Contrary to popular belief, I am still alive. It’s true! I’m even riding my bike, which is sort of astonishing to me, as I’m not sure how it’s happening or when. Honestly, I’m here in my own skin and I’m still not certain when I’ve got time for anything but work.
I know: wah wah wah. Being an English teacher is what it is: a whole heckova lot of grading! This trimester, however, has got me beat. Combine a new class with a new curriculum to write, bad planning of said class with my other classes to allow over 100 individual papers to come in over a period of six days, sore fingers and a sore back, and four Fridays devoted to activities other than planning and grading, and you’ve got a perfect storm of behind-ness. I’m catching up slowly, but it’s a serious slog, I tell ya! And of course, the rest of my life still demands constant attention, including a little Boy with stomach flu.
A night on the couch, mopping up vomit every hour… just what I needed!
But in the midst of all this work and living, I have actually managed to carve out a few bike rides. I haven’t had time to write about them, but my priorities seem to be in the vague area of “all right.”
The weather here has been pretty miserable. Not East Coast-Snow-in-October bad, but even for Seattle, we’ve had way too many rainy days. October is usually the last month of our long Indian summer, not the first month of our miserable wet winter. We’ve been promising the kids a trip to the pumpkin patch for a month, but this weekend we ended up head-first in a giant box in the middle of the grocery store, digging out the last of the oversized commercial pumpkins at 29 cents a pound. They weren’t picturesque, but they were enormous and cheap and the interior of the store was dry, unlike the sodden, shrunken corn mazes and muddy fields we could have visited.
Actually, I could write a whole blog entry about how that last sentence represents the triumph of corporate culture over small-town Americana, but I won’t bother. We really did skip the patch only because it was miserably wet every single weekend this month. Here’s proof of previous patching, and an example of why my child is someday going to break the hearts of girls everywhere:
When he’s not vomiting, of course. I just took another vomit-break, as he surfaced from restless sleep to throw-up for the thousandth time this evening. Stomach Flu, I’ll be honest: I never liked you. You’re a jerk. Stay away from my house, okay? We’re through.
Anyway, the only times to ride in the early winter around here (I’m done referring to this as “fall,” since we clearly skipped that step) are right after work, or on the weekends. It’s beginning to get dark by six, and given the traffic around here, that’s usually when I get home. Since there are no real trails near my work — I don’t count the 520 Trail, which is really a dog run next to the freeway — I have to make it home early, or ride on Saturday. Fortunately, I’ve been able to do both. Pretty soon, we’ll hit dusk by four, so I guess these are my salad days.
After an early afternoon visit to my new doctor, which I believe I’ve already ranted about, I headed out on the Cedar River Trail in a light drizzle to get in a few miles. As my health has been low lately, I wasn’t exactly cranking out the distance.
Yeah, the rose hips really are that magnificent.
An early-evening ride like this (it was about 3:30) in the rain demands a headlight. Unfortunately, my CatEye decided to give up the ghost about a month ago. The thing was a damnable pain-in-the-rear-end anyway, as it constantly managed to turn itself on in my bag, so that the batteries were perpetually dead, which sort of defeats the whole purpose of a headlight, really. Could I have put more clauses in that last sentence? Sorry, I’ve been grading all weekend. I’m very sensitive to these things right now. Perhaps I need to break out a few correctly-used semi-colons, just to make myself feel better. We’ll see.
At any rate, I found myself in REI a few weeks ago with the dead CatEye and my unused bike shorts from the Ireland trip, utilizing my membership to get my money back. Oh REI, how I love you when I can afford you!
I’m just going to anthropomorphize the heck out of everything tonight, because I want to; writing is way more fun when inanimate objects have personality (see how I slipped that semi-colon in there? Smooooth).
REI may have many wonderful qualities, but selling vintage-y bike equipment isn’t one of them. I looked at several powerful lights, but they all required enormous battery packs that would need to be strapped somewhere. “You can just strap it to the front of your headtube,” noted the salesman. GASP! But that’s where the heron logo goes, you philistine! Somehow, the bullet-shaped modern light that suited The Shogun nicely didn’t seem like it would flatter The Raleigh, either. What to do?
Enter the Spok. This is a very small, velcro-mounted blinky light. It doesn’t look retro, it’s true. But I paid $15 for a head and tail light, and they both attach easily to anything. They blink, or don’t. I can take the headlight off and throw it in The Raleigh’s saddlebag when I don’t need it. I put the taillight on The Boy’s bike, just in case. Truthfully, I’m never going to use the headlight to see anything, but it works fine to be seen. It’s small and I wouldn’t necessarily commute full time with it, but it works for riding on a trail in the dusk. It would be great for mounting on a helmet as extra light, if I were commuting.
The Spok was put to immediate use on my Skagit County trip when we realized we’d both forgotten our headlamps; the little light worked perfectly well for bathroom trips and finding the matches on the dark picnic table.
The Spok was just what I needed on a ride like this: enough light to feel safe, but no giant batteries to strap somewhere. The light uses what looks like a large hearing aid battery, which I found easily at the drug store, and which run about three bucks a piece. I can store two in my bag with ease. I have kept the light on for substantial rides (I did several hours with it the other day) and it is still bright and shiny. Will the batteries last forever? I have no idea, but I love this light so far.
You’ll note that my fingers look oddly wrinkled in that picture above, as if I just stepped out of the bath. Don’t worry, I wasn’t standing around with my hands in puddles. That’s just a bi-product of my illness, which makes my hands bloat-up and then… um… de-bloat (is there even a word for that?) with regularity. This means the skin on my fingertips is looser than it would be on a normal person. For years, it would eventually return to normal between bouts of bloat, but these days, it’s permanently wrinkled and won’t snap back to normal anymore. Ah well, I was never going to be a hand model. My illness also causes many my fingernails to bend strangely as they leave my nailbed. When things are really painful, they get so bendy as to interfere with their usual functionality! I can’t even open a soda can properly right now. Sometime I’ll photograph this phenomena, but for now, you’ll just have to take my word for it.
The ride itself was relatively uneventful. No animals were harmed, not even slugs. The rain was like one of my old college boyfriends: it came on quickly, then left, then returned, but never really committed itself.
Ah well, I don’t need a long-term relationship with rain anyway.
It’s not you, rain; it’s me.
That’s three semi-colons in one rideblog, and I bet my college boyfriends never even knew that last sentence warranted one. Hah!
Random bridge shot, just because! Love those early-winter colors in the trees.
At any rate, perhaps I’ll be able to write about my next two rides a bit closer to the time when I actually took them! Especially as it’s supposed to rain all week. Dear god… was that a stomach cramp I just felt? Is that nausea? That’s it! I’m breaking up with all of you! See ya, Stomach Flu! Sayonara, Rain! Au revoir, Fall! I’m outta here.