Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Gettin' Cranky

As a quick note, if you haven't had the opportunity to check out Life on Two Wheels (hint: there's a link to it just over there <---), please check it out. Josie has some amazing stories to share - both about her own riding experiences and interviews with others who bike. She also just put up her interview with me, so if you'd like to read more about how I got into biking or more random thoughts, head on over. I believe it's the first of two posts - because, as anyone who's ever corresponded with me knows, it's tough for me to be brief.

No matter how many rides I take - be they training or simply for transportation - the thoughts that run through my head never cease to amaze me. I can get so lost running from one idea to the next that I often wonder how I wound up pondering a certain topic and have to retrace my steps to figure out what it was I was actually attempting to work out. In many ways, cycling is therapeutic and a means of allowing myself simply to get lost in all of the jumbled thoughts though, so I try not to fight it too much.

Some days there is nothing in particular that I am hoping to work through and I find these the most amusing when it comes to flow of thoughts. I think that allowing myself to just roll with whatever comes to mind is sometimes more interesting, entertaining, and helpful than when I have something specific I hope to resolve. On one ride recently, I experienced one of these days during which I had nothing in particular to work out.

The first thing I notice on rides like these is that I almost always have a song that is running through my head from the start of a ride. There doesn't seem to be a whole lot of rhyme or reason to it, and the songs range in age, genre, and have nothing (generally speaking) to do with anything that's going on in life, but on this particular ride the song He's a Rebel by The Crystals was running through my head. How and why it got tangled in the mass of thoughts running is beyond me. I know the song, but it isn't anything I've heard recently, so the mere fact that it somehow wiggled its way into my consciousness was amusing.

Throughout the ride, as I push to get up a hill, I focus on this song and sing (out loud, sadly for those in ear shot) [Just because he doesn't do what everybody else does, that's no reason why I can't give him all my love...He's always good to me, always treats me tenderly... 'Cause he's not a rebel oh no, no, no, he's not a rebel oh no, no, no to me.] It becomes a sort of focus when all I wanted to do was anything but push up the climbs.
Not the specific bridge I was riding over, but this is a great example of one that appears in need of repair.
Strewn in with this song is a plethora of thoughts. One random string starts with a glance over at the mountains. Snow is still gracing most of the peaks, but much of it has melted and is starting to over run already burgeoning rivers. Just then, I pedal across a bridge and I can't help but wonder about the integrity of this particular bridge after the flooding at the end of the season last year. Many of the bridges are in need of repair and an image of me pedaling as I fall to the ground beneath crosses my mind. I wonder if anyone would ever find my body, or if anyone would even know where to begin to look for me because I am horrible about letting anyone know where I'm headed. Thankfully, this thought leaves quickly and I am already over the bridge.

The thought of flooding brings up the biblical story of Noah and the Ark, and I ponder what it would be like to suddenly see the water rising and have nowhere to go... and to have to hunt down two of every animal and build such a huge boat to keep them all safe. Oh, the smells that would be present on a rig like that!

Just then, I pass some road kill - what I think was once a bunny or perhaps a squirrel - it's difficult to tell at this point as it has lost most of the form that would distinguish it as one over the other. Dead animals on the road always make me a bit queasy, and the only thing that saves me with this particular former animal is that it is so decomposed that there isn't much left. I picture a little bunny family, waiting for mom or dad to return home. I always wonder if the animal was a lone critter, or if a fur-family is out hunting for him/her - and if so, do they ever find their deceased relative? Do they have a little bunny funeral at home, remembering the good times and bad? Do they warn other bunny's about venturing out in the same direction?

At this moment, I question my sanity and focus on the ride again.

[He's a rebel and he'll never ever be any good...]

I realize that my feet are going numb. I think about stopping, but I just want to push through the ride. I've recently switched out pedals (again), which makes me think about all of the awesome people here who comment and offer suggestions. My recent experiment is with a super-wide and grippy platform pedal (I'm sure a post is forthcoming on these specific pedals) that I found on a clearance table at a local bike shop. The width has been great for supporting my foot and keeping it stable, but doesn't seem to have done much to remedy the numb feet. But, my current suspicion is that the numbness has more to do with a pinched nerve in my back than it does with pedals, shoes, and so on.

The thought of all the awesome people who comment here has me trailing off into a variety of subjects. I think about some emails that have been exchanged and wonder about a particular individual who wrote asking about some city bike suggestions. I can't help but wonder if she ever found what she was looking for in a transportation bicycle. I think about how my own thoughts have changed over the years about biking for transportation and the bikes that have been comfortable and convenient for such things.

Suddenly, I hear a whizzing/whirring sound, and assume a cyclist is coming to pass me. Instead, I discover that it's some sort of insect that is traveling beside me in the brush, making an all-too-familiar sound of a TT bike and rider coming up on me. I laugh at how similar the two sounds actually are to each other.

[See the way he walks down the street... watch the way he shuffles his feet]

As I'm pedaling, I realize that a restroom break would be phenomenal at about this moment, but understand that I now find myself in the middle of nothing. There are bushes (sort of), but I believe I can make it through. I ponder an article I read recently about women in India fighting for toilets. Toilets. I cannot imagine what it must be like to live in fear of rape or death because there is no safe place to relieve oneself; to live with men waiting for me to come out into a field so that I'm in a vulnerable position. I wonder how we can be so advanced as a world and still live with so much poverty and injustice.

