 almost as smoothly as I could on the rail trail despite the somewhat bumpier surface. I pondered again how this road, which is frequently VERY heavily traveled, has stayed so narrow - then again, it does adjoin the Greenwood Country Club, so maybe that has something to do with it. At any rate, I timed the light at Mathis Road just right but had to wait for a while where Calhoun Road/225 Bypass intersects it. A moment or so later I gauged things nicely and made a smooth arcing turn onto Chinquapin Road.
Up on the left was Sunset Road, which I hadn't ridden in a long time, either. I rolled past Ainsley's house and thought about the speeds he's been getting coming back the other way - which meant, yes, there was a wall of a climb ahead of me. The run-up was nice, some lovely little whoop-de-doos where I could spin the bike up around 25-27 mph and then romp on up the other side and keep as much momentum going as I could. I buzzed down towards the pond and realized, no, there's one more hillock, and then I was going over it and confronted with the steep bit.
It doesn't look particularly impressive - but the grade was just exactly right, just enough to really make me work for it. I thought about Ainsley climbing that rascal regularly and was grateful I didn't have to do that myself. My speed dropped rapidly and then I was standing on the bike and very conscious of how I was breathing, long, slow inhalation and exhalation, trying to turn circles with my feet, no matter how slow they might be, rather than be a plongeur. Then I crested it with much, much gratitude (Thank you, LORD!) and turned out onto the 225 Bypass. Almost immediately came the turn onto Maxwell Avenue, and I rolled down the slope past the Connie Maxwell home.
I heard the train horn - that sounds wrong, it should be whistle, but trains don't make a whistle sound anymore, and I agree with John Fahey that they sound like they're making an augmented chord - and concluded I would probably have to wait down near Edgefield for it to pass. I spun on down, then climbed up towards town, keeping a surprising amount of momentum - and no train awaited me. I was thankful again and turned onto Edgefield and took it down to Circular, emerging onto South Main.
I cut around behind the Inn on the Square and found myself almost nose-to-nose with a city garbage truck. I had the right of way and took it, then they passed me as I spun down Phoenix at around 28 mph. I slowed way down and held back - I mean, it WAS a garbage truck - and waited, waited, waited for the light to change. The garbage truck shifted a little, too. After a certain point, when it was clear the light was NOT responsive, they rolled on through the red and cross over to Pressley. I rolled up, looked right and left and treated it as a stop sign. The truck's crew was rolling the green Herbie-Curbies toward the maw of their vehicle as I rolled by, and they were amused when I commented on how I was used to not being seen by traffic light sensors, but when their truck didn't trip the switch, well ...
Back down Jennings, up and out and onto Reynolds and almost missing my left turn onto Gatlin, then deciding it was a good day to take Cokesbury and explore the far end of Henrietta. It was absolutely silent and still on the loop of big houses down there, the road surface was buttery, and I had flashbacks to rolling Eli and Claire in strollers along those streets, back when they were babies and we would occasionally meet overweight Labrador Retrievers who would snuffle us and waddle off. I heard the shhsk shhsk shhsk of a patch of sandy mud I'd picked up on a tire as it wore away and faded and made the turn at the bottom of the hill easily. The climb back up wasn't really a climb at all, but then I had a lot more momentum on my side than I would have pushing a stroller.
I came back through, looked at the time and decided to make one more quick loop down North Street, up Melrose Terrace and back down Woodland to the nasty climb on Sproles - because one short little wall climb isn't enough for my morning. Then back home to find I had 10.6 miles and felt a whole lot better than I would have had I just stayed in bed and slept another hours like I really wanted to this morning. Again, thank you LORD!
Gwd-96-Gwd, frogs and flats
Friday morning I slept in, sort of - I got out of bed after 6:00, ate, dressed, and was on the road by 6:45. I felt energetic, and I saw a way to get in a longer ride and still accomplish the long list of things I had ahead of me for the day.
