Friday, December 13, 2013

Waiting area

Lately, I've been feeling a bit overwhelmed with the "Things to Do" list. "I'm so busy," I'd grumble to myself, while at the same time acknowledging that yes, I don't have children, and, yes, I'm self-employed in a mostly open-ended way with only one or two deadlines a week, and because of that I cannot be "busy." I chose this lifestyle because I value freedom, time, and self-exploration over traditional societal markers of success, such as personal wealth, status, and busyness.

And yet, and yet, I'm so busy. Have to, have to finish this book project this winter, but the effort feels so clunky right now and I hate writing clunky, better to flow, can't force flow, even my blogs have been crappy and neglected lately, but I need to start on that book editing project and all that Web content I promised, and my boss in Alaska wants to change around all of the newspaper deadlines for the holiday week, the same week we'll be in Fairbanks tromping around in the frozen wilderness, and I have to gather all of my preferred winter gear and get it dialed in and ready right now because we leave next week, which reminds me to mail out those Christmas presents, so grateful for online shopping, and I have to get stuff ready for that 50K trail race this weekend as well, and I'm considering joining a long group run in Marin the day before because two back-to-back long runs will be good Iditarod training too, but sort of scary, sixty miles in two days? ... shouldn't seem that much, actually, all things considered, but it means I won't do well in Woodside, and damn I really need to vacuum ... I should clean the carpet as well while Beat is out of town, and hit the store to get some trail snacks and pick up that prescription, and cat supplies for Cady's next trip to the catsitter, need to schedule that, when does Beat get back from Germany? Oh yeah, I have that car appointment. Argh!

The customer service rep at the Subaru dealership told me Subey's 30,000-mile service was going to take four to five hours. Four to five hours? What are they going to do, install a new transmission? "We're backed up," she apologized. Then why bother scheduling appointments? "Will you be waiting here or coming back later?" she asked. I'm not sure what most people do when they're marooned at a car dealership. I usually bring my laptop, drink bad coffee, and try to get some work done. On this day, luckily, I brought my bike.

"I guess I have all afternoon," I thought. First thing was to escape San Jose as quickly as possible by pedaling due south on some traffic-clogged six-lane street before locating the Los Gatos Creek trail toward Lexington Reservoir and a nearby open space preserve that I've never visited, Sierra Azul. Around here, I never cease to be amazed by how quickly one can shift from smog-filled sprawl to a place that looks and feels like the middle of nowhere. The Limekiln Canyon fireroad is just steep and gut-busting enough to ward off the masses, and I fought to find my climbing legs as I rose out of the smog into what was turning out to be a beautiful, quiet, warm winter day.

California fire roads are mean, mean, mean. I remember when 3,000-foot climbs would feel like a breeze, back in Montana where dirt roads are built with switchbacks at reasonable grades. Here in California, there's no snow and ice to contend with and utility vehicles can apparently climb walls, so they build their roads straight up the mountain. Limekiln was killing me and I was loving it. The rear wheel spun furiously through the loose gravel, and my quads were on fire in a way I haven't felt in weeks, even though GPS told me that I could probably achieve a faster pace if I were on foot. For whatever reason, when I work on becoming a stronger runner, I seem to become less strong on a bike. I guess that's the way it goes, but it's frustrating and motivating at the same time.

It was all worth it to stand at the top of a nondescript peak 3,000 feet over the Silicon Valley, surveying the smoggy kingdom and knowing I still had plenty of time to take the long way home. I descended an oak-shaded canyon with frost still clinging to the road beside the imposing and inaccessible fortress atop Mount Unumhum.

The Subaru rep called when I was about two miles out. "Your car is done," she said. "We apologize for the inconvenience." I looked at my watch. Four and a half hours. "What a great way to waste an afternoon," I thought.

Some afternoons, maybe most afternoons, are better whittled away than busied away.