July 30, 2008

Looking before leaping.

Well, it finally rained -- after dancing with 20% chances of rain here and there, it finally opened up pretty good yesterday, and has now been raining off-and-on for about the last 24 hours in some places. Yesterday AM, the bike trail was just nasty - slicked up bad, and the "roller coaster" section was a mess. I forget, I don't think I have ever mentioned the "roller coaster" section before.... I digress, but it's relevant: I used to jump off the trail at Switzer and 140th or so, close to the Deanna Rose Farmstead, and then use 137th street to head straight east to Antioch, and then jump back on the trail there to continue to work. Most of this was a consequence of the bike handling issues that were caused by the old Carradice bag setup. (read - high center of gravity). The trail in the section between Switzer and Antioch, around the 139th street corridor, is REALLY twisty, hilly, and fun....when it's dry. But, it's in an especially old growth section of the original trail that used to just service the small city park behind the ball fields off of 137th streets - so it's probably a decade older than the rest of the trail that now connects to it, and gets me from Olathe all the way to 127th and Lamar. Because of this, the asphalt is all porous, loaded with silt and dirt, and the trees shed a lot of leaves, sap, etc., and there are a lot of seed pods and fallen branches everywhere. It's probably only a couple of weeks of non-maintenance by the city away from getting sucked back into the forest. Also, it was built on the old paradigm of "scenic" instead of "functional". Considering it was by itself for a long time, people would go to the park, and go on a "hike" on this twisty thing, and feel like they'd been walking for a LONG while. It meanders a lot. It's very pretty, yes -- and after a test, I came to find out that it was actually faster to stay on the trail and go thru it, rather than to jump off and take 137th for a seemingly "straight shot". But, on rainy days, there aren't many tires that will hold you upright thru this section. It's so well shaded that even when the weather clears, this section of trail remains super sloppy for days afterwards. In the winter, you can't even really see where it is. So, when I navigated this section yesterday before the real rain really even started up, it was nasty... today, I wasn't even going to risk it. The remains of hurricane Dolly was having its way with the local creeks, and it's just not worth the risk, so I ride in on the main roads today.

Here's a shot from the Crowbar, another commuter that sits down the aisle from me: He had to stick to the roads, too, clearly!It's been an interesting couple of days on the bike because of the rain and cloudy conditions -- seems almost fall-like, with the exception of the temperatures. Once this weather clears, it's gonna get HOT again. But, for now, I actually have to don the short-sleeve modified rain jacket on the way home from job#2 in the evening, as the rain is quite cold and steady. Cold up there. I arrived home right when things were becoming a tad enthusiastic, with lighting and sonorous thunder. Magnificent! Overnight, more stormy activity - and this morning, steady, cold rain again with a northwesterly wind -- fall-like, indeed.
So, I practice my fall routines, cornering more upright and carefully - re-learning the envelope of traction on my tires. Making sure the lights have fresh batteries, etc. It's all part of the big plan.

I'm pretty stoked about this whole "car-free" thing, although I'm a little hesitant to take that next BIG step: selling the car. I've talked to the wife about it and it's starting to make more sense in her mind too. I have to make sure that I'm ready for this step, 100%, because once it's gone - it's gone. There will be no turning back. But, the financial rewards are plentiful - and everything helps these days. However, will I feel the same way in December? February - my most hated winter month here in Kansas? With the nature of Kansas weathers, can I possibly have this kind of sagacity? Will it work??? I'm nervous, of course - tentative about actually placing that ad in the online classifieds. Time to set the mind at ease by re-reading some blogs and articles out there.
But, so far, so good - while this pales HORRIBLY in comparison with some of my commuting heroes in the world, it's encouraging that I have overcome a lot of my issues of the past 18 months, and have ridden to work every day for a month solid now. Yeah, I know --- keep it going all winter, THEN we'll talk. I have the same conversation with myself about it. But, there is something that snapped in my earlier this month. Looking back, every week, every season since moving into the new house that put me more than double the distance from work, I have been fairly IN-consistent with my commutes. A large part of this was the tiny car I bought in the winter of 2006. Of course, in 2006, gas was still "only" a couple bucks a gallon. I had NO notion - I don't think anyone did - that within 18 months or slightly more, we'd see $4.00 a gallon common nationwide. Even driving the little car was getting expensive. It's just not worth it anymore - I've finally reached a point again where the price of gas far outweighs the struggles one endures by simply hanging up the car keys. It's SO easy to get sucked in, tho. The nice seats, the air conditioning, the heater in winter - protection from the elements, no regards to wind direction or velocity, nor to grade or state of repair of the roadway, nay hardly even a concern for other drivers or one's own protection. Six air bags, no worries; it renders bicycling an awfully precarious venture by contrast. Fortunately, I can stand by my record -- while someday certainly I may be caught out on odds (heaven forbid) by a careless driver, I can rest assured that I take every discretion when it comes to riding when conditions are prime, inclemency moreso. Ankle bands, reflective tape everywhere, good and well-aimed lights, a good helmet, and constant prudence at the handlebars - I have a family to support, friends that care. Risk is not an option, fashion be damned. Sometimes, however, because of the culture we live in, and the wishing and urge to be accepted that comes with human nature, that car seems awfully safe and comfortable, and EASY. I could bore myself with trite quips about the notions this country was founded upon, how the easy way is often never the best way, and how we've all become softies and sell-outs. I know what lies ahead, and I have to take it the same way our ancestors did. Not doing it simply because of the honor that might come from choosing the harder path, not doing it simply to be haughty. Doing it because of neccessity - not because of some sort of self-punishment or lofty "green" etiquette, not even to be a trend setter. Doing it because it helps my famil, financially. Doing it because it helps my environment, ultimately. And doing it because I like who I am when I am riding - and I do not like who I become after a short time behind the wheel of a car.
"Above all else, know thyself."
This is the right move for me - I can feel it.

1 comment:

dvicci said...

More power to ya, bro! I'm nowhere near ready for a car-free lifestyle, and consequently think it's incredible when someone takes the plunge... or, as in your case, seriously considers it.