Outside II

Everything is dripping.   The gutters to the left and right are syncopated and liquid.   Their rivulets darken the driveway.  Drops from the eaves pelt my back, the saddle, the frame.  When each tire reaches 90 psi, I pull the pump off the valve with a percussive pop.

Underway, the tires crunch road grit.   The chain clunks into cog after cog as I shift with downhill acceleration.  Ahead, salt crystals catch sunglint, sand silica dazzles.  Snowbanks refract glare.  I need some yellow lenses; the black ones darken too much.  Yellow’s right for winter snow (“don’t eat yellow snow,” but what if it’s all yellow?).

Turning the corner, headwinds slam me.  Winter wind is like iron: hard, cruel, painful.  I gasp with cold air deep in my alveoli, a challenge to the core temperature.  My eyes tear up; my nose runs.  Quads, knees, calves strain to push the pace.  I bend my body into a more aerodynamic position; no use prolonging this.  Still, my Goretex jacket and new thin but effective underlayer keep my body comfortably warm despite the betrayal of the sun, which has chosen to hide behind a thin layer of cloud.  It looks as fuzzy as a nebula, even though at 40,000 feet I know the sky in an intense, deep blue and the sun dazzling.  Up there it’s also -60˚ C.

I sense cars approaching by motor’s rumble and tires’ churn.  Some honk; a brief beep is gentle warning, but a long blast screams annoyance.  How dare I slow them down a few seconds?

Cruising, the hollow sound of the hard-pumped tires is a constant background.  These 32 mm cruisers have a gentle flowing sigh.  But 23 mm racing slicks have the deeply hollow “ahhhhh” of a despondent ghost.  Along with the sighs is a faint recurrent click.   Bottom bracket bearings worn?  Something loose in the drive train?

Also in rhythmic accompaniment is my steady breathing.  No intense gasping on this route, but it’s deeper and more insistent than usual, just to keep enough oxygen in my blood.

Hitting a rough patch of road, the bike rattles and vibrates.  The damped front forks of the Fuji absorb a lot, but I replaced the damped seatpost—the most uncomfortable component of any bike I have ever owned.  A little honest interaction with the road never hurt anybody.  Bicycle tires and tubes have a remarkable resilience, surviving more than I imagine they will.

You can always tell who’s doing the laundry in the neighborhood just by the fabric-softening tissue’s heavy perfume that blows out of the dryer exhaust and surrounds the house.  But this time the best scent about 1:30 pm near the end of the ride comes from Neighbor’s Bar and Grill.  We go there for the Philly Cheesesteak subs, and that’s what they’ve got on the grill.  I could really murder one of those right now!

A little more grit to grind over, some last clicks of shifting gears, and then the senses of motion stop.  At the garage door, meltwater is still dripping.

©Arnold J. Bradford, 2010.

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