My first indication that it might not be quite as smooth as I hoped came when I arrived downtown to find Main Street barricaded for the Festival of Discovery BBQ and Blues bacchanal. As in, blocked off. Of course, on a fixed-gear, barricades mean nothing, and I zipped between the barrels and rolled past many of the RVs and trailer-mounted cookers and generators to take my usual turns. Guess what - those were barricaded, too. As in, how does one navigate around all of these blocked streets, anyway? I started to mutter to myself about someone making sub-genius decisions regarding traffic flow before reminding myself I could be grateful that a bunch of people would hopefully have a good time over the next couple of days. Besides, I was on a bike and could maneuver around the stuff, and really, wasn't being on a bike at all enough to be grateful for?
I concluded it was, passed the last orange barrels and aimed the Gitane for the Heritage Trail. No wildlife sightings there, for a change, though I did see Our Lady of the Golf Club at Port Arms. I turned onto Florida Avenue, then into the Wisewood subdivision and worked my way 'round to 221 South and thence to the 225 bypass, doing the reverse of what had once been a loop I did with the old Greenwood Cycling Club at least once a week. I crossed 25 South with a truck at my heels and headed down Scotch Cross Road with a plan to actually reach Ninety Six, which might not be the gem of the upstate, but it at least qualifies as a semi-precious stone.
I haven't been paying attention on this road, and I haven't ridden it all that much the last few years, so it came as a shock to me to realize that someone has clear cut the woods near Norris Road
, leaving only small scrub brush on the Greenwood side. Huh. I rolled on, readjusting landmarks in my head, keeping a weather eye out for Hitching Post Road (same as always) and Pembroke, which is the warning for the steepest descent on Scotch Cross.
When I was riding a first-issue Bianchi Pista in 2000, I had once hit 36 mph on that descent, turning a 48x18 at way too high a cadence for me to be comfortable. It took me a while to feel human again after that. And last month when Ainsley and I had come down this way, I had hit the pothole near the bottom just right while riding 31 or 32 mph, and had felt the Gitane's back end leave the ground in a reminder that endo happens. All of this flashed through my head, along with a conscious decision to slow the bike down with a little gentle, passive resistance pedal action. I kept the bike to 25 mph AND was able to take the inside line that skirted the big lumpy spot.
I went straight through the intersection for the first time in years, as Scotch Cross became Golf Course Road. I swung up out of the saddle and crested the hill and felt pretty good. The road narrows some, and in the stretch where there were once bike-chasing pitbulls that were always good for an adrenaline rush, today there was yard art sculpture that demanded photographic tribute. From there it was a short hop to the last rise into town, where the town's walking trail, Gold Course Road and Highway 34 all converge. I passed the now-shuttered and for sale Bakery 96
and made the turn onto Highway 246. I pulled over and took the requisite documentary photo of Gitane, 96 Fountain, clock and flag to prove I had been there with that bike in July before mounting up and heading out of town.
It has been several years since I had ridden this way, and I had forgotten that first one turns onto Old Highway 246 before making the left turn onto Oregon Farm Road. I was once again struck by how there is a back driveway leading to an EMT station right at the intersection, something that eluded my associates when I crashed my Bianchi in 2000 - they elected to cycle back to Greenwood, get a car and come back to pick me up, which was probably not the best idea. On the other hand, at least the driver vetoed the proposed lunch stop on the way to pick me up, so I should be grateful for that - and in my way, I am.
Onto Oregon Farm Road, then, site of my worse bike wreck, part of the route I once turned in my fastest ride ever (Jim Cox, Ken Beale and I, 25 miles and I cannot remember the time, but it was fast for me!). It was foggy over in the fields bordering the road, and there was more traffic than I would have expected, but then as it got closer to 8:00, the folks taking a shortcut to work thinned out.
Years ago, Jim Cox had pointed out a roadside cross and suggested it was the memorial for my wreck. It wasn't, but it was very close to where I landed that day. Friday I saw how much that memorial has been added to over the last decade or so and wondered how often the deceased's loved ones showed up, and how long he's been gone. R.I.P., I thought, and headed on up to Siloam Church Road.
The same but different, I thought, as I rode past Rush's HVAC compound at Parkland Place, then on to Marshall Road and back into town via New Market. I turned onto Phoenix and, SURPRISE - it was blocked off, too. I mean, really. Utter nonsense. I would later learn that folks at the Index-Journal had an interesting time getting out to do their jobs. I slipped through, of course, and climbed the hill and headed down towards Seaboard Coast and the light there. Someone had barricaded Pressley Street, too, which I decided was beyond nonsense and in the realm of nonsense on stilts, so I ducked on through and went home with 26.5 miles for the day.
