Most of the time, I enjoy riding my bicycle. There’s a sense of powerful freedom in each down stroke of the pedals, in each flushed burst of speed. The machine’s responsiveness becomes an extension of my own body. The wind encourages me to breathe deeply, something which I am not particularly good at remembering to do. Generally, it is a true tonic for what ails me.
Today was not one of those days, unfortunately. I woke several times last night in severe pain, nerves burning from my fingertips to my forearms. This is unusual for me, as my most acute pain is limited primarily to my extremities. I had forgotten to take a sleeping pill, so at least I was quickly able to knock myself out. When I rose this morning, my left arm went through a brief spell of both cramping, and being completely numb. Again, this was unsettling, as it has never happened before. I suffer from a congenital illness in the family of “connective tissue disorders.” It doesn’t have a name. Essentially, my muscles and other connective tissues are too lax, and that causes my bones to dislocate or my joints to slip out of alignment and pinch nerves. When this happens in my back (all the time), I end up with a sort of body-wide carpal tunnel syndrome. Tingling hands and feet are the main symptom. Maybe I’ve really knocked my back out, but I’m never sure what causes it to worsen or get better. Hormones play a role, as the pain and dislocations come and go in cycles. Guess I’m in a bad patch.
At any rate, I wasn’t in the mood for a bike ride today. At most, I was in a 3-speed kind of funk. But the Panasonic finally has the higher Nitto Technomic Deluxe stem and fresh bar tape, and on Thursday I installed new white CST Tires.
The bike is now so sexy, it makes me almost lightheaded when I’m around it, like being in the presence of a movie star. How could I leave it in the garage when it was 50 degrees outside – according to the giant-thermometer-on-the-fence – and the sun was peaking suggestively through the clouds like a burlesque dancer? The world was throbbing with Spring and Happiness and Bluebirds and Baby Kittens, and I was in a corner nursing numb fingers and squinting into the light with a distinct snarl.
In the past, rides have sometimes dispelled moods like this. If there’s one thing I can say about myself, it’s that I’m ever-hopeful. On went the Very Colorful Spring Windbreaker with No Hood. Out came the regular pants instead of the Nordic ski pants. On went the regular tennis shoes. The Panasonic went onto the car rack, and I drove down to the Interurban Trail with forced delight written all over me.
I was definitely not in the mindset for a new, unfamiliar route. Of course, the second I was seated on the bicycle, my bladder began panicking. Yes, Mommy, I went before I left the house. I was in no condition to argue with it, so off we went toward the nearest public restroom, where the Raleigh and I had so much fun hanging out a few weeks ago. I made it half a mile before I noticed something odd.
Either the trail had suffered severe weather damage during our recent spell of 40 degree days peppered with mild rain, or my tires were lumpy. At first I genuinely considered the former, but then common sense took over and I pulled off to the side of the road. Yep, the tires, which had been a total nightmare to situate on the rims in the first place, were now popping off the rim in several spots. This didn’t seem like a good thing. I promptly took the grumbling Panasonic and rode back to the car, loaded everything up and headed to my local bike shop, GHY, to get things fixed. It took the experienced bike guy nearly half an hour to properly seat the tires and get them to the right pressure to stay seated, so I felt somewhat less stupid by the time he finished. Five bucks and a potty stop later, we were mildly less inflated and back on the road.
There were frogs singing in every drainage ditch, including a few who made unnervingly loud burping noises as we passed. I’m fairly sure frogs are one of the few animals who find loud belching attractive, if you discount my youngest children during a family dinner. I wondered what the female frogs were thinking, and if they were rolling their eyes and sighing: “It’s January, you idiots! We can’t start mating now!” The males were certainly doing their best to impress. I think the only one really listening was this guy, who freaked out as I rode up and tried to take his picture. He flew wildly two-hundred feet ahead and then settled down for more frog catching. I caught up with him and stopped. He took off again. This went on for at least five stops before he gave up and let me snap this shot. He paused, then stalked off to kill some more randy amphibians.
I took many, many photos.
Perhaps because the bike ride was completely uninnervating, and the camera gave me a great excuse to stop. At mile five, I pulled over and talked a nice man into taking this picture of me riding on the bike. Of course, my eyes are closed, which gives me a sort of mystical, omnipotent air: look, Ma, no eyes!
When I snapped the next photos, crossing what I think was the dreaded Green River, a guy rode by me and yelled, “High, isn’t it?” I swear it took me several moments to process this comment.
I made it another few miles and took a shot of the Panasonic propped up next to an empty train car, simply because anything to do with trains is thrilling, isn’t it? I mean, seriously. You can’t go wrong with a train.
It beats all my shots of the Panasonic next to concrete pilings or other signs of Interurban decay. Though I’m seriously enamored of this one:
It reminds me of all those supposedly street-wise 80’s music videos featuring really white guys dressed up in snazzy leather jackets with too many zippers pretending they were all down with the urban lingo. The Panasonic has that air, with those static-driven lightning bolts. Like any minute now it’s going to start break-dancing and spinning around on its head to the some early hip hop beat. I suspect I am seriously dating myself with this reference. Though I think by 1989 I was deeply obsessed with Bon Jovi. Come to think of it, some of these shots could easily have been taken in New Jersey.
I tried a few action shots with the timer function, but the results were uninspired.
We’ll have to settle for me setting the camera on the opposite railing of this bridge, 50 feet above the traffic, which in retrospect could have turned out very badly. Fortunately, though I did snag the wrist strap on a rivet as I picked it up, thereby jerking the camera out of my hand, I also caught it deftly in the midst of my heart-attack, so everything turned out just fine.
After twenty miles of internal complaining and a few moments of external expression of my inner angst (in the form of irate mutterings to myself), I arrived back at the Tukwila train station. Don’t I just look like I’m bursting with glee?
Anyway, I survived, as did the tires. The bike’s higher stem was a good thing today, but I didn’t really appreciate it as fully as I might have otherwise. The moment I was done, I drove straight to McDonald’s for an order of small fries and a Coke to destroy any inkling of calorie consumption that the ride might have provided. That actually helped.