With Arms Bent (Sometimes), Concentrating on Circles (Mostly)
With apologies to bike town...
Last night, as we slept, the percussive splashes of acorns, descended from our oak tree, danced across our roof and invaded our dreams. For an hour or so, I dwelt in a semi-conscious state and made mental notes for a poem, working title: Our First Acorn Autumn.
I woke at 5:18 without alarm and walked around the bed to kiss my wife good morning. I grabbed my bike shorts and just before I made my way downstairs, stretched my right foot. My Achilles was locked as tight as a drum – as it so often is these days.
While I watched a few minutes of Sportscenter, I brushed my teeth and engaged in familiar human rituals. If I hurried, I could ride the Fairview loop to B2, but, as always, I tarried. Eventually, I filled my water bottle and went to the basement to feed our hungry cats and retrieve my bicycle. I vowed to keep my elbows bent and to pedal in circles.
Just after five thirty, I departed under moderate darkness and cloudy skies. I was convinced it would rain, something that would usually compel me to put my bike away and go for a walk around the lake. But today, I pedaled on.
I pedaled on…south to the lake, then wrapped around a part of it – north for a moment, then west, then south a spell to Huron where I headed due west to where it becomes Como, and straight into a wind that kissed my whole face hard, just like my daughter would.
I unlocked my arms and reminded myself to keep my elbows bent; I traveled west for a mile or so up the slightest incline to one of my favorite points in my morning loop. A place, just at the top of this gradual rise, where the skyline of downtown Minneapolis, bathed in the first orange notions of dawn, is plainly visible (even from St. Paul) and is, quite frankly, magestic and splendid. I once read that skyscrapers are meant to inspire us.
Then down a too slight hill and past the State Fairgrounds, where I startled a large white rabbit with soft brown ears just as I entered the desirable St. Anthony Park neighborhood. Lately, St. Anthony Park makes me think of my friend who lives there and who makes a splendid salsa. But today and everyday, whatever thoughts I entered St. Anthony with were quickly followed by thoughts of the most challenging part of my ride, an uphill stretch, never terribly steep, but always terribly long and always up – sometimes slightly, sometimes not - north on Cleveland Avenue.
As I worked my way up this hill (and oh, dear readers, if you could hear my labored breathing!) I made my way past one of the University’s fraternity and sorority rows, where 13 or 14 coeds were on a porch drinking and smoking. By all appearances, their exercises did not begin at 5:18 this morning - more likely at 5:18 last night. But they looked like they could go on for miles and miles - more than I could say for myself. It occurred to me, as I worked my way up this hill, thankful that my knee did not hurt today, that these are two of the stages in the life cycle of western Homo sapiens: youth and middle age. It occurred to me, as it does too frequently, that in two and a half years I’ll be forty.
But I soldiered on and concentrated on keeping my elbows bent (so that my hands wouldn’t hurt) and pedaling circles (circles, circles) north past Larpenteur and the agriculture school and past an youngish, brown bunny who seemed not at all surprised to see me.
I rode north a mile or so along a golf course I’ve played many times (and a par 5, dogleg left that I’ve never played well) turned east (wind aided!) and traveled along bumpy County Road B to Victoria, where I turned south and rode amid a wooded residential stretch with wonderful and horrible rolling hills that I finished with a sprint, the fastest point of my ride. I arrived at last to the street where we live and made my way slowly west one block to where my wife was found, watering the flowers and preparing for a day at work where she will do more of the same.
I returned my bike to its station and checked my vital statistics:
Ride time: 43’05”
Distance: 10.17 miles
Average speed: 14.7 mph
Maximum speed: 30.0 mph
Total odometer: 178.6 miles
Upstairs in the kitchen, I made notes for the poem about acorns, having considered some ideas while I rode, and noticed (not for the first time) that the clouds had broken and that, at least since 5:18, there had not been a drop of rain in St. Paul.