7.15.2007,9:41 PM
A Day in the Life
A normal Texas summer day: hot. The middle of July and finally summer arrives in Texas. I can shed my webbed toes and gills now.

Morning light and birds woke me this morning. After dragging myself out of bed and into the bathroom for morning duty, I savored an hour on the couch with coffee and enjoyed the cool 71 degree air while I could. The tall grass outside the living room windows glistened with dew in the morning sun. It was lovely. But I knew my pleasure would be short-lived.

Donning shorts, tank top, socks, work boots and a can of Off!, I mixed two gallons of Roundup in the sprayer and joyfully doused all the weeds in the gravel driveway and half of the private road. "Die, my Darlings!!" This was the third spray session this year, where normally only one is necessary. The unusually wet spring and summer have created jungles out of any ground that can support life.

Now wet with sweat, the boots came off to exchange for sandals; time to mow. Another battle with all the rain this year: keeping the grass manageable on five acres. After I returned from Arkansas, I finally gave up. I couldn't keep up with it all and decided to concentrate on the grass around the house, the septic system emitters, and along the driveway. This alone was daunting and has required I spend time after work and during weekends mowing.

I was over half-way done around the house when the rear tractor wheels sunk into a dip and lost traction. No going forward or back, just rear tires spinning. After several attempts with the old 'boards under the tires' method, I resorted to using the truck to tow it out of the rut.

Another hour or so and I had had enough. I was covered with grass chaff and dirt, mingled with bug repellent (which fire ants have no fear of), and sweat. After removing my clothes just inside the door, I headed for the shower and watched as a black watery stew of dirt and chaff ran streaks on the shower floor and down into the drain. The water was cool and felt good.

Barely dry, I pulled on thin cotton shorts and a clean tight tank top, then mesh gear over those with thin socks and the short vented riding boots. I pulled everything out of the bike's side bags, added a plastic bag with a book, map and computer printouts. Zipped up the side bags and made my way carefully along the gravel drive and road with tires pumped to the max with air. Once on the tarmac, I rolled the throttle open and down the road I rode like a fresh colt let out of a gate on a brisk morning.

Most of us that ride bikes have our favorite roads. They may be short, twisting, winding, a roller coaster, narrow, dirty, bumpy, wide and straight. They may be many things and sometimes nothing. I have several that I ride frequently and that I like for different reasons.

One that I ride nearly every week night is only a few miles long, but narrow, bumpy, twisty, dipping, over two creeks, canopied by great large oaks on one section and the other bordered by wide open pastures dotted with grazing horses. I like to ride this one at a moderately brisk pace, lean into the windings and hang body parts off the bike. Stand on the pegs when the bike falls into the dip and clanges over the edge of the bridge. Carefully gauge entry and exit around a turn with humps of asphalt that could throw wheels off their line, and shift down leaning hard to the left to make a left turn.

All stress and malice, sadness and frustration flies away as I ride my Sweet Road. I always find myself smiling barely a quarter of the way on the ride. When I stop and enter the highway with a hard lean and a knee out to the left side, the bike and I are like a musical note singing on the wind. And the remainder of the ride home is full of zen and a gentle spirit like a rocked baby.

Another favorite road is one I took today. Mostly a rolling straight ribbon of two-lane highway in rural Texas, discernibly meandering to the left and right between pastures and large empty spaces that typify the high open prairies of central northern Texas. The ride south imperceptibly climbs perhaps a hundred feet or so. But the return ride north reveals the elevation of the plateau I am on with wide expanses of the low prairies and thick oak forests below. Where the sky is greater than the land beneath it as if one could in a moment ride up and into the air like Mary Poppins on a bike.

Where my Sweet Road is cuddled by overhanging canopies of trees and with veins of creeks running underneath it, my High Road is a magical exciting ribbon up into the open sky where nothing will hold me down.

Turning off of my High Road and onto the highway, I ran with the four-wheeled greyhounds towards Fort Worth and an afternoon of self-indulgence. Carefully pulling into the parking lot, mindful of the many cars like playing a game of hopscotch, I pulled into an empty space under a tree and near the book store.

After removing my helmet, I proceeded my usual change of comfortable clothes right there next to the bike: pulled off the mesh jacket and pants, socks and boots, exposing the cooler shorts and tank top and shoving bare feet into sandals that I store in a side bag. I grabbed my book, maps and Army surplus pouch of highlighters and pens and walked into the bookstore cafe where I ordered an iced cafe mocha. I found a large table to spread map and printed information on routes and points of interest, mapped and listed a route for a three-day weekend in Oklahoma next month.

The trip is almost planned: numbered roads, towns, places to stop and explore, parks to camp at, other points of important interest to pay my respects and experience. And that old excitement sparks the fire and grows in anticipation. Another bike trip; alone. I've needed one all year. Albeit short compared to last year's adventure, I have to work within time and financial constraints. Yet, this one will be worthwhile, rewarding and special.

Me, the bike, the roads and the world that unfolds before me.

Feeling gentle nudges of hunger, but for nothing heavy, I wandered down to the Purple Cow for an ice cream. Nothing is better for the mind and the gullet on a hot Texas weekend day than a bowl of ice cream. Mmmm, mmmmm, mmm.

After ice cream, I stealthily made my way to Central Market for the week's groceries. Carrying a basket and a homing device, I muscled my way down the aisles around people like a quarterback with the ball in his arm running for home. I know what I want and have only one thing in mind: pick up and get out. God forbid those who get in my way.

Switching hands frequently with the heavily laden basket I put it on the counter and in a joking voice covering a hint of seriousness said: "Well, I made it to the counter and now I have to make it home on the bike with all of this before it all melts". I smiled as I answered the woman's question of where I lived and her look of shock; "Oh, twenty miles or so."

I assured her I do this all the time and I make it home before the cold and frozen items warm or thaw. I explained that I distribute the weight of everything evenly between the two side bags on my bike. The real test, of course, is making it home with not one egg broken in their cardboard container. She shook her head and I left the store.

Placing the bags of items on the grass in the shade I donned my gear, placed the bags in the side bags with the book and papers, strategically placed the eggs on top and under my cushy sandals, zipped the bags closed and started the bike.

Out of the parking lot and onto the highway towards home. Again I rode my High Road back, grinning and feeling like an astronaut as I watched the low prairies unfold below me and the sky rein over head in all its blue majesty. Somewhere down there was a five-acre plot of grass and pond that I call home.

After navigating the gravel and coming to a halt, the bags of food, books and papers were unloaded and taken inside. The bike was prepared for its weekly routine of commutes every day by replacing the tail bag for storing my helmet, sandals and bike cover. I watched the sunset in a blazing thin red line on the western horizon and now listen to the cicadas and crickets herald in the night, all of us caressed by a slight cool breeze.

A day in the life of a bike and its rider. Until the next day dawns.


posted by Macrobe
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