I spent a full weekend en famille, helping my fabulous wife clean out the sunroom and children's play area, and spending time hanging out while the kids played in the lake. A nice little high point was the visit of the tree frog peeking in through the breakfast room window - hello there to you, too! The low point was when Eli slung his toy boat just a little too hard and too far - it was suddenly beyond his reach and moving outward. I dashed into the house to don trunks and grab a rake, but alas, it was too late. The little thing was bobbing out of reach, and even if I could swim, I wouldn't want to do so in Lake Greenwood - just being armpit deep in it was creepy enough. We all agreed that if it floated back we would retrieve it, because such things have happened in the past, and went in to dinner. The tiny boat kept going slowly but steadily across the lake. As the sun was going down, I used my mother-in-law's binoculars and located it, where it was on a steady course to make land at Goat Island within the hour. Bon voyage, little boat!
This morning I got out of bed without the need for a crowbar, prayed for a few minutes, and did the usual cycling togs and cereal prelude to riding. I managed to get rolling by 6:07, and generally I felt pretty good on the bike, feeling muscles loosen up and the stiffness slowly departing. I made it through the usual downtown stuff and onto the good old Heritage Trail. At the bottom of the little hill where it starts to straighten out, I made my first wildlife sighting - a deer standing at the edge, head up and watching me approach, before it wheeled and ran off down what I later saw was a nearly sheer embankment down to the bottom land below.
It was shady under the trees, and even with my regular glasses it was still a touch dark - I could see well enough to ride, but not well enough to see every detail of the trail. Suddenly I heard an unnatural "ping!" and I intuitively knew that sound - my tires had just bounced a piece of broken glass off the bike's downtube. I slowed and found myself negotiating an area where someone had broken several different bottles on the trail. I reached down and gloved the front tire and felt nothing come off, so I rolled on. I was feeling fortunate for having gotten off scot-free, even the last broken brown bottle, and then suddenly I was feeling the trail surface just a bit too much and looked down at my fast deflating rear tire.
You know the rule as well as I do. You NEVER get a flat front tire - unless you are going down hill very, very fast when it can really hurt you. No, the garden-variety flat tire is almost ALWAYS the rear, and this is such an eternal truth that even Samuel Beckett has commented on it, having Mr. Tyler express that great truth that all cyclists confronted with a flat rear tire will understand -
"Now if it were the front I should not so much mind. But the back. The back! The chain! The oil! The grease! The hub! The brakes! The gear! No! It is too much!" (Samuel Beckett, All That Fall, p. 40)
- so I pulled over and took the cyclecomputer off its mount and the bottle out of its cage and put the bike upside down on its saddle and brake hoods in the pinestraw. Out came the wrench, and I managed to remove the rear wheel without getting too much grease on me. I was deliberate, not rushing or flustered, but calmly working to make the repair and only have to do it ONCE.
Lo and behold, the tire levers in the kit I had with me worked like a perfect charm - thank you, LORD! And then I was able to slowly remove the punctured tube and actually keep it oriented correctly, pump some air into it, and locate the hole - so I could then carefully inspect the tire itself and find and remove the offending shard of glass. Perfect. In went the spare tube I had tucked into my jersey pocket, the tire went back onto the rim without tools - yay, no pinch flats! - and the ancient Zefal HP frame pump (I acquired it in a batch of stuff 15 years ago and it was old then) worked beautifully, which is why they still sell the things. The bike went back together correctly and I set off for the last quarter mile or so of the trail, having decided I didn't feel like running the gauntlet of broken glass again.
Back I came through the Matthews Mill village, taking Cross Street to its dead-end on Bolt, then on to Edgefield before working my way over to Spring Street to Mineral, thence back home the way I had come out. The rear tire felt a little ... off, like either I needed more air or I just needed to tighten my chain tension. In all likelihood, though, it was just me, my rhythm thrown off by the time spent changing a tire when I would rather have been riding.
