Saturday, January 14, 2012


The cable lock securing my bike to the rack was nearly frozen in place and I struggled to unlock it.  An older man exited the coffee shop next to me and began heading for his car when he stopped and looked towards me.  My hearty "Good morning!" brought him closer.

"I got some advice for you." he said.  I peered at his face in the dim early morning light to see his expression.  It revealed a mild intensity.  "I used to do everything in all crazy weather like this too.  I wanna tell you to keep doing it.  Look at me.  I'm 81.  No pills.  People think I'm 65.  I still ride 14 miles a day, everyday.  You're thin and athletic.  Keep in shape and you'll live long."

I shook his hand and thanked him for his advice because he truly looked amazing for 81.  He turned to walk away and I thought he was done.

"One other thing:  I wouldn't ride on the road.  It's too dangerous.  I stick to sidewalks, bike paths, alleys and parking lots.  I've seen too many accidents." he added.

I thanked him for a second time.  I pretended to adjust something on my bike until he drove off in his car.  I didn't want him to see me pull out onto the road.
One day, my friend, Eric, and I were riding up a long climb with our bikes laden down.  It was a cold spring day and rain was steadily falling.  He commented to me, "Y'know, I really like to smile a lot when I'm doing dumb shit like this.  I figure if passing cars see me smiling, they'll think I'm insane."

This time, I was riding alone in well below freezing temperatures.  My beard collected a film of ice on it from  my breath.  Gusting winds pushed my bike to and fro as I rode past miles of farm fields.  Each time I saw an oncoming car, I found myself sitting up straighter and grinning from ear to ear.
Ice covered the road its entire width for a distance of 40 feet.  Since I was riding slowly up a slight incline, there was plenty of time to think and react.  My first thought of course was to stop and not try to ride on a sheet of ice.  My next thought was that if I was going to try to ride across it, I should be going much faster so momentum would carry me across.  It also occurred to me that I should slip my feet out of the straps holding them to the pedals in case I did fall.

I did none of these.  Slowly I crept across the first four feet of ice.  Without warning my bike shot out from under me like a greased pig.  I was immediately slammed down on my left side right there in the middle of the road.  Reviewing the damage, I realized it was slight.  Sprained wrist, banged up knee, bent brake grip, and saddle skewed by 30 degrees.  Since I was minutes away from Jason's house, I shook it off and rode the remaining distance standing, holding my butt off of the cockeyed saddle.
We matched each other in height and endurance so our strides were nearly identical.  Footfalls crunched down on the frozen leaves and sticks in unison as we ran steadily through the woods.  Our pace was moderate enough that we could hold a conversation with one another, comparing notes about work, the weather, and dreams.

Every twenty minutes or so, either our exchange of words or a random muscle twinge would occupy too much of our attention.  Jason or I would put a foot down and instead of finding the secure purchase of dirt or gravel, we would be greeted with a skating rink.  Avoiding the ice would have been rather easy, but once on a sheet of it there was little one could do.  You accelerate your pace to take quick, short steps and pinwheel your arms in a comedic attempt at retaining balance.  Eventually we would come to an uncontrolled stop and exchange laughs at avoiding the spill.

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