Sunday, February 17, 2008

Woo Doggies! Back On The Bike

I biked to work (to live, to bike, naturally) on Thursday and Friday, and it felt OK, not too shabby, so today, although the plan was to head up to the Pass for some skiing, we scrapped that plan and opted to ride instead. Mr. Weather promised us temperatures in the 50's, and sun.

So My World of Hert and I set out, with no particular plan. We ended up on Beach Drive, heading north toward Alki. It was a little chilly still, and we had a not insignificant headwind, so Carol started feeling like she couldn't do much today, and she gamely signaled me to go and ride for myself. Oh, yeah, as if! We had to stop, hug, kiss, and basically repeat our wedding vows. (Carol: Excuse me? Had to?)

Anyway, I think everyone in Seattle was banking on Mr. Weather's promise; how else to account for the appearance of the entire population of our fair city on Alki Beach? Strolling and trolling being the order of the day, I was unable to ride on the bike/pedestrian path, and it was unsafe to ride between parked cars and traffic, so I opted to ride with traffic. I tucked up behind two guys on Harleys, putt-putt, and we flowed along at a leisurely 12 m.p.h. while cars looked for parking spaces, guys looked for hot girls, and girls looked for hot guys. Unaccountably, the Harley riders seemed to get flustered when they realized I'd be riding behind them. I felt like a wolf in sheep's clothing, checking in with the flock. I get the distinct feeling that they'd have been more comfortable if I'd been a car.

Oh, shit. I forgot what I was wearing. One of the only two pairs of electric blue bib knickers ever sold by Voler (both of which were bought by me). Yeah, OK, I did look like an extra from La Cage Aux Folles.

(Ed. note: Harley guy: More like a sheep in wolf's clothing)

Anyway, after a long while of doing La Volta d'Alki, I made it to Spokane Street. Instead of going over the bridge, I jagged off at West Marginal Way, and rode down to Renton. Two little detours. First, I went exploring a bit in the park that follows the bank of the Duwamish. And, just north of the 1st Ave. Bridge, I was suddenly disgusted by all the litter, so I got off the bike and did a bit of clean-up. I was taking it very easy, resisting the temptation of putting it in the big ring and taking advantage of the northern tailwind.

At Renton, I went around the southern tip of Lake Washington, and headed back north. A pee stop at Coulon Park, and then at Kennydale Hill, I turned up, and did the climb up to 116th Ave. Now there, I did start feeling a little weak and kittenish. Once on 116th, though, all systems were within nominal tolerance, so I did a bit of exertion, going against the wind, slightly uphill, in Mr. Big Ring. Ooh, that felt nice.

Anyway, up to Factoria, through Mercer Slough, and on to Mercer Island.

Can we talk? I'd really like to find a way to get to Mercer Island that doesn't involve the Mercer Slough. The MS is a nature park, and as such, attracts many pedestrians along the twisty, narrow boardwalk, many of them elderly. The Slough shouldn't be a thoroughfare for us cyclists; really, that's a travesty. Anyway, I passed an elderly couple on the boardwalk who repeatedly had to walk in single file to accommodate the bike traffic. I felt really bad for them, and regretted adding to their toil. It just ain't right.

On Mercer Island, I headed south on East Mercer Way, but turned uphill at Mercerwood, for the nice twisting hill on offer there. No sooner had I gotten on Mercerwood, than I heard a squeak-­ squeak, and a young fellow on a rusted 70's vintage 10-speed (with shifters on the stem) passed me. Now he was interesting. From the bottom up: sneakers, striped (horizontally) knee socks, Mercer Island High School maroon baggy gym shorts, a tank top, dreads halfway down his back, and helmet. I caught up to him and declared that he'd put me to shame. I don't think he understood. I asked if he was cold. He said no, he was coming from the gym (probably at Mercerwood Country Club). He said I had a nice bike. I shrugged, then grabbed a handful of belly to indicate that the nice bike didn't matter much if you were carrying around extra weight. (Hope he didn't think I was making a lewd suggestion.) Anyway, I was probably not the conversational high point of his day, so I shut up, and we rode in silence for a bit. Then he took off, I slowed a bit, but then met him again at the top of the hill, and said bye to him as he turned south.

On West Mercer Way, I had another of my seemingly endless stream of close encounters with cars that come west down the short, steep hill on 40th, and, unable to see traffic coming north on West Mercer Way, pull forward onto the shoulder of WMW. There's gotta be a safe way to ride in that situation; I just haven't found it.