I had 9.66 miles when I got home and I scrambled to shave, shower and dress for work. I wasn't too, too late, either, so all was well.
after midnight in the sunroom and gratitude
I was very, very late getting to bed last night - I wound up sitting in the sunroom with my beloved Gibson J-45 acoustic just playing and singing in one of those late night sessions where recently written stuff flows into the 30-year-old forgotten songs, on a night when I even broke out a plectrum a few times. Everyone else is living at my mother-in-laws while massive house renovation goes on, so I could throw my head back and howl where it was appropriate, free to dig in aggressively and really drive the soundboard hard. No recording, no thinking about what I was playing or any of that, I just went for the song and felt it, down to feeling the mahogany back of the Gibson vibrate against my ribs when I punched the lower notes. Then I looked at the time - 12:15 a.m. - and concluded it was time to crawl between the sheets, so I did.
I woke and lay in bed, thinking, "oh, I KNOW I can do this, but do I want to?" A glance at my phone and I realized I didn't have to just yet - it was only 4:00. I flopped back down till the alarm at 5:40, then had the same conversation again with myself about whether or not I really, really, REALLY wanted to go ride. In the end I did, and rose to the morning ritual of cycling clothes, cereal, shoes and out the door. I was running later than normal and didn't roll out until 6:15.
I was consciously praying little prayers the whole time I rode today, working on changing how I approach pretty much everything. Not so very long ago I would have rolled my eyes at the idea, or probably mocked it - I was once quite the mocker, and knowing there is forgiveness even for that is quite the blessing. But I worked on re-training my mind to work in quick prayers for people I passed by or thought of, no matter how fleetingly, because it works. It just works, and there is absolutely no use in trying to explain it, so I don't.
The sky was a leaden gray this morning, no spectacular sunrise - in fact, not much of a sunrise at all - but the Gitane was running smoothly and my legs felt pretty good. Once more, I nodded and smiled at the motorists around me and for the most part they responded the same way - and this is before coffee, too. There were no wild animal sightings on the rail-trail, though I did see the lady with the golf club at port arms - one definitely smiles and makes nice when one encounters her! - and as I pulled off, the couple I usually see walking was parking their car at the Florida Avenue end of the trail.
It occurred to me that next week will mark the 14th anniversary of my last bad bike wreck - on July 15, 2000, I had a clipless pedal spontaneously release at speed on a first issue Bianchi Pista and went over the bars, breaking a couple of ribs and turning my left side to hamburger for a week or so. Today the only signs of that are the absence of clipless pedals from my road bikes and the scars on the saddle I was using that day - which, oh yeah, I was riding today.
I quietly thanked God for a good morning and rolled on, sweeping around onto Phoenix Street for the last leg in. I saw a number of city employees in golf carts and exchanged greetings with them, turned out onto Main Street and truly wished I had my camera ready - it was the Golf Cart Armada, maybe a dozen or so of the things, full of city workers in day-glo yellow shirts on their way to set things up for the Festival of Discovery this weekend. It was like Myrtle Beach but with brighter shirts ...
Home then, home to shave and shower and prepare for work, feeling much lighter and fresher than I have any right to feel and being most grateful for it, as in - "This is the day which the LORD has made; we will rejoice and be glad in it." - Psalm 118:24.
saddles, rivets and happiness
When I was at Sweetgrass Cycles Monday, I had wanted to buy some Proofide, but alas, they were out. Pal Jeff came to my rescue by giving me a tin with a small amount left in it, and lo, it turned out to be just exactly the right amount for what I needed. Last night I pulled Julius's once honey-colored Brooks B-17 special off the seat post and yes, I super-glued the torn bit under the right front rivet together after encouraging it back together with a rubber mallet. Then I slathered the old saddle with Proofide, paying special attention to the nose and the corners near the ends of the cantle. I shouldn't let things get that dried out, now, should I?
It's the newest of my Brooks saddles, in use for 11 years now, the thickest leather, but with the most damage because of that little tear. I bought it from the late, much-missed Sheldon Brown at Harris Cyclery back during the great Brooks saddle panic when Sturmey-Archer succumbed to speculators before being rescued by Sun Race, when it looked like there would be no more Brooks saddles, period. I'll see how it fares, and I have not yet ruled out fitting it with an auxiliary rivet to take up the strain where it's damaged. We'll see.
