The Reluctant Cyclist: pedal to the meta

Between Mad River Slough Bridge and Jackson Ranch Road. A moment later, a loaded Fox Farm truck passed me, tires on the line.
Between Mad River Slough Bridge and Jackson Ranch Road. A moment later, a loaded Fox Farm truck passed me, tires on the line.

It’s not that I dislike riding a bike. Give me a sunny, 62-degree, windless day and a mostly flat terrain through gorgeous scenery on a car-less path and I like it just fine. But commuting to work involves riding on faith that the cars and trucks whooshing by at 60mph-plus won’t smash me. Add fighting the wind and the extra time and inconvenience, and it’s obvious why, despite acquiring a bicycle expressly for this purpose eight years ago, I’ve never consistently commuted.

And yet, as they say, the despair is not in falling, but only in falling and failing to rise again. Like the proverbial phoenix, I shall pump up my tires, pack my panniers and fly down the highway. “I’m aiming for twice a week!” I announced to an officemate. She looked at me, thought for a moment. “That might be a lot,” she said. “Maybe once per week?”

Apparently I’m not fooling anyone.

It doesn’t help that I can’t fix a damn thing on my bike. One time I had a flat and spent two hours on Facebook and YouTube getting advice on how to fix it. Finally, I thought I’d succeeded only to watch the tire deflate the second I hopped on. That’s when I told myself, “There are people who enjoy fixing bikes. Why are you depriving them of that pleasure?” I then put the bike in the truck, drove to Revolution, flung my bicycle at them and burst into tears.

Then there was the time my chain wouldn’t work and I left my bike in the common space of the office building – a building full of bike geeks – with a note, “Help me.” (It worked.)

Pathetic! I know. Nonetheless, I still have a bike and a helmet and two panniers, and here we are with long days and lessening winds and really, I have few excuses – the lack of a safe route being the most legitimate. So off I went this morning, once again, hoping to up my eco-groovy game, say hello to the various creatures along the way, and hang on to some semblance of fitness.

I left bed at 6:30 a.m. An hour later, I pedaled away, panniers loaded to the gills:

Just everything I need for an average workday...
Just everything I need for an average workday…

towel and shower supplies;
work shoes, clothes and make up;
lunch (tuna salad sammie, yogurt);
gym shoes and clothes for after work

I packed lighter when I went to Mexico for a week.

A few blocks down the highway, I realized I’d forgotten to turn on my Strava app. Now my ride would appear shorter than it actually was. I’m already a wimp – I can’t afford to lose a foot. But I turned it on, pedaled into the wind, dodged the smashed up car that’s been abandoned on the shoulder, thought for the hundredth time how nice it would be to have a dedicated bike route, gasped as a Fox Farm truck blasted by on the skinniest section between the Mad River Slough and Jackson Ranch Road, tires on the line between me and it, a line that signifies life and death to a cyclist, bounced over potholes through the Bottoms, stopped breathing while passing a dead skunk, smiled to see those little bright yellow birds, the only relief from the otherwise gray-muted tones of the world, arrived at work. Talked bikes in the community shower room. (“Corn starch is amazing for your genitals” was the takeaway.) Launched into the work day.

My two goals, every time I commute, are: 1.) Don’t die; 2.) Remember everything. So far, so good.

1. People say they eschew the safety corridor in favor of bisecting Manila because it's so much prettier. 2. Really, this?
1. People say they eschew the safety corridor in favor of bisecting Manila because it’s so much prettier. 2. Really, this?

Historical reference
The bike-to-work plan – “Because I want this to be a permanent lifestyle change…”
Active Transportation Adventure #1 – “I looked at the bus driver with a “Help!” look on my face…”
Active Transportation Adventure #2 – “I kept imagining myself on the uphill climb, helplessly slowing down and unable to get my feet loose, at which point I’d topple into traffic and get my head squished by a passing semi…”
Active Transportation Adventure #3 – “Not that I’m exactly an ‘average’ working person…”
Active Transportation Adventure #4 – “Sure, a banana slug still probably keeps a better pace than I do…”
Active Transportation Adventure #5 – “I try to read, but the combination of hangover and crowded, swaying bus provokes such nausea that I have to put my book away. I want to drop my head into my lap…”
Active Transportation Adventure #6 – “The sensation that occurs when riding over the bridges has changed from fear to exhilaration…”
20 Steps to Bike Commuting for the First Time in Months
Manila to Arcata bus commute: Worth it?

Related
Ramblin’ Jack Durham offers offers beginning bike commuters much solid advice
More better biking (North Coast Journal) in which I offer advice of my own
Biking on Bridges: Why Can’t Humboldt Get Non-Motorized Transportation Right? (Lost Coast Outpost), a comparison of biking over the Samoa bridges vs the Brooklyn Bridge

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