Park and Ride (Part 2)

(continued from Part 1)

Friday morning I was sure my alarm clock had made a horrible mistake. Five? I mashed the snooze/Indiglo button and lay there a few seconds staring up into blackness before I remembered my goal for the day. I went through my usual ablutions and ate breakfast, frittered way the cushion time I had given myself, and took my coffee in the car.

The moment I pulled out of my driveway, I noticed how dark it was. At 6:10, the sun was not ready for the day, and I worried that I might have failed to consider a very important detail — I had no headlight on my bike. As I approached the cul-de-sac at 6:25, the brick homes seemed to be sleeping. The woods the path lead into looked too dark to navigate, but I went about untying the straps and lifting down my bike.

By the time I secured everything I needed and my tires hit the path, it was 6:35. The way was dim but navigable, bright enough that I saw the rabbit I almost hit in the first few minutes. I smiled as morning welcomed me to everything this path had to offer: a small nature preserve, a creek, and peeping Tom views of lushly landscaped back yards.

Everything was fine right up to the point I left the paved path and hit sticky mud. Having grown up in a rural area, I had no problem with off-road action, but I wasn’t dressed for it. I pulled to the side to avoid the muck, but the tall, rain-soaked weeds sloppily licked my leather shoes. When I came to a steep embankment that led up to a road, I dismounted the bike and stepped carefully as I pushed it up the hill.

I was unexpectedly on the wrong road about a half mile sooner than I should have been on any road at all. Mud, which filled the spaces between the treads, flew out freely when I started riding. Some of it hit my face, and my jeans were splattered brown from the knees down. With no time to stop and use a stick to clean the tires, I kept my lips shut tight as I rode the final mile into work.

Without a way to lock my bike, I had planned to stash it in the workout room, as co-workers have done in the past. I rolled it in, but didn’t feel right about leaving it there in all its filthy glory. Instead I parked it just outside the back doors, perfectly willing to make lemonade from lemons were someone to steal it.

Several co-workers asked me about my morning ride, and a few were amused, if not bemused, by my decision to ride the final 4.5 miles into work. I smiled each time and repeated how I hatched my plan, oblivious to what was to come.

(to be concluded)

Park and Ride (Part 1)

My wife scoffed Thursday night when I said I was going to leave 30 minutes earlier than usual the next morning. I would show her.

In these days of 8-hours-plus workdays sitting in a chair, rising gas prices, and lack of public transportation, riding a bicycle into work started sounding sensible. I typed in our address and that of my work and clicked Google Maps’ bicycle icon.

10.9 miles. 1 hour and 6 minutes.

Ouch. I wasn’t so worried about getting home a little more than 30 minutes later than usual; some folks spend more time than that at the gym. On the other hand, leaving home that much earlier in the morning wasn’t very attractive to me, and on days when the low dips to a balmy 80 degrees, the ride would not leave me in very good working condition. Not to mention the ride home when it’s still 100-plus with the Texas sun beating down on my fair skin.

Another hindrance was my aversion to riding alongside cars — in places screaming past at 55 mph and higher — on roads that are not built with the cyclist in mind. It wouldn’t take much of a driver distraction from a ringing mobile phone or a text message to ensure I never rode again.

On closer inspection of the map, I noticed that most of the last half of the ride was far from cars and their deadly drifting. Specifically, it was on a paved path that meandered 3.5 miles to a spot that left me with only about a mile to ride on sidewalk and a very lightly traveled street behind the office park. On the way home from work one day I found that the trail-head was next to an over-sized cul-de-sac in a quiet suburban neighborhood.

Thursday night, as the rain’s white noise roared outside, I attached my neglected, ’90’s-era bike rack to my car in hopes that it would hold. There was way too much plastic in it to give me much confidence back when it was brand new, but I had a plan and I would not be moved. I summoned what little strength my tech-supporty arms could muster and heaved my Huffy up onto the rack, then secured it using the excess lengths of strap. I might have even thrown in a knot that I recently re-learned after that week’s Cub Scout meeting.

Did I mention that the tires and the tubes were the same ones that came with the bike when my wife bought it in 1993? Same goes for the brakes, the chain, and everything else. Yet, there I was, ready to rely on it for work transportation.

If only I could blame my misfortune on the bike.

(to be continued)

Trifle of an Eiffel (Pic of the Week)

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My college (and beyond) buddies Barrett and Alvis (L to R) stand under the Eiffel Tower in Paris, Texas. We stopped on a recent road trip. The town added the cowboy hat back when it was battling a Tennessee burg for the tallest Eiffel Tower reproduction in the United States, but then the one in Las Vegas easily overshadowed both. It was my first time to visit the site (and I think theirs, too). (click the pic to enlarge)

Art Walk of the Wispy

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Benjamin uses sidewalk chalk from boxes shared among various children and adults inspired to create their own art on the sidewalk and stairs surrounding the McKinney Performing Arts Center (formerly the Collin County Courthouse). Each second Saturday, artists display their wares — some created on the spot — while locals and visitors wine, dine, and stroll away the day. It is called Art Walk, and extends to about a block beyond the square on all sides. (photos of the art after the jump – click image to enlarge)

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The boy and I left behind his mother, who still was suffering a nasty bout of pleurisy that made it painful to breathe deeply, laugh, cough, or move. That and springtime allergies made it a very poor time for her to get out for some fresh air.

When he wasn’t scraping a colored stick across cement, Benjamin pushed around on his scooter. I took pictures, people-watched, and reminded him to keep his wheels off the art. He smeared tracks across only a few of the works which, admittedly, were meant mostly to advertise the artist and/or a studio’s web site, and would not survive the next rain.

That rain came the very next night, so I’m glad I preserved some of these works.

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Because It’s There

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This is another good argument for always taking a camera. I looked up as my son climbed on his school’s playground equipment on a recent Saturday, and there he was, framed perfectly. (click pic to enlarge)

It is oddly similar to a photo I shot when he was a baby, and posted for my Project Looking Through, the first of five in the series.

That first post in the project garnered 35 comments and several readers who participated on their own blogs. Now it seems these spaces have become a niche crowded out by Facebook. I soldier on, however, because I think there’s still something to a page that doesn’t look just like every other, and that doesn’t strive to pull your attention in 10 directions at once. I do enough of that for my paycheck all day. Sit a spell, won’t ya?