[Just because he doesn't do what everybody else does...]

I pass a man on the opposite side of the road with the hood of his old van open. I smile as I come up on him. He says good morning. I ask if he is okay or needs to borrow a phone. He responds that he thinks he will be okay and carries on about his business. As I roll just beyond, I ponder turning around for a moment, just to be sure, but decide to keep moving. I wonder how many motorists drove up on this scene and just left him standing there. I know there's nothing I could do for him other than offer a phone call to someone who could help, but it reminds me how grateful I am that most cyclists will ask if I am in need of assistance when I'm stopped on the side of the road - even if I'm just stretching or taking a quick photo.

The man's van reminds me of those I would hear about in the news as a kid. It was all white, and had no windows in the back. I recall the stories about children being abducted in these sorts of vans. I question why I didn't feel uneasy stopping for this particular individual as the circumstances could easily be a setup for trouble (on a lonely road with little traffic, stranger with a van, etc).

I recall similar incidents from my past and the stories shared with others when they ask why I would stop for such a person. One incident in particular comes to mind of a gentleman beside his motorcycle in the heart of Los Angeles traffic. This was before cell phones were as prominent as they are now, but I was in a transition period and had no other means of communication, so I happened to have one. As I looked ahead in traffic, I could see this man on the side of the road. He was covered in tattoos on his neck, face, arms, and pretty much anything exposed, wearing all black, and looking (I'm sure to most) like someone to avoid. As I finally reached him, I pulled off to the side and told him I was on my way to work, but I could offer him a phone to call someone if that would help. The look on his face was priceless and I will never forget it. The relief that swept over him as he said, "Thank you so much. No one would stop. I just need to call my boss to come and get me." I hold on to that memory as a reminder to never judge a book by its cover - and also to trust my instincts.

['Cause he's not just one of the crowd...]

Intuition is a fascinating thing. It's so intangible making it easy not to believe in or trust it. Still, it has allowed me both to experience things that others might not have participated in, and helped me avoid potential disaster. A similar story from my past comes into mind. This time, many years later, but in this version it was a middle-aged, well-dressed woman in a sedan on the side of a highway. I had a similar thought to the motorcycle guy, but as soon as the idea crossed my mind, I got sick. Something didn't sit right with me about the situation. When I would think about it later, it would seem odd that this scene would make me ill-at-ease, but I would be very thankful as I learned that there was a woman on local highways who was pretending to be alone and stranded. When a female would stop, her boyfriend would jump out of the trunk and they would kidnap the person. Whether or not it was the same individual, who knows? But I always mentally juxtapose those two stories and chalk it up to intuition - or if nothing else, good luck.

Before I even realize it, I am drained. Not just getting a little, but I am completely lacking energy. I stop to open an energy shot, thinking it will give me the boost to get home, but deep down, I know it's too late. The rest of the climb home will be slow and I think about various friends on the route back. Maybe someone will just take me home. But, that isn't the way I operate, so I pass their homes one at a time, knowing that I will feel much more accomplished to have finished the ride than to take the easy way out. I have a big hill I'm climbing now, so I go back to singing.

[When he holds my hand, I'm so proud...]

Suddenly, a little chirpy, brown bird appears in front of me on the road. S/he is approximately 10 feet in front of my wheel, and as I approach s/he moves another 10 feet forward. When I get closer, the bird moves another 10 feet or so in front of me. This continues several rounds until I reach the top of the hill, at which point it flies off in another direction. I thank the bird for giving me the motivation and something to chase as I continue pedaling home.

I end up finishing my longest ride of the season thus far, and find myself amused as I briefly relive all the disjointed thoughts that went through my mind on this particular ride. Really, it wasn't much different than any day on a bike though. Riding a bike is always a great way to clear things out - even if I didn't know there was anything that needed clearing. Sometimes, it's just a time to let the random thoughts come. They can be healing in themselves as I reminisce about good times and bad. "Okay," I say aloud to no one, "Let's get this day going." I get to work, humming He's a Rebel, smiling the rest of the day.


  1. I like this post. It reminds me of how I experience running-- sorting through a mishmash of words and thoughts in my mind, latching onto a song that can become the day's anthem. I love those feelings and they are why I keep coming back to the run.

    1. I would hate to think of what people think of me when I run! I'm laughing to myself right now because 99% of the time, I have music playing and I tend to sing that out loud as well to keep my breathing rhythm as it should be. I think my mind wanders during that activity as well - though not nearly as much as I feel a need to focus so much on breathing for some reason. :O)

  2. You masterfully capture all the seemingly unrelated feelings that swarm through your head as you roll along. It reminds me of the myriad of thoughts and word associations that drift through my own in one hour of commuting. However, I'm not sure I could recall them with such aplomb. And I never sing songs to myself etiher. Thanks for this post.

    1. I think I have always associated music with tasks and chores. As a child, my mother would play music on an old record player in attempt to motivate us (I have no idea if it actually worked, but it sticks with me). I think there's something about a musical background that helps me move more rhythmically. I can't help but think that has something to do with it - perhaps?

  3. Love this post! I do the same thing. There's something about the rhythm of the pedals and the click of the cassette that lulls me into stream-of-consciousness reflections. Even on a short ride, like the six miles to work, I'm amazed at what rolls through my head.


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