Anyway, over the floating bridge, down to Dearborn, left on Airport Rd, to Royal Brougham, and finally, south again on East Marginal Way. Lots of semis parked in the middle lane of EMW; a container ship must be behind schedule. Anyway, as I neared Spokane St., I came across my second mass of litter in the parking-­ lane-­ used-­ by-­ cyclists-­ because-­ there-­is-­ no-­ friggin-­ southbound-­ bike-­ lane. This one made me angry, because it was obviously illegally discarded medical waste, all from the same plastic bag. I cannot imagine any way for that litter to get there except for someone who had been paid to dispose of it properly, instead taking it to a remote location and just dropping it. Anyway, I cleaned up as much as I could, set it up on the sidewalk, covered it with rocks to prevent it blowing away, and, later, will call the city to report it. Luckily I had a spare pair of gloves, so I took off the gloves I used for cleanup, and tucked them into my jersey. Back home, I soaked the gloves and jersey in several bottles of isopropyl alcohol -- we'll see if they survive the subsequent washing.

As I got back on my bike, my shoulder was brushed by a cyclist who was hammering toward the bridge. He then brushed another cyclist, and finally, hopped his bike at the last moment to avoid plowing into a pedestrian from behind. I think I know this guy. A few months ago, I was behind him when he nearly plowed headfirst into two pedestrians on the sidewalk under the bridge, in the dark. Today, I resolved that the next time I see him, I am going to bury myself to catch him, and then he and I will have a free and frank exchange of opinions. It may not be the legal or prudent thing to do, but it is the right thing to do. I cannot imagine that another year will go by without this asshole hurting someone. Badly. At the very least, if I can stop him long enough to get his photo on my cell camera, it might help the police, when (not if) that happens.

Anyway, over the lower West Seattle bridge, and back on to my beloved-­ island-­ that-­ is-­ not-­ an-­ island. At this point, I was seriously tempted to take the shortest route home, since I was no longer feeling good, and I was starting to feel very cold. Harbor Drive and Alki were even more mobbed than before. I again tucked in behind two motorcycles, and crawled along, this time alternating between moving 5 m.p.h. and doing short track stands (Disclaimer: I can't do a bonafide track stand. I am a Poseur de Piste). This just went on and on and on, until Beach Drive. Then, all motorized traffic turned back toward Alki to repeat La Volta, and I headed south. By this time, I was feeling the effects of the decision to keep riding. Very cold, very tired. But, hey, from the point of view of training, it was perfect. Just a bit beyond my comfort zone.

Anyway, I took the secret switchbacked climbing route up to Fauntleroy, and then north on California, switching to 42nd, where there is no traffic.

OK, here I must confess that I had another motive for taking the long way home. As Carol and I were beginning our ride, I crossed Alaska and 42nd, and pulled over to let Carol catch up. There, I heard, just faintly, "Stop fuckin' wit' da traffic." Huh? Not only was I pulled out of the traffic lane, but as far as I know, I was riding completely legally, and there was no traffic to fuck wit'! Startled, I looked back. There was an older, overweight white guy standing there, smoking a cigarette, staring at me, repeating: "Stop fuckin' wit' da traffic." He said this over and over, then shook his head. What was up with that? Had I met the human equivalent of a bumper sticker? Weirder yet, the corner this guy was standing at has nothing there. Empty lots. He wasn't waiting to cross the street. Just standing there, repeating his mantra.

Carol came up, and not looking for an argument (from either Carol or this guy), I moved on. But on the way home, I very much was hoping that Mr. Fuck Wit' was still there, so I could stop and tell him, in numbing detail, all the traffic I had fucked wit' by riding completely legally, not slowing motorized traffic one bit, using my bike on the road.

Sadly, it was not to be. Mr. Fuck Wit' had moved on to other, hopefully equally fulfilling activities.

I hope Mr. Fuck Wit' is an isolated occurrence, but I fear he may not be. A couple months ago, as I was riding north on 3rd Ave. toward work, I was stopped waiting for a red light. A woman who illustrated all the downside risk of blondehood walked up to me and asked "you got insurance for that thing?"

I hope I am a paranoid raving lunatic, that this is the last vestige of the illness. I hope that the creeps who make our city sparkle with incidents of bike-directed road rage, and who provide the drumbeat of misinformation underlying calls for licensing and insuring bikes, and outright banning bikes on roads, are not conducting some kind of low-level in situ psy-ops.

R.E.M. lyric of the day: "Divide your cultured pearls in haste", from Turn You Inside Out

Song I'd most like to hear on Kempton Baker's spinning playlist: Cat's Squirrel, either Charley Musselwhite's version or Cream's version. My cat Pumpkin wants to hear that, too, although he doesn't spin, unless you put him in the, let's not go there.

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