Thursday, March 28, 2019

Mettle fatigue

This was the kind of winter that makes owls starve to death. It was not an epic snow year, but the snow we got was dense, and melts slowly. The weather has not been very cold, but cold enough to make the winter very long. Snow arrived in November and never left. It's still here, more than a week into "spring."

Owls have been unable to reach their prey under snow too solid for their bird-weight to penetrate.

Until a couple of years ago, I would have been out there already, claiming my space on the road. As soon as the ice retreats fully from the pavement, I figure all's fair. At least I did. I needed base miles, and no one was going to stop me.

On my last days off, the temperature was supposed to top out in the mid 30s (F), on sunny, slightly breezy days. That's not inviting, but it's not bad. Dress for it. But on Monday I woke up with a weird digestive ailment that made me cold, depressed, occasionally lightheaded, and reluctant to venture far from the house. The malaise receded overnight, but enough effects lingered on Tuesday to make me stay off the bike then, too.

Each additional day off the bike gives me more time to contemplate the steadily increasing size of pickup trucks. Traffic looks less intimidating when you join its flow, but the big beasts are dangerous nonetheless. I have held my line with my elbow inches from tractor-trailer tires a number of times. It’s all part of the experience. Not a good part, mind you, but it will happen in the traffic criterium. It’s one reason that biking isn’t always a great way to see the sights. You need to concentrate on what’s in front of you while you try to herd what’s around you. You want to see the sights, take a leisurely walk or ride a tour bus.

It could be better. But any time we try to increase our speed using a wheeled conveyance we increase the risk of an unfortunate event. Balancing on two wheels is more precarious than squatting on four. You could stuff it riding on a separated bike path by yourself.

It’s not about the crash. I hate to crash, and I refuse to consider it inevitable, with experience and due care, but I have burned in a number of times, and always gone back to riding as soon as I healed up enough.

Mostly I dislike the public exposure of riding. We remain a minority, a bunch of weirdos who go without engines, on devices most people consider a phase of childhood, or perhaps don’t consider at all. We are simultaneously ridiculous super athletes and ineffectual dorks. Nothing we do will make us respectable. The best we can hope to be is tolerable. I did not understand the terms of this agreement when I committed myself to bicycling at the end of the 1970s. All of the idealistic bike nerds of the day thought that our time was coming. Surely the world had to notice that practicality and fun coexisted perfectly in the bicycle. It was true then and it is still true. Just because we haven’t won doesn’t mean we’re wrong.

The weather warms grudgingly. As usual for this time of year, warmth brings wetness, followed by resurgent cold. It used to be easier to take, when the whole world didn’t seem so cold in general. Funny thing to say in a warming climate, but you know what I mean.

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