I was awake right at 5:00, but chose to be lazy and stay in bed until the alarm went off 40 minutes later, when I did the usual drill of dress in cycling togs, eat something, grab a water bottle and pop down into the basement for the Gitane. Then it was out, the same road as yesterday and the ride before that and the ride before that one, too ... but I felt really, really good. As in, happy, joyful, and grateful that God had given me a really lovely morning and a smooth-running old bike to ride in the cool between the rays coming through the trees along the rail trail.
It felt especially nice, really, genuinely full and rich and spreading outward, and I felt all hippy-dippy-peace-love-'n-happiness and decided I could send my cynical inner voice back to its playroom with a popsicle while I enjoyed simply feeling exceptionally happy. So I did. I nodded or waved to just about everyone I encountered, and they pretty much all responded in some way that was above-neutral-or-nicer, if not smiling back. See, Greenwood County can be a pretty good place to be, after all.
Now, after the fact, I can look up the appropriate Scripture here - "But godliness with contentment is great gain," 1 Timothy 6:6 - and seriously, it felt like a gift and I was and still am most grateful for it.
The grin stayed on my face all the way up the hill on New Market, all the way along Robber Baron Row and back into town along Taggart Avenue. I weaseled along Reynolds to Gatlin and thence over to Sproles and the bonus hill climb. It was 6:53 when I muscled my way up to the top, so I swept around in a loop to take in the outer boundary of my neighborhood before coming back around to make it truly a bonus hill climb. It was NOT a fast climb with dancing on the pedals, more like a determined punch-punch-punch in slow mo' with the bike going way way over from side to side under me, but no one was rating my form, and anyway, I was still grinning with the sheer fierce exultant joy of being alive with metric-gauge Reynolds 531 doing its Gallic thing under me.
Home then, and rolling up to the gate at 6:59, and the morning's shave-shower-shampoo-slacks-and-shirt ritual awaited, followed by gainful employment and the opportunity to see if I could keep that grin going all day.
a post-fireworks ride
I had a great Independence Day weekend, complete with a trip
to the U.S.S. Yorktown with my 7-year-old Tiger Cub that involved an astounding
fireworks display, sleeping way up high in the top bunk about 8 feet off the
ground, lots of climbing ladders up and down on warships commissioned in 1943,
and lots of walking around back and forth across hanger and flight decks. Top it off with a delightful stay en famille
that included a meal at my favorite low-country Greek restaurant (Zeus in Mt.
Pleasant) AND a family walk along the beach at Isle of Palms, and you have a
good and glorious weekend. We worked in
a visit to pal Jeff Slotkin at Sweetgrass Cycles and found a helmet for my
5-year-old daughter that fit both her head and her sense of the appropriate
colors for a princess to wear before making the long drive home. I was well and
thoroughly beat when I fell into the sheets and slept the sleep of those who
have missed their own beds.
This morning I had to lever myself up and out, but I managed
it. I ate breakfast with the last of the
milk, dressed in cycling stuff and went downstairs. The tires on the Gitane were were
surprisingly low on air so I pumped them back up to 90 psi and set out, passing
the still-dead wasp nest that I need to remove tonight or tomorrow.
It was 6:11 when I rolled out of the driveway, encountering
like, nothing and nobody before hooking left onto Grace and heading for
fabulous Uptown Greenwood. Here traffic
and traffic lights were on my side, and I rolled up on a car just as the light
went green. I followed him through the
intersection and made my way, noting that the sky was lighter but full of
overcast fog. No spectacular sunrises
I wound my way through the streets back to the trail, seeing
only two guys sitting in the yard of the project. I nodded, they didn't, and I rolled on. One of the guys was wearing a vest with no
shirt. I found myself fervently wishing
Ainsley was there and riding with me so that we could have discussed what
wearing a vest with no shirt did to that guy's odds of being arrested - if you've ever indulged yourself with that guiltiest of pleasures "COPS," you'll agree that the one without a shirt always goes to jail.
