December 30, 2019

Turning Twenty

My last ride of 2019. Last ride before that third digit flips from one to two. It's a turning point whether you declare that the new decade starts two days from now, or a year and two days from now.

It had rained overnight, but I wanted to fit in one more ride this year. Be mindful of slick painted lines and slippery metal rails and grates and shards of glass that adhere to your tires ... The ride would make a mess of the bike, but I so look forward to indulging in a few winter round-trip bike commutes during this quiet time between holidays, when I can duck out of the office early enough to get home before dark.

One year, someone had adorned the bronze quail near the Mary Avenue bridge with handmade red scarves. This year, I found them pressed into service pulling Santa's sleigh.

I clocked more than 2,590 biking miles this year (more than last year), but did less climbing (some 103,000 feet).

But, what about the last ten years? Well. Let's add it up.

I don't track the short utility rides on my folding bike (generally 15 miles per week), but I did wear out its rear tire. On my full-sized bikes, I spent ...
  • in excess of 2,513 hours
  • pedaling more than 28,259 miles and
  • climbing over 1,493,389 feet
  • in a dozen different countries.
That's once around the earth (and then some). Akin to more than 51 ascents of Mt. Everest (but without being challenged by high altitude). And equivalent to spending over 104 days on a bicycle.

One pedal stroke at a time.

December 28, 2019

Me & Squirrel

A flash of gray fur, a rustling in the leaves next to the bike path. Catastrophe, miraculously, averted. It played out in less than the blink of an eye: the rascally rodent streaked across the path so close to my front wheel that the riders behind me thought it jumped through the spokes. (Luckily for the squirrel, and especially for me, it did not.)

I wasn't looking for squirrels. I wasn't thinking about squirrels. That was my mistake. Had I seen the creature nearby, I would have hissed loudly (that works!) and it would have turned tail to run away, fast.

I'd been off the bike for too long (a full month), recovering from my east coast cold. I didn't set the alarm last night; if I wake up early enough, I told myself, I will go for a ride. I thought it might be warmer than yesterday. [It was not.]

Thirty-five degrees Fahrenheit. (Less than two degrees Celsius.) That seemed like a good reason not to go for a bike ride, so of course ... I bundled up and went for a bike ride.

This ride leader's style might best be described as eclectic. She has a comprehensive understanding of back roads through San José neighborhoods, and without route sheets the group sticks together. To be honest, I'm not sure she necessarily has a route in mind when we set off.

I was surprised when she pulled over to stop at a seemingly random spot along the Coyote Creek Trail. On the opposite side of the creek, perched on a tree branch, was a bald eagle. I wasn't looking for bald eagles. [Our leader was.] I wasn't thinking about bald eagles. [Our leader knew to keep an eye out here, and now I do, too.]

It was a day for surprises. The next revelation was Malech Road. When we turned on Metcalf Road, I thought she was heading for the gate to Basking Ridge; but no, we turned ... right. I had no idea that road went anywhere. We regrouped at the top of the hill before heading down to Bailey for the return trip. [And away from the gunfire reverberating in the foothills.]

The last surprise, as I rode back home, was to be caught by another club member out for his own ride. He'd waited until the day warmed up before venturing out. [Smart, that.] We agreed that it was too cold for the club's hilly rides today; he had started up a challenging climb before thinking it through ... the descent ... would be so cold ... he turned back. And thus met me, along the way.

I managed 40 miles (with a mere) 695 feet of climbing. It felt good.

December 8, 2019

The Big Apple

The big apple took a bite out of me.

I'd traveled to the east coast to work with colleagues in the New York office, with a little extra time to indulge in some cultural treats. Plays! Concerts! Museums!

It seemed there was a big fuss over a little bit of weather, but apparently it was the first snowfall of the season.

Alas, after just three days a winter virus had thoroughly colonized my body. I lost my voice (which, in some minds, was a net positive). I kept working, because ... that's why I was there.

I did enjoy New York City Ballet's Nutcracker, which I had never seen. Unlike San Francisco Ballet's version, the part of Marie was danced by one young girl throughout the performance. The theatre was unfamiliar to me, even though the first ballet I'd seen was in New York (more than 30 years ago).

Working from another office generally means the day stretches long as I follow much of my normal schedule with a now-shifted timezone. Most evenings I only had the energy to drag myself back to my hotel room, but I did manage to connect with one good friend for dinner.

I scaled back my dream of seeing two plays on Saturday, deciding that I had just about enough stamina for a matinee and a pilgrimage to Rockefeller Center.

Note to self: Check out the tree on a weeknight, not on the first Saturday after they've lit it up. Bodies were packed so tightly that you had no choice but to swim with the crowd, kind of like body-surfing an ocean wave.

Oklahoma! was my first choice, and the cast was good even though several key roles were not played by the primary cast members. [So, no, I did not get to see the Tony winner sing the part of Ado Annie.] The music is so stunningly beautiful that I fought back tears as soon as it began. I didn't find Ado Annie or the peddler convincing, but the other leads were: Cocky, conceited Curly; conflicted Laurie; and a truly menacing, sociopathic Jud. This production struck deeper for me, emotionally, than the sunny movie version.

Sunday's journey home would begin with a subway ride, to catch a train, then a monorail, to the airport. With completely random timing, I hurried down the steps when I saw a subway train still boarding. And ... what to my wondering eyes did appear, but a vintage historical train—something that they roll a few times during the holidays. I slipped into car 484, built in 1932 and restored to period glory (the year 1946), complete with advertisements of the time. A memorable finale for this visit!