All posts by Mike

Messy on Skyline; weird re-route ‘cuz Kevin doesn’t like wet pavement

kingsIMG_7312When will the gray drizzle end? This morning was another “might as well have been raining” up on Skyline morning. Not because anything was coming down from the sky, but because it had apparently already done so. Seems like it’s been such a long time since I woke up and got to see the sun!

This morning it was Eric, George, Kevin, Kevin and JR riding up Kings with me, although George turned back a bit early. Kings wasn’t so bad, and these days, getting a 27-something, for me, is OK. But younger Kevin was way off the back on the (wet) descent into Sky Londa and would have no part of an obviously-wet West Old LaHonda loop, so the two of us split off from the rest and headed straight back down into Woodside, where we looped around a bit and then did something we haven’t done in years, and remembered why. Summit Springs Road off Tripp Road. Yikes. I’d forgotten just how steep a climb could be! 7 nasty minutes of pain, and not really the good type of pain, the type of pain where you feel like you could tear off a chunk of it and say yeah, that was good, give me some more! No, this was the type of pain that makes you wonder what the point it. Kevin fared much better, at least until his VNS (the gadget that zaps his vagus nerve at a regular interval, trying to keep seizures at bay) went off, which wrecks his breathing for about 30 seconds. Coming at the steepest part of the climb, up near the top, it just about toppled him off the bike. He couldn’t continue up so he circled back down a bit until his breathing came back and he could resume his climb to the top. Even after all that, he still got there well ahead of me.

After heading back down (the only option you have; Summit Springs literally dead-ends into the side of the mountain) we amazingly bumped into JR & the other Kevin, returning from the “real” route. They confirmed what Kevin feared; that the descent down the west side of 84 to West Old LaHonda was not pleasant. Less-pleasant than climbing Summit Springs? Hmm…

I could just get a ride with someone who’s driving, but I don’t… I *like* commuting by bike!

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Each May we have Bike To Work Day. That’s weird. A Bike To Work “Day.” As if it needs a special day because otherwise we’ll take it for granted, because otherwise the benefits of riding to work don’t matter? Like we wouldn’t care about our Moms if there wasn’t a “Mother’s” day?

Confession. I wasn’t always a bike commuter. But today, even if a “ride” is available, I’d rather ride. Why?

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Is this the alternative to cycling to work? Not so far-fetched when you think about Google self-driving cars. What’s scary is that many think a push-button existence is part of their view of an ideal world.

Because when I ride to work, I arrive feeling like I’ve already started to engage the world. Riding city streets is “active” when you’re on a bike, not just because you’re pedaling and working your heart & muscles, but most-important, you’re working your brain. You’re scanning the street ahead to make sure the roadway’s safe; you’re keeping an eye out for cars entering from the side, you’re watching the stop lights before you get to them, trying to time your arrival so it will be green when you get to it.

If you’re lucky, you experience the unmistakable smell of bacon on the way in, and sometimes coffee. Easier to rationalize a stop for coffee (and even donuts) when you’re riding. No problem finding parking spaces either!

Even the ritual of removing your helmet and dealing with its effect on whatever hair is left on a 59-year-old head is strangely positive (maybe because there’s still something left to comb). All sorts of little details that let you know you’re alive, you’re on a journey even, and work is just one stop on that journey. Compare that to being entombed in a car, windows rolled up because you don’t want anything out of your control, radio on, it could be 40 degrees outside or 85 and it wouldn’t matter because you’ve got climate control, one more aspect of technology to insulate you from the world outside.

We were given muscles to work. Noses to smell. Eyes to see. Ears to hear. “Sensors” on our hands, feet & tail end to feel with. Cycling uses all of them! And when you stop for coffee (and/or donuts), you can engage your sense of taste as well. We were designed to experience, to create, to struggle even. If you don’t like that, take it up with the two who got us thrown out of the garden. And if you’re thinking about some future state of being, where your body is no longer flesh & blood & bone but rather a connection between your mind and “the grid”, just think about where you’ll be next time your Comcast ‘net connection goes down, or some virus kills your computer.

There’s something to be said for the reliability of a person riding a bike. You push down on the pedal, and it goes. You lean and the bike turns. You apply the brakes and it slows down. It never runs out of gas. You can buy a pretty fancy bike for the cost of a transmission repair (this I know personally) (twice). You don’t have to drive around downtown Palo Alto 20 minutes looking for a parking space. But most of all, you’re part of the experience. You’re not deliberately walled-off from the world. Even your vulnerability reminds you how great it feels to be alive. Look at the faces on the motorists; many appear to be deal already.

All this to explain why I rode to work today, even though Becky was driving anyway.  –Mike–