October 8 2011 Ride: Observations

Goodness, how long ago this ride seems now. There was sunshine… there were trains… there were caterpillars… there was urban decay!

Lately, I haven’t been riding much, or writing much. This is partly due to a busy schedule and partly due to my hands still hurting too much to be excited about typing. I bought myself a voice recognition software to try, but I need a quiet hour or two where I feel really good in order to get it started, and by the time I get home in the evening, my exhaustion overwhelms my desire to talk into a computer for an hour. I realize this is counter-productive, but that’s just how it is right now.

I’m not sure what’s up with me, actually. I’m exceptionally tired, and no amount of sleep seems to be helping. My hands are still very painful, as is my back. My blood pressure has suddenly gone from very low, to very high. All of this suggests I need to go into a doctor, right? Well, I’m way ahead of you. We started a new health plan, and since I didn’t have a traditional primary doctor, I headed in to get one. I had forgotten how frustrating most doctors are to work with, after several years of my naturopath and specialists! First, the woman was obviously too skinny herself — bones everywhere! Then she told me that if I lost 5lbs, my blood pressure would drop.

Uh… but I had just lost 10lbs (and promptly regained five of it), and that hadn’t lowered my blood pressure at all! I’ve weighed virtually the same thing since I was 25, with the only exception being pregnancy. I’m not arguing that I shouldn’t lose 5lbs. I’m arguing that this little bit of extra weight has suddenly caused a rise in my blood pressure and exhaustion. She was very firm: 5lbs would do it. I was also firm: nonsense.

My theory? Well, maybe I have mono or something. Schools are terrible breeding grounds of disease. More likely, my fall back in early September, which was quite severe, has caused lasting injury to my back. The pain and pinched nerves are elevating my blood pressure because they are stressors for my body. The exhaustion is from pain and lack of exercise, due to overwork and weather.

We’ll see. I’ll be seeing my naturopath soon, and the dietician the new doc recommended. Shrug. Why not a dietician? I don’t have to DO anything, but I guess it wouldn’t hurt to go listen, and be listened to in return.

Anyway… my ride. I wasn’t feeling my best, so I decided to hit the Interurban Trail. Smooth, no hills, and some sunshine. It’s my no-brainer trail, the one for those days when riding doesn’t really appeal, but one is compelled to ride anyway.

The Interurban is such a technically dull trail: arrow straight and no hills, but I have consistently seen more interesting wildlife on this trail than any other! Very strange. Besides the usual birds — herons, crows, chickadees, bushtits, robins and others, I did catch sight of a rabbit or two, but they were too skittish to capture on film.

I think I must be a very observant person. Every time I head out on a ride, I see something unusual and worth photographing. I’m very careful to notice what is around me, and in front of me. That’s how rideblog exists, after all. Without this quality, I would simply be riding the same dang trails a thousand times. Being on a 3-speed no doubt helps, but I have always been a careful watcher, even when I’m driving a 2-ton vehicle. So I see things that I know others don’t see.

Like this snake:

The sad thing is that someone else, less observant than me, had not seen this snake. By the time I reached him, he’d clearly been run over. See the strange lack of bend in the middle? Now, this is no wimpy little garter snake. This is a large black snake as big around as a rope. Though the photo has him in the dark, he was actually lying in the sun, and was just as visible as you might expect on a trail in broad daylight with no hills. It boggles me that anyone hit him, really.

He did slither off into the grass, with a bit of stomping on the ground behind him from a concerned citizen. Perhaps, as I like to delude myself when I see something like this, he will recover and be nicely snakey again. He was quite mobile, despite being injured.

When home, I googled for an hour, trying to see what sort of snake he was, but I couldn’t find the answer. He might be an exceptionally dark rubber boa, but their faces were softer than this fellow’s. Perhaps he was an escaped exotic. We don’t have black snakes here, but I’m sure people keep them as pets. Whatever he was, he was a substantial predator, and very beautiful.

I’m still annoyed that someone didn’t stop for him. I’m not sure why I’m so annoyed: this is the world where people don’t stop for small children who’ve been hit by cars, as the news media is so fond of reminding us at the moment. But I’d rather be continually shocked by the cruelty of man, then to become so jaded as to expect it. I guess in that sense, I’d rather turn a blind eye.

I have no special fondness for snakes, you understand. I just generally try to avoid hitting them, as I try avoid hitting everything. My mother taught me that all small creatures have lives they are meant to lead, and it makes no sense to interrupt those lives for little reason. I don’t even want to hit slugs, though sometimes I do by accident!

The trail was studded with another small migrant who stood little chance against two-wheeled marauders, though I suppose these wee ones were genuinely harder to see and avoid.

Witness: the Woolly Bear caterpillar!

I’m sorry, but those things are ADORABLE. They are actually soft to the touch. As a child, I loved Woolly Bears, and would often attempt to save them during their fall migrations across roads and sidewalks. They’re fairly common, really. They turn into very dull brown moths, though I always imagine them becoming glorious striped butterflies. Still, once you’ve loved a Woolly Bear, and trust me, my infantile self captured and nurtured countless black-and-red beasties, you can’t stop. They are cute, cute, cute.

So no, I didn’t hit any of them, either.

The Interurban Trail is a former railway, and part of the Rails-to-Trails program. It runs through some rather seedy sections of Renton, Kent and Auburn, which are not towns known for their glorious urban beauty anyway.

