Thursday, March 11, 2021

Hot air balloons and X-wing fighters

Commuting by car sucks. Riding a bike may have its hazards, but getting stuck in traffic is not one of them.

Driving to work in the icy months, I may have a sweet, fast run or I might get stuck behind a hot air balloon.

Hot air balloons are vehicles floating down the road unhurried, like colorful canopies blocking sight and passage, drifting at the whim of the wind while their contented occupants survey the scenery. Ranging anywhere from five to 25 miles per hour below the speed limit, this puts them well below the customary average speed for people who need to actually get somewhere. I make a special effort not to fall into the trap of impatience. Tailgating never made anyone speed up, ever. All it does is raise the blood pressure of the tailgater. Sometimes it also raises the ire of the tailgatee, but this seldom leads to the desired increase in speed. More likely it leads to an exchange of gestures, profanity, or lead. I might follow a bit snugly as we approach the better of the two surviving passing zones. If the zone is clear, I launch the pass. If not, I settle back. There's a third zone, but if you've been held back that long, don't bother, because just over the rise, the hot air balloon will miraculously transform into an X-wing fighter attacking the Death Star.

At the point where I think about throttling back because the road is narrowing and structures sit closer and closer, not to mention that small animals and people might pop up, the X-wings tighten their formation and scream into the canyon at a speed that was too slow for the highway and is murderously too fast for the tight confines of Center Street. They always drop me. Then they probably pat themselves on the back because they made good time.

On my bike, I don't care how someone is driving on the highway, as long as they give me an adequate amount of room and pass without comment. When we get into Center Street, the X-wings have to slow down for me, because hitting me would make them late for work or their hair appointment or shopping or wherever they're going. Scrubbing a little speed and giving anywhere from four to 18 inches of passing clearance gets them by without too much interruption. Think of me as flak from the Death Star's cannons. Just dodge the burst and keep flying.

As I've noted before, my time in transit by bike is much more consistent than when I drive. The road feels long sometimes, and sometimes hostile, but I feel more grateful to be alive, even when I'm tired and hungry. Daylight Relocating Time arrives this Sunday. Winter seems to be in decline. It's getting to be time to get reacquainted with the bike seat.

1 comment:

Jim said...

Well described, even the removal of the passing zone after 171. Part of the morning commute involved split second decisions about passing that car.