Thursday, October 29, 2009

A Dichotomy of Commutes

My commutes to and from work yesterday could not have been any more different.

Yesterday morning, I donned my new Showers Pass rain gear. The sky was filled with dark clouds, the roads were wet and slick, the rain fell relentlessly and the wind blew a gale across the James River.

Yesterday evening, I tucked my rain gear in my bag and rolled up my sleeves. The sky was clear as a bell from horizon to horizon - setting up a perfect backdrop for a beautiful sunset. The temperature was in the low 70s, the roads were nice and dry and the wind blew softly across the James River.

Note that I said the commutes could not have been any more different, but I refrained from labeling one as more preferable than the other. The simple fact of the matter is, I enjoyed them both equally for what they were. I believe that is but another advantage of commuting by bike.

In a car, one is isolated from the whims of mother nature. In a car, one deals with the elements by the turning of a knob or throwing of a switch.

On the other hand, when you ride a bike, you are directly exposed to those elements, they literally smack you in the face. There is no escaping them. You are forced to contend with them each and every pedal stroke.

On the surface, it would be easy to conclude that having to contend with the heat or cold, wind and rain, is but a hassle. However, from a bicycle seat, one learns to not only accept them as a part of life, but you get to know their intricacies and grow to appreciate them as well.

PS - The Showers Pass gear worked like charm. I stayed nice and dry and the ventilation was just enough to keep the perspiration to a minimum.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

A Ride Down Memory Lane

Last month I drove home to Cameron, LA to help take care of my Mom who was scheduled to have surgery. I got there a few days before the surgery and on one of those days, I found time to get the Bike Friday out and go for a little spin.

It was strange pulling out of our street onto the main highway, heading into town. It was strange because in all the time I was growing up and all the miles I logged in riding my bike, I never ventured outside of our neighborhood. I wouldn't dream of pulling out on the "Highway" with all the traffic. From my parents driveway to the main road is a whopping 0.2 (2/10) miles. Today, that distance seems scarcely worth jumping on the bike, but the funny thing is, when I was a kid, I thought it an epic journey. As I stopped at the end of my street to check for traffic, I held a certain level of apprehension at pushing the boundary of my childhood and pedaling onto the "Highway". As it turns out, I traversed the 1 mile stretch of "Highway" into town and was passed by a grand total of 2 cars.

Upon reaching town safely, I got to thinking. I wonder how many things in my life today I've distorted in mind and made bigger and more important than what they really are? Will I look back on this stage of my life in 20 years and scoff at the trivialness of these burdens that I currently bare?

Anyway, once I got to town, I began a ride down memory lane. I rode past the remains of Bolo's Shrimp Shop where I worked as a teenager, unloading boats and icing down there cargo.

I rode past where my Dad use to dock his shrimp boat.I watched crew boats as they headed toward the Gulf of Mexico and remembered some of my rides on similar boats. More often than not they involved leaning over the rails chucking my cookies. I never did have what you call sea legs.I rode to the Jetties, where I occasionally came to fish, and looked out over the Gulf.I rode over to the "Ferry" where my Paran was the "Diesel Mechanic" for so many years.I rode past all kinds of places in town or more accurately stated, places that use to be in town.
- The ice house with the huge Mural welcoming visitors.
- Bailey's shrimp house where we use to buy beer.
- The fire station where as boy scouts we would slide down the brass pole.
- The barber shop where mom use to take us to have our hair buzzed.
- Cameron Food Market where every time we went mom would buy us our favorite cereal.

The list goes on, but I don't have pics to share. Thanks to Hurricane Rita, these places are either gone or in ruins. They've all been replaced with the tell tale signs of a town struggling to rebuild and survive. I opted not to take pictures of this struggle, partially out of respect for the proud inhabitants of Cameron and quite frankly because the memories are painful enough without the poignant reminder of pictures.

If in the event, you harbor any doubt that this ride actually ever occurred, I am confident that this last picture will erase all it.You know you're riding in South LA when you count alligator among the road kill!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

A Mural Moment

A few Sundays back, my bike ride took me through old downtown Hampton. It had been some time since I was last in this area of town and I noticed as I slowly rode down West Queens Way that murals had been painted on several of the buildings. I was so impressed with the work, that I turned around and rode back down the street stopping to admire and take pictures.

There was a time in my bike riding life that a consumption with total miles and average speed would have prevented me from stopping. As I've grown older, while I still track my speed and mileage, I do not let either of those things keep me from enjoying other facets of riding, such as the opportunity to look around and admire. Below are a few of my favorites.To view all of them, click here