Monday, April 25, 2011

Another long bike ride, not by choice (May 22, 2007)

Monday morning I had to get to a meeting at one of the nearby schools. Unfortunately, the car had to go into the shop that morning, too. Bad alternator. But hey, at least I got a bus ride -- in the homeward direction, no less -- by 7:30 in the morning. (Doesn't everyone have an auto mechanic on the same bus route they live on?)

Also unfortunately, there was no getting to this school by public transportation. The closest stop on any route was over a mile away, and service up in Marshall Township is next to non-existent. Nobody I knew planned on attending, so there was no way to get there other than under my own power. Grabbing helmet, riding gloves and orange vest, then, I mounted the bike and off I went.

The trip was about nine miles each way, not quite as far as my trip to Oakland just over a week earlier, but it took almost exactly as long, 48 minutes. (They don't call this area The North Hills because it resembles Kansas, I tell ya!)

Marshall Elementary School is a newish building, barely 15 years old, and like just about everything else in Sprawlville, there is not a single place designed to hold a bicycle. I considered hooking it to the No Parking signpost, but thought that would be just a tad ostentatious, so opted for a small tree.

I got more than a couple of odd looks from parents bringing late kids into school, but I shrugged them off. If they thought I was some sort of messenger, fine, but I was running late, and didn't care to get into any philosophical discussions, at least not until on the way out. That I was likely the only person all week to arrive at school on bicycle, whether student, staff or a visitor such as me, was likely lost on everyone.

In any event, the meeting attendees recognized me as a regular, and figured out that I must be some strange bird indeed to bicycle there at all. It's a big district, and nobody -- nobody -- lives close enough to walk or bike to that place.

On the way home, as before on the Oakland trip, I think I was slower than on the trip there. It was pretty warm by then, past noon. At least it was nice.

Traffic really wasn't that big of a pain. There are no ridable shoulders anywhere, but there's enough space to get by a bike and neither run me off the road nor worry about head-ons. Parked cars were non-existent. Perry Highway is always busy, but at least that one road is very wide and also has a wide shoulder. As usual, the biggest problem is in convincing anyone that I'm for real.

Afterthoughts? Well, I must be getting in pretty good shape. My bike is geared for speed, not hills. Any substantive elevation change has me downshifting to the lowest gear ratio, and lugging it, barely above a stall. Nevertheless, I rarely need to stop, though I do when it's called for. I just chug slowly along, and eventually I get there.

I do plan to do a lot more cycling, though. I'd like to participate in Critical Mass, a ride in which we try to get as many bicycles as possible to travel through the city as a group. I'd like to adapt the bike so I can attach a bucket or basket for carrying items.

The main thing is, though, to just be out there, cycling everywhere for basic transportation. There's a touch of defiance in there, too, a feeling of "you damn well can, too, get there by bike, because I did it".

No comments: