Thursday, April 09, 2009

Good mileage push

Date: April 8 and 9
Mileage: 47.8 and 101.6
April mileage: 391.5
Temperature upon departure: 39 and 42

Sometimes I fell compelled to apologize to my journal for the frivolous way I burn up all my free time. I mean, I consider myself an intelligent person. I have a good job. I have friends. Most of them are even real friends, not just, as Geoff calls them, "Facebook Friends." I have a great cat. I love reading newspapers, even though I work for one. I devour New Yorker magazines. Every so often, I read a book. I've had a variety of hobbies - snowboarding, drawing, going to movies ... OK, not that many hobbies. But these days, I pretty much just ride my bike. I'm sorry.

There's just this thing about me ... I can't really explain it ... I just really like riding my bike. People pass me on the street and later tell me I seemed to be smiling. Everyone tells me this. Do I smile every second that I'm on my bike? I don't know. That's what people say.

It's just that biking is so monotonous and repetitive and sort of pointless. I go out to a random point and then I return to my home. The next day, I go to another random point and then come home. Sometimes I take my bike to work, and then I ride home. Then I go out to the first random point that I rode to earlier in the week, and come home. Day after day after day. What's wrong with me?

Sometimes it's raining. Usually, it's raining. The wind blows hard from the south. Even though the temperature has been above 40, I still have to bundle up pretty warm to help keep my ultra-sensitive toes from freezing. The trails have turned to mush. The roads are covered in goo, but at least they're rideable. There aren't many roads in Juneau. I see a lot of the same terrain. Day after day after day. And yet, I never see it in the same way twice. Sometimes strips of sunlight escape through the clouds and paint streaks of green on the gray-washed mountainsides. Sometimes deer bound along the roadside and waterfalls roar with the weight of spring runoff. Yesterday, I stopped at Auke Rec and saw a man swimming in the bay. His long, neoprene-covered arms cast wide strokes over the smooth water. I watched him for a few seconds and realized he wasn't alone. Sleek, shadowy figures bounded in and out of the bay near him. I squinted and realized the shadows were dorsal fins. Porpoises. The man was swimming with porpoises, or, more accurately, they were swimming with him. Either way, it looked amazing, in a beautiful, terrifying way, and I wished myself out there with them. The man just kept swimming, calmly toward shore, as the porpoises danced around him. I got back on my bike and coasted down the road, smiling.

I was stoked to squeeze in nearly 50 miles before work yesterday. I wanted to go for 100 today. The bike did not make it easy. It was a "bad bike day." I got three flat tires, and at one point had to backtrack five miles to a bike shop to buy new tubes. I sliced my hand clean open on the razor-sharp derailleur pulley spikes and bled all over my patch kit. My rear brake pads finally wore to nothing. My rear wheel skewer kept coming loose on its own, which could have ended badly, but I kept telling myself it was my fault and it wouldn't happen again. Then it would. I was starting to remember why I gave up riding this bike last fall. It has a lot of problems.

But when I wasn't wallowing in a snowy ditch and fumbling with my rear wheel, the miles just flew by. Traffic was scarce and I did a lot of singing out loud. I decided I am a big fan of Clif Shot Bloks. It's taken me a while to come around to them. I used to think they tasted like sugar-coated wads of snot. Now I think they taste like energy-stoking wads of heaven. I like the "cola" kind. They taste like Pepsi.

On the outside, I'm just turning pedals and going nowhere, wearing soaked nylon and splattered in mud, probably with a big dopey smile on my face and Pepsi-colored Shot Blok bits lodged in my teeth. But on the inside, I'm drifting in a peaceful sea, moving freely between the past and present, and absorbing almost obscene quantities of beauty that I could devour forever and never be full.

I'm riding my bike.

I'm not sorry.