Monday, August 25, 2014

Pedal Assist

Sunday was the fifth day of bike commuting for the week. It happened to follow a short night's sleep, and not the first such night this week.

Shop hours start later on Sundays. I like to take a longer, more peaceful ride in the extra time. But every alternate route involves steeper, taller hills. Time for some pedal assistance: drugs.

A couple of ibuprofen took the edge off.

No rail cars were out on the trail. Recreational traffic was light. It grew a bit heavier closer to town. About 30 teenage girls in running shorts and sports bras came trotting out in two closely-separated groups. I wondered what school they represented, but I wasn't going to interrupt my flow or theirs to ask a question I really didn't need answered. They were not wearing uniform colors, so no hint there.

Approaching the crossing at Center Street I was pleased to see a couple of human shields approaching the crosswalk in time to stop traffic for me so I could slip out onto the street while they went on over into the even greater path congestion on the final, and most popular, mile into the center of town. The human shields, two women in please-don't-kill-me-yellow tee shirts, were dismounting from their bikes as I rolled up into a near track stand behind them. Traffic stopped headed out of town, from our left. The car approaching from the right, inbound, also stopped. We on the path were on the verge of making our moves when we noticed the jeep approaching from the right at full speed, oblivious to the car stopped right in front of it. Impact seemed inevitable.

The low shriek of wide tires locked up on dry pavement set the sound track for the jeep's panicked slide. The driver steered to the right, missing the stopped car at the crosswalk. The jeep stopped next to the other car. The white-knuckled driver, no doubt with jelly legs and possibly unusable underwear, put his head in his hands.

"Well done, lad!" I sang out cheerfully. You can take that as sarcasm or commendation. Both are valid. The women in front of me started across the street and I swung left to join the vehicular flow on my usual route through town. A car passed me, but the jeep never did. I wonder how long it took that guy to get his legs to work again.

After a fairly uneventful day I dropped a couple more ibbies for the ride home. I'd promised the cats we would hang out together in the Cat Lounge when I got home, but I didn't feel like trudging out the highway like I always do.
Working in The Cat Lounge

With the pain reliever coursing through me and some good coffee, not to mention the fact that we close an hour and a half earlier on Sundays, I felt pretty good as long as I didn't try to hammer too hard. One thing I learned in years of more extensive ibuprofen use is that control of the pain does not replace strength lost when a muscle group is simply fried from days of hard riding. The feeling of painless powerlessness is remarkable. You should try it once, and then not do it again. It can't be good for you.

Out the path I meandered, up the pavement of Bryant Road when I got there, and onto Stoddard, reversing my route from the morning. I'd come within .01 mph of hitting 41 on the way down the steep hill on Stoddard. Now I had to climb it. It's a familiar challenge. I'm not too proud to put the bike in low low and weave. It's actually a nice rhythm that allows good views into the woods. For a good chunk of the road there are no houses.

In this undeveloped section I was puffing along when I suddenly inhaled a cloud of unnatural perfume and chemical odor. I could not tell if it was fabric softener, bug repellent, ill-chosen cologne or what. I also spotted no source whatsoever for it in the forest and undergrowth along the road. Whatever it was, it coated my sinuses and the back of my throat so I tasted it almost all the way home. Was someone hiding in the weeds with a sprayer, spritzing unsuspecting passersby? Or was it wafting down from some distant dwelling, tendrils of chemical reek wending unseen among the tree trunks? I had no ill effects beyond the annoying, persistent taste. A good hoppy beer got rid of the last of that. It's kind of creepy though.

The rest of the ride was uneventful. The cats and I had a nice late afternoon and evening until the late summer crop of small and aggressive mosquitoes gathered as the air cooled to suit them.

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