Thursday, April 10, 2014

Two in Passing

Forgive me for stealing this from my Facebook page.  Is it possible to plagiarize yourself?  

"A tale of two riders from a few days ago: Rider Number One came up behind me at around mile 21 on a slick carbon roadie with a cockpit like a jet and slowed a little so I could fall in beside him. We talked bikes, weather, destinations and rides a while then he went on ahead when my cell chirped and I had to swing off. Nice to meet someone as cold and far from home as me. Pleasant.

Rider Number Two pulled slowly past me into the wind at about mile 40...fully decked out in Specialized, with all the correct cold weather gear but nary a nod of the balaclava or a lift of the stylishly gloved finger to acknowledge a how ya doin'. Um...sorry...I know you're focused and determined and incredibly fast and you probably look and smell better than I do too but would it kill you to glance sideways and snort to one of the unwashed masses riding aluminum? I've got 40 in and I might be slow, but I'm out here too. Snob.

Moral of the story: Remind me to always be Mr. Rider Number One no matter what. We're all in it together."

Moral of the story: Remind me to always be Mr. Rider Number One no matter what. We're all in it together."

I wrote that while I was still pretty steamed after watching guy #2 fade into the distance ahead.  Not because he was leaving me in his wake, that happens all the time so I'm used to it.  It was just that casual disregard of something as basic as a hello.  For some reason, that bugged the hell out of me.  If I could have caught him, he might have told me he was having a crummy day or something was going badly in his world or he was lost in thought trying to figure out a warp drive and that would be ok.  There's things going on with all of us below the surface and that's a fact.  But it doesn't let you out of being human.

Then again, he probably has a bunch of friends who think he's a great guy...a true hardman that rides in rotten weather and lives Rule #5.  Maybe he worked the last 10 days straight and finally got a chance to get out.  What if he just had a fight with his wife and went for a ride to clear the smoke?  Or maybe he just had his music cranking under the layers or maybe he's actually deaf like one of the guys on my team or he was intent on his Strava or maybe he hated the wind as much as I did but whatever he was, he certainly wasn't blind.  He saw another rider and for whatever reason, chose to look right past and by so doing, made the day seem a little colder and the wind a little meaner.  He may or may not know what happened in that few seconds or even care but it struck me as a moment lost and gone.

Then there's another thought; ain't it funny how the first guy doesn't get the press of the second out of me.  Maybe that's a commentary on something else all by itself.  I zeroed in on the unpleasant.  Have to chew on that one a while...

Anyway, I'd like to believe #2 wasn't being an inconsiderate creep just for the hell of it, only because I like to think of people that way, that benefit of the doubt thing...but yeah...I know...he could simply be a jerk and that's all it was.  An indifferent slight because he just didn't give a crap.  But I hope not.

After all, it seems like such a small investment to look across the gap between two people and see that someone is travelling beside you, even if it's only for that one moment in passing.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

I Told You So

Yeah I did.  I guess maybe it's time.

I've spent months (maybe years) in kind of a daze.  Without going into any detail, let's just say things have been...vastly different.  Life as I knew it has pretty much gone off the cliff and now everything has changed.  But I'm not going there today.

Today I'm thinking of other things.  I'm thinking that the sun is out and the frost is melting off the grass.  At long last, I can finally see enough of the grass to tell the frost is melting off.  It's still too cold this early in the morning to drag my old joints out for a ride on the Trek but there's hope for noon or so.  With any luck, before the phone rings with the little voice from Crew Management on it wanting me to haul another train load of Canadian Stuff south, I can clip in for a short one.  There's still a ton of salt on the road and some of the potholes could swallow a Smart Car but if I don't start somewhere...well, I just won't start.  But I probably should at least finish this before I start something else...

It's been one hell of a winter.  I've burned most of a medium-sized forest trying to keep warm since roughly Thanksgiving Day.  The pipes froze a couple of times.  The pipes never freeze in this house...or so I thought.  The west wind started up at some point and turned into a shotgun blast straight out of the Ninth Circle that kept going for days on end.  It was one tough fight but after blowing the thermometer down into negative numbers so low even the dogs wouldn't go outside, that miserable wind finally worked its way through the wall and into the PVC.  This in spite of the boiler in the basement that glowed and sizzled constantly in defiance.  Don't even talk to me about the holidays.  I almost thought it would never end.

There wasn't even much snow most of the time, just cold.  I could live with snow.  You plow it, shovel it, bitch about it but it's pretty when the sun comes out.  A clean snow covers up the dead leaves, mud and unfinished projects.  It makes you squint out the window and blink away tears that might be from other things and think of sled rides and snowmen.

But the cold gets in your head and just sits there.  It's dark like the days and unrelenting as ice itself.  Even when you bury yourself in the covers, you know it's out there tapping on the siding, looking for a way in.  It snaps the rails just for spite and dares you to touch a grab iron with your bare hand.  It hates you.  It hates everything that lives or moves.  Its only ally is the northwest wind, that miserable hammer and nail that drives the cold right down to your soul where it can freeze the hope out of you.  It hates hope too because hope is a precious thing and bright...warm but hard to hold onto when the Clippers scream in.  The Bean-shìdh wind and Dante's ice gang up on you and try desperately to tear out what little hope you have left for spring days.  No...winter and I will never be friends.

But today is early April and the woodpile is getting a reprieve.  I've been out riding a little over the last few days when it gets warm enough for my fingers to work the shifters.  It feels pretty good to move again even though the Man With the Hammer hangs close on my six this time of year.  I think he's related to the cold and also hates me but at least I can fight him with only a sandwich and a water bottle.  I think he'll fall behind as I get my legs back and with any luck, he'll get on somebody else's wheel and leave me alone for the summer.  

Sooner or later, it'll rain enough to wash the last of the salt off the road too.  Like I said, I can't stand putting the only good road bike I've got out on it but I can't wait all year.  The DOT guys over-achieved spreading the stuff and every truck going by kicks up clouds of brine dust that coats everything.  Even my water bottle is a salt lick.  Riding shouldn't taste like an eight hour shift in a Morton plant unless it's sweat running out from under your shades.  Patience Wayward...patience.

Patience and hope.  So hard to find after such a long time and so many dark, cold weeks.  I'm left with days I can't think about and days I can't think at all.  Those are the long shadows of winter that always follow along.  Like my age, I can't ride hard enough or far enough to outrun them so I just ride.  

So for today and other days, I'll ride a little and perhaps write a little.  We'll see.  Maybe it really is time after all.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014