Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Successful first bike commute of the year! Sort of...

I know, I know, I'm late to the ball game. It's been spring for a few weeks at *least*. Kind of. It can't seem to make up its mind here in the great Pacific Northwest.

Last year, frustrated with how little riding I was able to get in during the evenings, plus the gas prices (and we thought they were bad then...), I made up my mind to try riding to work. It's 12.5 miles each way, which isn't really at the extreme end of bike commuting, but still nothing to sneeze at. I scoped it out in the car for weeks, then rode it on the weekend, and finally figured out a route that is almost entirely wide shoulders, bike lanes, and bike paths. There's one small bridge where I have to merge into traffic, and two left-hand turns that also pretty much require joining the big scary cars. Other than that, it's pretty stress-free.

I'd not ridden yet this year, partly because of our changeable weather and partly because I'd had a nice long winter in which to build up my phobias again. I'm scared of riding on the road. But then, I'm scared of merging on the interstate, too, especially at night. If I do it often enough, I at least get to the stage where I figure I'm more likely to make it than to die. That's about the best I can do. ;-) Same goes for the bike commute.

Yesterday at work, one of the other gals in the office, who knew that I rode in last year, came to talk about her determination to ride in today and the sorts of obstacles she anticipated. I got all wistful and decided I *had* to ride in today - this despite the fact that I'd not even been on the bike this calendar year. Yes, I am a slug.

But I'm a very stubborn slug. That's in my favor, at least!

It was a grey, cool morning - actually very nice weather for biking, IMO. No glaring sun or confusing shadows. After a mile, I thought about giving up and going back. My legs were already burning. Then, the first of the mishaps occurred. I got my shoelace looped on a pedal - something that *never* happened last year. In about two pedal strokes, my foot was completely stuck, twisted sideways, and I was unable to control the bike or free my foot. So I did what I had to do - dumped myself into the grass at the side of the road. There I was, sitting in a dip with one foot sticking up, one foot glued to the bike, and cars slowing down to watch. Yeah. Lovely. As a co-worker said, they probably figured I'm one of those folks who are starting to bike because of the gas prices, but who haven't been on a bike since about second grade. Heh... I had to take off my shoe to get my lace loose, but nothing was broken, on the shoe, the bike, or me. And it made me mad enough to go on instead of going back.

The rest of the commute was equally imperfect. I took a left turn too soon and had someone slam on their brakes and honk at me (they made it into a much bigger deal than it was, but I was at fault, for sure - again, something I didn't do alll last season. Ungh...) I ran over broken glass, which fortunately didn't cause any flats, but sure made me nervous.

But I made it. And I also had the chance to remember how much of the riding experience I'd missed - in the car, you miss the sounds of the world going on around you; the smell of flowers or cut grass or wood (or sewers) as you go past; smiling and waving at pedestrians and other cyclists; the joy of cresting a steep hill under your own power, even if you slowed to a near-walk for the final third; the rush of the wind - sometimes friend, sometimes foe....

It's good to be back again.

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