That’s “ill.” I know it looks almost like the III that is the last part of the Redskins’ quarterback’s initials. I had first thought of using the title “Riding Sick,” but quickly realized that this was full of peril. In my adolescence the word meant perverse, twisted, socially or morally subversive, as in the “sick humor” of the early Mad Magazine (“Tales in a Jugular Vein”), or even more the tone of that other EC Comics fave, Tales From the Crypt. Mom probably called it that too, but for her it was “oh, horrors!” while for us it was a term of approbation.
These days I observe that “sick” has a wholly different slang connotation, that of straightforward approval of some extraordinary style, look, or achievement. One could say that the movement a baseball pitcher was putting on the ball was “sick,” meaning devastatingly effective, unhittable. Or a recent Jimmy Fallon hoax video about an apparent twerking [spellcheck doesn’t recognize “twerk” yet] accident was so hilarious and deceptive as a hoax that it was “sick,” over-the-top successful.
The perfect fusion of these two meanings is the scene in Cool Hand Luke in which Paul Newman eats 50 hard-boiled eggs. That performance is my adolescent “sick,” the new hip “sick,” and also, unless Newman was using a stunt double, literally how he must have felt after shooting the scene.
But I have been ill. Today marks the fifteenth day of my cold. It’s almost gone after two weeks, because I’ve been medicating it with Afrin and Ibuprofen. Had I not, it would have lasted a fortnight. In these two weeks I’ve had, turn by turn, all the symptoms: the watery eyes, the sore throat, the runny nose, the stuffy nose, the fever chills, the general achiness, the laryngitis, the coughing, the phlegm. And all these things have conspired against my motivation to ride my bike.
One can ride with a head cold, because one can breathe through the mouth. But one really cannot ride with a chest cold, because the lungs just don’t process enough oxygen fast enough to keep up energy. And this cold was more savage than most of mine in creating those debilitating physical symptoms of chill and ache. Not to mention coughing.
The weather, of course, has chosen this time to become idyllic. Well, actually not all that idyllic for about the last three days prior to today, when summer tried its best to administer one final dose of the Hazy, Hot, and Humids that we know so well here in DC. But overall the summer of 2013 was not more successful than the Washington Nationals of 2013 in fulfilling predictions of blazing success. And so we’ve generally enjoyed a gradual, calm, descent into fall. The squall line that came through yesterday cooled things right off into a 75˚ day today, after decommissioning BWI Marshall Airport in Baltimore for a few hours with a lightning bolt. No 80s expected for the next week.
The ironic mixture of great weather outside and under-the-weather health can be a downer. I have found my resolve and morale fading a bit, especially with my body’s sometimes-insistent screaming to take it easy, rest, get all better. It’s a voice I hear often, but most on those two or three nights of every cold when my nose is really stuffy and/or my muscles ache and I don’t sleep well.
But the warm sunshine makes me champ at the bit to ride. I can get out now and then by promising myself not to overdo it, taking an Ibuprofen or two when I wake up, taking a shot of Afrin just before I take off, and leave it to instinct to just work into the ride and live in the moment. Along the way I will be spitting mucus, my nose will be dripping, I will not be a pretty sight. I can’t blow my nose constantly when I’m in the saddle. But the riding actually forces my respiratory system to clean itself out much better than it would do at home.
Today’s weather was splendid, with a bit of a post-cold-front breeze from the NNW. The sun was bright, the air clear, the trail abloom with all those fall flowers that are predominantly yellow: goldenrod, black-eyed susans, primroses, and a couple more I can’t name. I didn’t set any records for speed or distance, but I did a nice 24 miles at almost 15 mph out to Herndon and back.
And as has been the case in almost every single bike ride I have ever taken in my life, I felt better when I got home than I felt when I left home. Tomorrow the high temperature is supposed to be about 70˚, with full sun. I am SO going to be out there.
©Arnold J. Bradford, 2013.