Seedy or no, I’m grateful for all the trails I have near my home. I work in a much more affluent area, and there are really very few places to just ride a bike and chill nearby. So though the railroads brought that urban decay, the trade-off is clearly to my benefit at this point.

And it’s not like the Interurban doesn’t have its moments.

Besides small sunny bridges, I get to race trains. And like that kid in the asdf movies my students love so much, I like trains.

Note the name on the boxcars behind me: the Hub Group. I keep picturing a whole train-load of Sturmey Archers!

Lest you all think I am courting danger, posing in an intersection at the mercy of the cars the second the train passes (not that anyone is actually thinking this), the road on either side was closed for construction. I could pose to my heart’s content.

The trail also offers opportunities for train chasing.

I have literally been holding off on this next shot for months, waiting for a moment when I could really capture the inexplicability of the sign posted here.

“No stopping or standing”? But it’s a crosswalk! What the heck? I honestly don’t know what that sign means.

Finally… one last train, observed from the bridge beneath it. This is the Amtrack Cascades, which runs from Vancouver to San Diego.

Many years ago, when the wee Boy was one, I took this train down to Los Angeles. Looking out the window as the golden north of California passed by, with a sleeping baby peacefully resting on my chest, is one of my favorite memories of that time. Okay, maybe I was sleeping too, much of the time!

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10 Responses to October 8 2011 Ride: Observations

  1. Auchen says:

    I commend you for saving those Wooly Bears. Cute! (Can’t say the same for the snake, though I would try to avoid hitting one in my path).
    One of the difficulties of riding here is the incredible volume of road kill. Squirrels, groundhogs, racoons, skunks – even deer are left to rot or become a dark indelible stain on the pavement. The city used to clear them, but no more (due to layoffs), and incredibly, businesses and homeowners do nothing and think nothing of leaving carcasses out to decorate their homes and businesses.

    - If this sounds like a rant, it is! (I still have the image indelibly burned into my mind of this big fat guy, meticulously edging his absolutely perfect lawn, just INCHES away from a dead raccoon, bloated like a balloon in the summer heat, and bearing a most uncanny resemblance to the homeowner.)

  2. rideblog says:

    Auchen, I’m with you on this one. No one clears roadkill from the roadways here either. It’s gross to be riding one’s bike and suddenly come across a bloated carcass covered in flies. While I understand why local governments can’t afford to clear this stuff anymore, there’s no excuse for someone leaving a dead raccoon in the road in front of their house. Nasty.

    Snakes aren’t cute, it’s true, but this one was rather unusual. Living where I do, I don’t see many impressive wild snakes. This one was clearly successful, at least until it crossed the path. I like to see a healthy, thriving wild animal like this, with all the power inherent in its body. It’s just not something I see much in the urban jungle, you know? That was a big snake, for Western Washington.

  3. Jim Duncan says:

    A bit off topic here but your Raleigh so reminds me of this pix of Dorothy LaMour with a Schwinn of a similar style and color or at least to my eyes. You’ve got great taste for sure. Just saying.
    http://ridingpretty.blogspot.com/2010/06/bicycle-beauty-1940.html

  4. rideblog says:

    Jim, you’re right! It does look like that bike. What a great photo. Thanks for submitting it!

    The funny thing is, I really wanted a black Raleigh, and just sort of ended up with this one, but now I’m fond of it.

  5. Jim Duncan says:

    Forgot to mention I’ve got a 55 lady’s Superbe that we just overhauled; has the green black dress and full chain guard-my babe for sure.

  6. rideblog says:

    Wow, Jim. I love the Superbes. Bet that 55 is a beauty! I’d love to eventually own a much older 3-speed, but that’ll be in the future, when I have money for 2 nearly-identical bikes!

  7. CJ says:

    Love that Dorothy Lamour photo.

    I hope you feel better soon. I call this sort of thing the blahs. For me, it means feeling run down and sick without any clear cause. For some reason, it’s easier to deal with feeling ill if I know exactly why I feel that way (cold, flu, whatever). If I don’t know why, I feel ten times more miserable. FWIW, I agree that it’s ridiculous that five pounds is the magical number that will cure everything. That makes no sense to me.

    I’ll be interested to hear how the new software goes, if you feel like sharing. It’s a process to learn and set up, and I would imagine it’s frustrating not being able to type comfortably – especially since you are a fast typist. Personally, when I get home from work I just want to lie on the couch and not move or think for as long as I can!

    Anyway, thanks for a new post!

    I just realized I have the same bag as you. Yours looks very nice attached to your Brooks.

  8. rideblog says:

    Thanks, CJ. Today was actually the first day I’ve had in a long time with almost no pain. It was great, and made me feel a lot less fussy about the universe. I also talked to my naturopath, who scoffed at the five pound theory and noted that pain raises one’s blood pressure. She said not to worry about it, as long as it goes down fairly soon, and to focus more on getting over the pain. She’s a sharp one!

    I’ll probably try out the software toward Thanksgiving break, when I have a whole week to work, and two days where the boy is still in school but I’m not!

  9. Poor snaky!
    I get very sad when I see squished snails and other small creatures on the trail.

  10. rideblog says:

    Me too, V. Saw a beautiful little garter snake today, curled up in the sun on the side of the trail. Thought: “I’ll get a pic of him before he slithers away.” No chance of that, as he was dead. Sigh.

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