A few days ago, I turned forty-two. While this may not seem significant to most people… okay, it didn’t seem particularly significant to me, either. I’m not big into birthdays. Last year, I was in England on my birthday. In fact, I was riding a bike. I was so busy touring and riding and dealing with my trip that I didn’t notice that I had turned forty-one until two days after my birthday.
This year, The Handsome Man was sick, The Boy was gone, and I was left to hang-out with The New Pup, who was not especially cognizant of my supposed Big Day. My present was late arriving in the mail, so essentially my birthday passed without much acknowledgment. I didn’t particularly care.
No really, I wasn’t hurt. It was no big deal. You shouldn’t feel bad about it. Seriously. I mean it.
Three days later, my present arrived, and last weekend, I was finally able to strap it onto the bike and head out for a ride. The Adorable Pup was supervised, the kids were gone… the only problem remained the weather.
And for once, I’m not talking about bitter blasts of frozen rain or malicious mists or even dank overcast skies. I’m not bemoaning gusty headwinds. No, the problem here is so unusual, so startling, that I hardly know how to describe it. The reason I hesitated to take my bike out into the wild is that it was…
Too. Darn. Hot.
Yes, you read that correctly. I know, we’re hardly talking the scorching temperatures of the southern states here. We’re not even talking the muggy humidity of Portland on a warm day. But it was over 90 degrees in the shade, and let’s face it, at some point the weather just swings far enough to the other side to push even the most stoical of Seattle residents into a sweat-covered state of apathy. If we can’t wear fleece, my god, people, how can we function?
Anyway, I ignored the heat and bravely set out at midday to take in the entirety of the Cedar River Trail’s paved portion, which extends 14 miles. It was very, very warm. I kept thinking that the river trail would be cooler than it was up at my house (why I was thinking this is a mystery to me in retrospect, as we’re up on top of a hill where cool breezes blow year-round, and the trail is down in a valley, but you know how illogical I can be). I seemed to recall long stretches of shade. I was partially correct in this remembrance: there are stretches of shade, punctuated by much longer stretches of bare asphalt and bitterness.
At any rate, I was really there to try out the new bag.
In selecting a new bag for The Gazelle Champion Mondial, I wanted something relatively small, but not as small as The Raleigh’s wee saddlebag. The Champion Mondial thinks baskets look dorky on it. It’s a fast bike, relative to the other two I own, and it wants something more sporty.
I spent far more time considering this than I wanted to. There is an absolute paucity of small bags out there. Oh sure, there are saddle wedges, but those are too small. I needed to be able to put a camera in there, my purse, a small repair kit, and a jacket. The Raleigh’s wee bag barely holds my camera. But a bag like the Carradice Barley, which I’ve owned before, would be far too large for my day-ride purposes. So what to do?
I settled on the Carradice Junior, which is the smallest bag they make that still met my minimum needs. To me, it’s a bit on the big side, but I had few choices. I sent a link to The Birthday Present Guy and he ordered it for me.
I bought the black and cream version, as the green/tan one didn’t seem like it would look as good with The Gazelle’s yellow-gold paint. When it arrived, I was once again struck by the quality of Carradice bags. It’s beautifully made, with tight seams and stiffly waxed fabric.
Guess I won’t be covering it with buttons anytime soon (that would, I realized, make the waterproofing pointless). Perhaps at some point, I’ll put one or two on the light strap, since I have no need of a blinky.
The interior is, as I said, a bit big for my purposes, but I’ll survive.
This shot includes: my purse, a replacement tube, my full repair kit, and my camera bag. I had room for a coat, gloves, snacks and anything else I might require. It’s a pretty darn big bag. The little rack on The Gazelle works nicely to stabilize the bag and support it.
It didn’t seem to slow me down with enormous rear-end drag or anything.
In fact, the only thing slowing me down on this ride was the fact that it was rather like riding through a furnace. There was very little shade (contrary to these pictures. I wasn’t stopping in the hottest places), and by about mile 12 on the way out, I was pretty pooped. Now, normally adding 4-5 more miles to my ride and knowing I’d completed the trail would be no big deal, but in this case, I decided that heat was simply too much. I turned around and headed back.
Two more memorable events occurred when I was essentially done with my ride. A mile or so before the end of the trail, there’s a small grocery. I popped in and grabbed a fudge bar, then headed next door to a small park with a gazebo, hoping for the cool. There was an older couple there, with their two grandchildren out trying to hit a baseball to each other. I sat down in the gazebo at the other table, and smiled at the old man across from me.
“Nice day,” he commented, and I agreed. “We came here to get away from the crowds,” he said. I noted that the small park was indeed, not crowded.
“Don’t like the crowds at the other parks these days, if you know what I mean.”
I stared at him. I was pretty sure I did know what he meant, but was really, really hoping I was mistaken.
“Yeah,” I said pointedly, “those kids with their loud radios and such are really annoying.”
“Oh no… I don’t mean them.” He was nervously conspiratorial now. I had a real desire to get up and walk away. He looked vaguely like a redneck Santa Clause, in red suspenders and with a big white beard. I sighed internally as he continued: “I mean… there’s too many Somalis and Mexicans, you know? They’ve just taken over everything. I don’t mean to be prejudice, but…”
I narrowed my eyes. “Can’t say I agree with that, but the parks are crowded on sunny days, I suppose.”
He gave me a smile and at that moment, his granddaughter came over to ask for money for a fudge bar of her own. His OBVIOUSLY MIXED-RACE granddaughter.
Back on the trail, I headed over the trestle bridge. I’ve photographed this bridge numerous times.
That’s it about a month ago. It goes right over the Cedar River, about 40 feet above the water. There are signs clearly posted on it reminding folks not to jump in the water. Now, it was hot. Did I mention that it was hot? The river was packed with people, paddling, intertubing and swimming. As I rode over the trestle, I saw a group of men standing on the other side of the guard rail. The wrong side. Down below, a woman was standing in the water and shouting up: “Let him do it if he wants to!”
Let’s reread that, shall we: “A woman was standing in the water,” encouraging her friend/lover/greatest enemy to jump down into the water from 40 feet over her head. The waist-deep water.
I rode another half a block and called the cops. “They’re what?” the operator said.
“Jumping off the Cedar River trestle into the river. It didn’t seem like a very good idea to me,” I noted, “as my tax-dollars will pay to treat their paralysis.”
She gave a wry laugh. “Yep, not a good idea at all. Patrol cars are on their way.”
I saw them as I drove home. I was covered in a thin veneer of sweat and nausea from too much heat and casual racism and stupidity. But hey, the bag was very useful. So happy birthday to me!