Saturday, November 28, 2009

Ride to mile 25

I finally switched out the tires on my mountain bike. This is perhaps the latest I've made the switch to studs since I moved to Alaska. As I pumped the front tire up to 55 psi, the valve started to make that horrible hissing noise that indicates I have only seconds to release pressure before the twisted tube explodes (I pop more tubes this way than I'd care to admit.) I frantically grabbed at the hose and valve but it was too late. The tube exploded out of the tire right in my face, and the blast startled me so much that I jerked my hand away from the valve and punched the hub hard enough to bruise the entire backside of my right hand. My cat cowered against the door, horrified. I thought I had screwed up any opportunity to ride the ice-slicked streets, but then I found another heavily patched 29" tube stuffed in an old Camelbak.

This is my fifth season as a holiday orphan. Every year I tell myself that the expense, work hurdles and hassle of holiday travel isn't worth it, and every year the holidays roll around and I miss my family something fierce. I would even like to go with my sister on her Black Friday shopping frenzy, pushing against the roiling masses of humanity and frantic consumerism just for a glittering piece of something I don't need and never wanted. My own personal Hell would probably look something like Black Friday, but that is how much I miss my sister and the rest of my family.

I think about them when I ride, plying the damp streets and chilled air for comfort amid the homesickness. I think about coconut cream pie and ribbon Jello and table cloths that look like flannel sheets. I think about my Grandma lovingly demanding that all 47 of us recite what we're thankful for and I think about my Grandpa smiling as we chatter on about great friends and that super cool concert we went to the week before. I think about the Cowboys on TV and bowling with my cousins and even scoring more than 100 for the first time in my life. I think about Slurpees at 7-11 and sunlight on brown yards and launching sweet air beneath four tires off the train tracks. I find myself lost in memories when I ride around Thanksgiving, every year.

And I think about ways I can get home for Christmas, but I know it's already too late.