Sunday, March 29, 2009

Back in the Saddle

After taking my spill on Tuesday afternoon I experienced a strange emotion for a while. Once I got the bike home and had parked it under the deck I went through a "Fox and the Grapes" kind of stage where thoughts of riding seemed a bit sour. I didn't want to think about the scooter, about the fact that it might need to spend a few days in the shop, about when I might get back in the saddle. In the past whenever I had a potential issue that might have needed mechanical wizardry, I couldn't get the cycle to the shop fast enough so I could get it back to ride. This time, though, when my wife got home and asked if I wanted to take it right down to them, I didn't. I didn't even want to think about it though I knew that my delay would most likely keep the bike in the shop well through the weekend. I'm guessing it was my own self disgust that was behind that oddness of feeling. I'd gotten foolhardy and a little reckless. I'd let my guard down. It wasn't that I was afraid of riding again; it was more that I needed to forgive myself and to remind myself again and again and again that if I don't remain hyper-vigilant on two wheels, the next time I might not be so lucky, and I needed that to sink in deep.

On Wednesday I took the picture of the BV to the shop to show them what was missing and was assured that it was perfectly safe to ride with the missing part. On Thursday it rained and I took the car to work again. Friday was warm and sunny with a good forecast so off to work I went on the scooter, but I rode like an absolute sissy second guessing myself at every turn and at every stop. I found myself riding at a more moderate speed than just last week as well as taking corners much slower and braking way sooner. It didn't feel natural at all and my commute seemed more of a chore than a pleasure.

I had not gotten deliberately foolish in my riding, but I had been getting casually careless or self confident to the point where I wasn't really paying attention. I was habitually darting in front of oncoming traffic to make left turns, rushing out for right turns on red, and practically waiting till the last minute to hit the brakes when I needed to stop. Saturday arrived with a comfortable sunny warmth and a beautiful forecast. It was to be my day of reckoning with the scooter and I would have hours to reconcile with it. I plotted a course and off I went.

On my way I did a double take as I rode past this place which I'd passed hundreds of times before but never truly noticed. I turned around at the next intersection and rode back to get this shot. I love old buildings like this one from businesses that were probably in their heyday when my grandparents were raising my mom and dad. They look like they should be miniaturized and posed inside a model Lionel train layout, and they evoke a sympathetic yearning in me to be a little boy again even if only for the minute it would take me to ride past them.

Most of my Saturday ride took me across and over the mountain in the background. I thought I knew where I was going and where I'd end up, but it wasn't to be this time because the sign that told me which way to go the last time I was out that way wasn't to be found. I picked a fork in the road and followed it for many pleasant country miles. Eventually I reached a place where, if I'd continued forward, I'd need to come home on the interstate or retrace my steps. Because I don't like to make more than one major turn when I'm in uncharted territory, I turned myself around and enjoyed the same road back.

As I cycled past this old cemetery and church it felt for a few seconds like autumn was once more upon us rather than the beginning of spring. I was on a slight incline when I stopped to take the picture and didn't want to dismount because it would have required me to bump the bike off its stand against gravity's incessant pull. Instead I leaned my weight forward with my feet angled slightly backward as I took off the gloves, got out the camera, and made the snap. If anybody had driven past it might have appeared that I'd stopped to get rid of some gas and that I was lifting myself from the saddle to work it out.

When I got back to where I'd diverted from the main course to take the side trip up the mountain I was halfway to Scranton and decided to continue on my way - to the Steamtown historic site to be specific. I like it there, especially before the park officially opens for the day and there's hardly anybody there. Few places give me the feeling that I'm in a sort of outdoor cathedral; this is one of them with its behemoth locomotives perched like so many demigods fallen from Olympus when the diesels took their places. It's peaceful and it invites quiet introspection.

Even though their mighty driving wheels are frozen in place on the rails it's cool to stand on the tracks in front of these all too tamed beasts if for no other reason than to make a picture in which one can later admire his noteworthy case of helmet hair.

The last stop before heading back to the ranch - the trolley barn. I like the scooter posed with the trolleys which were sort of like the scooters of their own day dashing to and fro between the towns while the thunderous freight trains rolled over the mainlines with much more noise and power.

I thought all the while I was out about what I was doing as I rode and it made me somewhat batty. If you've every been to a studio piano recital where some of the kids play with a natural finesse and fluency while others take to the ivories like mechanical hurdy gurdies - well, I felt like I was one of those latter kids playing all the right notes but disjointedly. I had a lot of fun and restored a major portion of my confidence on the bike but with my own brain watching over me like some kind of overprotective mom. Maybe that's the way we need to ride all the time.

(I fully intend for this to be the last piece of writing that has anything to do with my falling last week.)

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