I got out of work about an hour and a half early yesterday. It was a beautiful day, about 65 degrees, slight breeze, the sun was shining in a Toy Story sky (you know the clear blue with the white puffy clouds dotting the sky).
The first part of the ride home is the best part of the ride home. The hospital sits about half way up a mountain so the first part of the ride goes down. Down through the U of U campus which is a great place to ride because the roads are twisty and turny but it’s a college campus so the people driving there are used to cyclist enough that it’s not too scary to ride the twisty turny roads. Because I got off early there were more than the usual number of cars on the roads and in a few places the roads go down to one lane without enough shoulder to pass me on my bike. For a minute I felt bad for the people in the cars behind me but then I realized that the downhill was sufficient that I was going a good 25 of 30 and they shouldn’t be going much faster than that anyway.
Just off the campus I got stopped at a light and one lane over there was a guy on a fixie. (A fixed gear bike is set up so without a freewheel which means that if the back wheel’s turning the pedals are too. There’s no coasting. It also means that you can (at least in theory) ride backwards.) I’ve heard about fixies and their riders that they can stay on the pedals at a standstill and just roll the bike back and forth as needed to not fall over. I had never seen it but it’s true. Very interesting.
Around the corner, onto 13th E and Garth Brooks “Ain’t Goin’ Down til the Sun Comes Up” comes on the i-pod. This song is just fun. It’s upbeat and quick and a really good riding song. I find myself pedaling hard enough that despite the fact that the road is relatively flat, I lose resistance (because I’m now coasting faster than I can pedal).
I make it to 8th S. and the road really turns down. 8th S is completely straight. And it goes straight down. I keep telling myself that one day I’m going to do it without hitting the brakes at all. But not today. Still, even with the occasional tap of the brakes I get to the light at the bottom of the hill with tears streaming from my eyes from the wind and a huge smile on my face.
I’m stopped at the light at the bottom of the hill. Have a little drink, adjust my headphones. The light changes and just as I get back on the pedals a guy blows right by me. He’s cruising. I assume that he’s still working off the momentum from the hill.
We get stopped at the next light together. “Sorry for passing you like that, I just was coming off the hill..” he says.
“No sweat” I reply, “If you’ve got the momentum use it.”
“Yeah,” he says, “but then you get stopped at this light.”
“This road’s awful for that,” I say, “I ride it all the way across the valley and I inevitably get stopped 7 or8 times.”
“How far do you take it?” He asks.
“I ride from 13thE. at the top of the hill across to the Jordan River Parkway Trail (about 13th W)”
“Oh wow, you are going all the way across.” he says, “do you do that everyday?”
“No, once a week” I say, ” every Tuesday.”
The light changes. We both get back on our pedals. He’s faster than I am. Not surprising, most people are faster than I am. But he’s not so fast that I lose him altogether. He slows to make a turn and I wave goodbye. “See you next Tuesday,” he says.
And I ride across the valley. 8th S. has a bike lane all the way across so I don’t have to worry too much about cars and despite what I told the guy at the bottom of the hill, today I’m only stopped at 3 lights on my way to the trail.
I pick up the Jordan River Parkway Trail, a paved trail about one lane wide, and roll through the first of a series of parks. I have a choice here. I can take a right and ride into a neighborhood and then back to the trail, it’s the technical route of the trail, or I can go left and go over “the jump” and along a dirt trail back to the official trail. I’m feeling good, I take the jump.
I hit it just right, going quick but not too fast. I hop over it and then onto the trail and for just a minute I get to pretend that I’m some kind of mountain biker, rocking the single track. Then I’m back on the paved trail. I roll through some sort of garden. I’m not sure what park this is, it’s too far north for me to be very familiar with the area but it’s lovely, flowering shrubs, benches, fountains.
Out of the park, across the street and I keep following the river.
As I cross one street and get back on the trail, I pass a bench with three teenage boys sitting on it. As I approach I see one hand something to another of them. As I pass I see all three with their hands suspiciously tucked out of sight. And I smell pot. I find myself giggling, I can’t help it. I feel good. So good. “I know what you’re doing” I holler over my shoulder at the boys, I just can’t resist.
Following the trail, river on my right, I see ducks and pheasants. The train gate is open which I love. When it’s closed I’m forced through a series of switchbacks designed to slow riders down so that they don’t get hit by a train. It’s a noble endeavor, but I can’t do the switchbacks on my bike and I’d really hate to have to get off.
Across the train tracks and down under an underpass. I keep rolling, feeling good. Feeling fantastic.
It occurs to me as I cruise along that I would be sad to miss this, to miss the way that I feel. Yeah, I’m sweating, I’m breathing hard, but I feel amazing. This is why I have a body, I think this is why I wanted a body, why I fought for one. Suddenly that whole concept makes a lot more sense to me.
I make it to the duck place and I wonder if I’ll see the girl on the horse again. Last week there was a girl galloping (cantering? ) a horse through the muddy sandy “beach” by the pond. she’s not here today, but she’s been here or at least someone on a horse has. Dodging horse pies becomes a game that I play as I ride along.
I’m listening to Green Day and planning on taking the long way around to my house when I realize that if I take the short way I’ll be home in time for Sean to go to mutual. I get off the trail and hit the roads for the rest of the ride. I have to be more careful here. The drivers on the west side aren’t as considerate of cyclists and there are no bike lanes. Still I make it without incident, sprinting down the street to my house faster Alison, faster I chant in my head. I always sprint down my street, may as well end the ride with a bang.
And then I roll into my driveway.
With a commute like this. How could you do anything else? It almost makes me sad that I only work one day a week.