I passed a
shopping cart on its side by the side of the road, unusual in that it was
covered in red plasti-coat finish. I had
never before seen one of those gone feral, usually it's the chrome ones that go
wild and roaming
Apart from the savage shopping cart, there wasn't too much
wildlife this morning, just one doe that sprang across the trail at my
approach. Further along, I encountered
the older couple I have been seeing a couple of times a week, and we nodded to
each other in recognition/acknowledgement, and then I was spinning toward the
end of the trail.
Left again, rolling up Florida to cross 25 South, then down
the other end of Florida Avenue to 34, where once more traffic and lights were
on my side, and I was able to easily - and legally! - roll onto New
Market. I felt really strong rolling
downhill - no surprise there! - and stormed up the hill faster than any time
this year. After the false flat, I was
still able to maintain a decent pace on the second bit of climbing. Lo and behold, the light was pretty close to
synchronized to my approach, and on I went.
Up the rise to Robber Baron Row, and suddenly I heard THAT
sound, the sound that could only be ... and it was, a freakin' 18-wheeler
rolling up behind me on New Market. I
got high enough to see over the rise and saw an oncoming car, took in that the
road was perceptibly NARROWING, looked back to gauge the rate of overtake
behind me, calculated range and ballistics and insurance deductables, took a
deep breath and CLAIMED the lane and stomped on the Gitane. The old green bike didn't let me down, and I
whipped over onto E. Creswell with room to spare as vehicles passed each other
where I no longer was. Whew.
I snaked my way back through what is, let's face it, a
pretty danged dodgy neighborhood, and came out on Phoenix Street. I wished for greater energy on the climb up
to the post office, but my wish was not granted. A quick turn and I was riding
along Main Street. I slipped around via
Bailey Circle and Jennings to skip the light at Grace, and then buzzed home via
little Melrose Terrace. I was home by
7:00 with 10.6 miles for my morning and the promise that tomorrow I may be a
dawn patrol with black cat and added hill climb
I managed to get out the door at 6:03, which isn't easy for a sleep-loving guy like yrs.trly. I had to pause to remind myself to vigorously swipe the left pedal with my toes to get into the clip, but after that all mechanical things just sort of melted away into calm and peace and smooth-running flow. The traffic lights were all my friends, people on the sidewalk waved or nodded to my "good morning" salutations, and things were all as they should be.
The sky was clearer this morning, so I didn't get the dramatic sunrise of Tuesday, but it was still pretty enough. I snaked my way around past the courthouse - which I really should shoot some morning, because today it had a nice coppery glow - and went down past the craggy grand old house at the corner of of Edgefield and Mineral and zipped on down past the project and the fortress-like whitewashed complex behind the razor wire where they do who knows what and whipped around onto the rail trail. I paused long enough to change over to my sunglasses (which stay on my face better) and snap a quick photo.
So full of promise, the Greenwood Rail Trail - such an essential little route for meditative cycling. It is its own little Appian Way, a gateway to routes that carry one out to all the good old roads like Rock House or Briarwood, itself an access to a zillion good rides.
Alas, my time today was limited, so I set out to make the best of it. I picked up the pace, something easy to do on this flat, smooth, uninterrupted trail, and burned on along. I encountered the same small black cat in the same general vicinity as I had seen him last time, and as always he fled. I understand that he is probably feral, I am a strange-looking creature approaching at speed on whooshing wheels, so of course he flees. All of that is absolutely logical, but still there is a part of me that wants to befriend every feline I meet, and black cats will always remind me of Hannibal the Magnificent, who among other things loved to hang out in a wheelbarrow in the garage while I worked on bikes. Requiescat in pace, Hannibalissimo.
I met an oncoming jogger and we nodded to each other and went on our ways. Later, I overtook a lady out walking, carrying the inevitable golf club - there is a sociological study waiting to be done on people who carry golf clubs while out walking - and I was nice and gently rang the bell, twice, before calling out "good morning." I got a nice smile in response, because the bell really DOES convey ideas like bicycle and no harm and a nicer vibe than, say, "on yer left" would.
I hooked it left and came back in the usual way via Florida Avenue, for once catching a break at the light on Highway 34 and getting to cross behind a car that had been waiting, patiently, for me to follow in its slipstream. No dogs, no cars following or passing too closely, just the clean burn down the hill and then standing to dance up the other side. I noted in passing that I was slower today than Tuesday going up and concluded that wasn't something to be concerned about and promptly wasn't. There were cars waiting on the other side of Marshall Road, so I slowed, then managed a really impressive track stand - though I suspect I was the only one impressed. The light went green, I rolled on and came back through town the way I always do through Uptown Greenwood.
