Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Send in the Marines

Our durable Marine is a credit to himself and the Corps. He digs into the pile of work as soon as he arrives and keeps at it until closing time. While he doesn't have Ralph's experience and affinity for the present, past and future of bike technology, he does have aptitude and a serious work ethic. So the workshop's summer crisis could be much worse.

I had the rare pleasure to join up with another rider on the way to work this morning. Out on the highway I had seen a rider coming the opposite way as I started into a steep descent. I took an extra split-second to wave before tucking tight behind the handlebars to ride gravity to the bottom of the dip.

More than a mile farther on, the rider came up beside me.

"You're hard to catch," he said.

"I'm late to work," I said. It's my standard excuse, to let other riders know I'm not just a hyper-competitive hammerhead. And it's true.

"I'm a little lost," said the other rider. "I was going to go out to 171, but it seemed like I'd gone a long way. I didn't want to be gone three hours. I only have one bottle."

"We have a great map at the shop," I said. "Come on."

He asked and I explained where I worked and how I rode there almost every day.

"I should pull you," he said, moving ahead of me on his carbon Trek. But on the next descent his light bike didn't plummet as fast as my heavy one, and then he didn't contest when I stayed ahead to intimidate the traffic at the next intersection.

"This is the daily grind," I said, when he caught back up. "I know every inch."

"That you do," he said.

I wouldn't have minded taking the draft, but I do know every inch, and I was fresh after a rest day yesterday. He couldn't stay ahead of me for long, because I know how to carry my momentum through the hills, the corners and the morning traffic situations. On open road he could probably eat my lunch, but this was traffic jamming on a route I've done for decades.

Okay, not quite two decades. But a lot of times.

First at the shop, I got moral high ground for the day, and sold the visiting rider, Dave, the excellent map we carry. Off he went to enjoy his adventures, while I went to the workshop to assess the casualties.

I've seen worse. Nothing smelled like crap, anyway. And Jim was already tackling his first repair.

This is July. I'm in peak form, rumbling along like an avalanche on the bike. It's like that every July. Don't worry, I start to fall apart in August. By the end of September I wonder where the hell all that July shit came from. But it's here now. Ride a lot, form builds. Ride carefully and you can maintain it, even recover it. There's glory in sport, but there's nobility in day-to-day athleticism. Choose to move yourself, regardless of cheers, medals, prizes and acclaim.

A simple life of self-propulsion can make you appreciate what a gift 20 miles per hour can be, and what a blissful indulgence an ordinary hot shower is.

We're spoiled in our cars. They're made to fly at the speed airplanes aspired to achieve in the early years of powered flight. You're not meant to see well out of them or drive them at sane speeds for small streets and the presence of unarmored human bodies. They are inhuman. We become inhuman in them. They feel awkward at 20 miles per hour or less. They wobble and weave, and want to lunge ahead. We should keep them outside our population centers, at something like an airport. We should enter them at these ports when we intend to drive at aeronautical speeds on limited-access motorways to the next port, where we leave them to take humane transport among humans once again.

1 comment:

ahpook said...

Well said. This part in particular is a keeper:

There's glory in sport, but there's nobility in day-to-day athleticism. Choose to move yourself, regardless of cheers, medals, prizes and acclaim.

As the glory of the sport's most lauded event gets ripped away to expose the seamy vampirism of doping needles and illicit blood transfusions going on behind the scenes, this delineation becomes all the more important to make.