It has been almost exactly one month since I have ridden on a bicycle. That is a really strange thought, given that I, you know… run a bicycle blog.
The combination of wet weekends and early evenings, my car accident and then the snow has added up to a month of inactivity and pants that feel a wee bit snug. But at last the weather has cooperated, at least a tiny bit, and I had a dry Saturday afternoon. I didn’t yet have a new bike rack, so I was relegated to a neighborhood ride. Given the hilly, rather isolated nature of my neighborhood, I decided to make the trip a ride with a purpose: I would visit the Post Office to mail off some packages, and I would then continue to the store, and buy cat treats.
If your cat was this adorable, you’d ride six miles to buy her treats, too.
The day was cool, but not freezing, and though the skies were gray, I didn’t really expect more than a few sprinkles. I packed up The Raleigh’s basket with everything I might need: balaclava, rain jacket, tissues, u-lock, coil lock, packages, purse, and camera. This left little room for groceries, but the packages would soon be gone, which would leave a bit more space.
My poor neighborhood has been through a great deal lately. First off, we had five days of heavy snow, getting nearly eight inches (that definitely constitutes “heavy” around here). For those of you in the Midwest, sneering right now at our relative lack of resilience, keep in mind that the Northwest is really a series of small mountain fiefdoms, ruled by minor despotic kings and divided by thousands of different dialects, all of which prevents our broader local government from developing any sort of “plan” involving snow plows, deicers or even the distribution of sand by donkey cart prior to the arrival of snow. Weathermen here are routinely sacrificed to Frosticus, the God of Winter, in a bloody pagan ritual that takes place down at the EMP building in the Seattle Center (which explains a lot of things, trust me), beneath the shadow of the Space Needle. We run them over with the monorail. Hence, we rarely receive accurate predictions of our weather ahead of time. “There will be two… no six… no fourteen… no ten… yes, ten inches of snow overnight. Maybe. Hey, why is there an angry mob cloaked in black fleece and why are they holding pick axes and torches?”
I’m only exaggerating a tiny bit.
So after the snow, we got the Unexpected Ice Storm, which at one point left over 250,000 people without power (including us). After sacrificing a few more meteorologists and the guy who runs the local electric utility company, we got the Sort-of Expected Windstorm. This involved predicted 60mph wind gusts for seven hours. Up on our hill, which is very close to the top of the world, we locked up our yaks and waited it out. I would think that the gusts here were closing in on 80 or 90mph, centering around our fish windsock, which remained completely horizontal for the entire night.
All this did a lot of damage around our neighborhood.
Unfortunately, I arrived at the Post Office to find that they were closed. This annoyed me, as it was just after 1pm. Of course, as soon as I thought about it, I knew that the Post Office wouldn’t be open on a Saturday afternoon, but I was still annoyed. It seems to me that there are some things we should pay for as a nation, and a really good mail system is one of them. Being open on Saturday afternoon, when the whole country works long hours all week, strikes me as a reasonable expectation. For heaven’s sake, even my bank is now open until 6pm on Saturday, and they got enough of my tax money to practically be a government institution.
I rode on, fueled by my fury, over to my local shopping center. There I bought cans of “treat” food for my cat, who normally subsists only on extremely expensive dry food and the occasional chunk of Ezell’s Famous Fried Chicken (Oprah’s favorite!). She prefers a brand called “Fussie Cat” (my cat, not Oprah). This is entirely appropriate for her diva-like personality.
Of course, if I were this adorable, I would also rule over all I surveyed. Note the super-stylish late-60’s corner table in the back, which stores the supplies for our late-60’s pool table, graciously left here by the former owner of our house: “The same model JFK put in the White House!” I’m sure JFK had one of those corner tables, too. Super classy.
But I digress, in publicly apologizing for my furniture.
The Raleigh was easily camouflaged while I was in the store, disguising itself as a late-60’s corner table. Or rather, a late-60’s British bicycle:
Riding The Raleigh again was great fun, once my body got over the shock of, you know, moving and everything. I really love the ride on this bike. I thought The Viva had a lovely, smooth ride as well. My Panasonic was easy to ride, and very much a “go-fast” bike. But there is something about The Raleigh that’s like that third bowl of porridge: just right. Most modern bikes try to be more comfortable, with cushier, fatter tubing and more bells and whistles, but in the end, my rattle-trap steel pipe Raleigh is far more fun to ride than any modern bike I’ve tried.
I find this paradox exists in many machines. My car is in the shop being repaired, and in the meantime, I’ve been given a rental car to drive. My normal car is a 2000 Honda Accord, which, other than the aftermarket ski racks on its roof, has literally no distinguishing features. Several times I have come out to a parking lot and had to click my keyless remote in order to figure out which of the seven Hondas parked next to each other belongs to me. Normally, I’m willing to rant endlessly about the boring, reliable, blandness of this car. Particularly as my previous car was a beautiful early-80’s Mercedes diesel wagon that looked like a mini-limo and drove like one, too. God, how I loved that car! Like many things one loves intensely, I was also deeply betrayed by the car, when the engine came loose in the mountings and in a mere 15-mile commute, managed to self-destruct before I could get it to the mechanic. I could, of course, have put in a new engine, and in retrospect, I should have. In fact, it’s probably one of the great regrets of my life that I didn’t. But my disappointment was so great that I sold the car, and bought the Honda, settling for reliability over Passion. That’s not a good settlement, I should note.
But at any rate, lately I’ve become appreciative of my Honda, since I’ve been driving this:
Yes, to Enterprise Rent-a-Car, the equivalent of a Honda Accord is a Dodge Charger. This is only true in the universe of crazy rental car companies, I assure you. The Dodge looks big and aggressive, but in fact, like many things made in America, it’s mostly bloated. Great big sleek metal exterior… teeny tiny engine. It’s like steering a boat.
I feel like this guy:
This is why we paid them $50 billion to stay in business. Anyway, there is no relationship between form and function there, which made me even more impressed by the design of The Raleigh Sports. It really is a perfect bike.
It’s a good thing I enjoy just riding the bike, as the scenery wasn’t particularly impressive.
Not exactly Western Ireland, is it?
Ah well. One can’t take stunningly glorious rides through unforgettable terrain every day. And there are misty mountain views on my ride to the store, which aren’t bad.
Storm debris was everywhere.
I paused in a parking lot to take the mountain picture, then I decided that I really wanted to take a few Raleigh macro pictures, for contrast.
My bike basket was filled to the brim with cat food, a few groceries, and all my accessories.
Alright, so the Snapple is front and center. Wanna make something of it? Huh, Punk? Didn’t think so.
I was soon back at the house, and as I hefted the basket off the rack, I wondered something: how heavy was it? It certainly felt like I had purchased several trendy kettleballs.
Curiosity piqued, I lugged both the full basket, and my other, empty one, into the bathroom to weigh on the scale.
Basket 1, empty:
Just under 2 lbs.
Basket 2, fully loaded:
Yikes! I have 11lbs of crap in my bike basket? How is that possible?
Okay, so the hand soap bottle, and the five cans of Fussie Cat, and the u-lock, and the Snapple, and the purse, and the camera… it’s the tissues! Yes! It’s all those damned tissues! Well, I won’t let you beat me, allergies! I’m going to go out to the backyard and practice my “runner’s sneeze” until you’re just a memory, tissues.
Oh, and my new camera is scheduled to arrive on Monday. Expect many Snapbugblog updates, much euphoria, photos of random things, and finally a ride somewhere worth photographing, as I should have my new rack by then, too.
Unless I displease Frosticus. Off to sacrifice a few yaks…