I took the Bailey Circle/Jennings Avenue route, choosing this time to go a little further down to make my way up to Reynolds, then going down to Gatlin, right in front of funky old Whaley Tires in the place they've been since probably before I was born, and working my way around to Woodland, which dumped me out near the bottom of the hill on E. Sproles. I decided it was good, and I needed to stand on the bike, so I did. I felt that hill, deeply, and swept around toward home before looking at the time - 6:52. Hmmm, I thought, and I went down E. Henrietta to Cokesbury and circled around to take the hill on Sproles again, punching the Gitane harder and faster up the hill, making myself work for it - it's not a long hill, but it is steep enough, and I needed it, so there. I took the loop around Melrose Terrace again and back home, putting a foot down at 6:59. I had 12 miles for the morning, time enough to get ready for work, and great thankfulness to my Creator for such a good start to the day.
I don't look up enough.
Consider - I got out of bed this morning, making myself move just a tiny bit faster today than yesterday, and I put on cycling clothes I had laid out beforehand and went downstairs and ate a generous bowl of cereal and put on my cycling shoes and grabbed a water bottle and grabbed the Gitane and went out the door. Very structured, very routine now, and it's all happening smoothly and in a matter-of-fact kinda way.
I was outside just a little bit earlier today - it was 6:04 when I rolled out of the driveway, and I took the usual route into town. The timing of the light at Grace and Cambridge was especially fortuitous, and I drafted through the turn behind a mini-van, down in the hooks and spinning lustily. The light was borderline, but I slowed and stopped to switch over to my sunglasses for their superior eye protection.
You know that still, small voice we're all supposed to listen for? The one that Elijah heard after the wind and the earthquake and the fire? I must have heard it, because I just turned my head up and to the left and saw it, and had the presence of mind to stop, put a foot down and start taking pictures.
Later, while writing this, I could at leisure find the Scripture I wanted - "And when you look up to the sky and see the sun, the moon and the stars - all the heavenly array - do not be enticed into bowing down to them and worshiping things the LORD your God has apportioned to all the nations under heaven." (Deuteronomy 4:19). But even on the road, astride my ratty old green bike, I could remember to worship the Creator and not the created, and did so, and thanked Him for a really lovely sunrise, and rolled on.
It's not that the rest of the ride was anticlimactic - far from it - but the road's pleasures were smaller and subtler after that. I did remember to look up more, and I promise I'll get some pictures of the green canopy over the rail trail, especially near the entrance at Spring Street and down on the long, long straightaway. It was like riding through a leafy tunnel, through which I could seek glimpses of other worlds. The time of day and the light were perfect, giving me the sight of the shimmering gold sunlight on a pond seen through the screen of trees, sparkling like silver on dew in the grass where other trails branched off.
I went left on Florida, pulled another Gerald right turn-U-turn-right-turn legalism where the light fails to notice cyclists, and rolled along New Market. I once more danced on the pedals up the first, long part of the hill, then had to struggle to match that speed up the short, second part of the climb - I need to figure out if that section is steeper, or if I just psychologically gear down too much on the little respite flat there.
I came back through town along Main Street but avoided the light at Grace and Cambridge by hooking a hard right onto Bailey Circle and looping around. I rode past the funky old house cut into apartments that had been my home for 11 years and went down Jennings Avenue again before popping back up onto Cothran and thence to Grace.
Here I had the only bad moment of the ride. I had trouble getting my left foot back into the toe clip - it happens sometimes even after 40 years of using them - and while I was approaching the intersection with Reynolds, a truck pulled right up alongside with his turn signal going. But he saw me and slowed, I rolled on out, and he made his turn behind me. Just a little, tee-ninetsy jolt of adrenaline, thank you!
Home, then, turning between First Baptist and Edgewood Cemetery, and then past our old place on Melrose Terrace before putting my foot down in the driveway at 6:55 with 10.67 miles and a nice morning's ride to start the day.
Don't forget to look up, y'all!