I signed up for AIDS LifeCycle, a 545 mile ride from SF to LA June 2-8 2019, because it sounded like an overall neat accomplishment for a lifetime: worthwhile cause, challenging but achievable, cool route to take, a pretext to develop skills and attitude I wanted anyway. Of course, it would have been naïve to assume that would be smooth riding all the time.
For one, we’ve had extraordinary amounts of rain (subjectively speaking, not statistically for now) so far this year and it didn’t feel safe to ride as much as I would have in dry weather. Also, me being out there on the road a lot, between now and the finish line in LA on June 8, all sorts of exciting events can occur. Statistically speaking. What will those be?
My mildly exciting ride last Friday, maybe 14 miles total give or take, work commute again, was dedicated to one of my anonymous sponsor, a lovely, thoughtful, gentle friend who’s been through a lot in the past few years. This person inspires me, because he had courage to know what life he wanted to live and choose to live it, despite many hurdles for getting there that he took in stride. (You can read more about the ride dedication here.)
I left a little bit before 7:30 AM, which on a Friday meant not too much traffic yet, so I could relax and enjoy how green everything was and how it was light out and not too cold either, although my mind was churning a little bit about the night before – more about that later in this post. I stopped to take a picture right before dipping underneath the highway interchange and into a little homeless encampment. A confluence of all things here. Grass, trees, aging concrete, bike route, busy highway, lovely morning sky, homelessness, this privileged cyclist stopped to take a picture…
I proceeded under this interchange and one of the trickier parts of the route: navigating around people living and hauling their belongings, navigating around broken glass and puddles from the recent rains, minding turns and intersections with something new around each corner.
A car alarm was going off around the last turn before Bayshore. There was glass on sidewalk that I ride on sometimes (I know, I know), so I merged into traffic, my mind was still churning… So I rode straight into a drainage grid, which happened to have nice long slits the exact width of my wheels positioned parallel to the sides of the road. I wasn’t going too fast, there wasn’t much traffic, they were giving me a wide berth, and I fell toward the sidewalk softly, so all I sustained was a couple of small bruises on my thighs. That wasn’t even scary. The bike’s front wheel was firmly stuck in the grid though and when I finally managed to yank it out, I saw that it got bent so much that it couldn’t rotate fully, because the bend was running into the breaks.
Most of my route to work is within reasonable walking distance to public transit lines, and of course I considered escape routes, because of all the sketchiness along the way. Now that I was there, I could take a bus home, drop off the bike, take a cab to work. I could walk a little bit, take two buses to work, take transit all the way back in the end of the day. Both ways would add at least an hour to my commute at this point and would require mounting the bike on the outside of a bus, which felt like a lot of trouble.
A thought passed: a normal person would call somebody for help. I waved the thought hello and let it pass – goodbye.
I took another look at the wheel. If I shift the breaks a little bit, the wheel would catch on it still, but go through. Maybe I could ride it. Maybe I could ride the remaining 7 miles to work. It was much slower, the crooked wheel was slowing on the break pads and it took effort to keep it steady. It was also less enjoyable, because I was thinking…
The previous weekend, in yoga therapeutics teacher training that I take, we talked about functional leg length discrepancies, something that occurs as a result of muscle imbalance or joint misalignment: the bones are the same length, but they appear different. This is not uncommon. I got one of those, so I get just a little bit more wear and tear on one side. A handful of asymmetrical aches. Perhaps a little extra effort to keep steady. So I thought, here we are, a crooked me on a crooked bike.
I was also thinking about the yoga class I just started teaching late Thursday nights. I wanted to take it on to diversify my teaching and get more experience faster, even though it is a bit too much to add to my schedule now and a little late in the day for me. Still, I felt badly about the first class I taught, a week ago. I mean, it was okay, I did my best, but I hadn’t slept well the night before, wasn’t at ease with my sequence, most of the students were new to me. For the second class, the night before this ride here, I was better rested and better prepared. It was nonetheless late for me and after a full day of main gig and bike riding, but I had it together for the most part. Until the class started that is and a student mentioned that the teacher who taught this slot before me used to teach a very different class from what I taught (more vigorous) and that’s why most people didn’t come back. The comment was matter-of-fact and I said “ok, cool” in kind and moved on with the class I teach.
Still, it did throw me off, and it got me thinking and churning. Not about changing the class format necessarily, but about being the fish out of water, and what on earth am I even doing, and if only I were more confident, or sociable, or better looking, or less crooked, or less anxious, or more experienced… Until it occurred to me that this is what I signed up for. I repeat: This is precisely what I signed up for. This is what I signed up for. Longing for any circumstances to be different is looking for a spiritual bypass.
The same with the bike riding. I signed up for all things. Including this. And possibly worse. All things.
On Friday morning, I made it to work maybe 20 minutes later than I would have without the incident. I even rode the bike to food trucks, because Friday. And then 3 miles to BART after work. Got to my neighborhood bike shop with enough time before the closing so they replaced the wheel on the spot.
Speaking of all things, here is a link to a RobCast (= Rob Bell’s podcast) about all things. This is more or less what I am talking about here. Ok, more like more than less.
Having said all that, most of the time all things that happen on my rides are positive or unremarkable, and I intend to keep it that way. Thanks again to my anonymous sponsor for your support! Thank you all for reading; if you want a thank you ride dedicated to you, head this way.