Sunday, November 2, 2008

Reflections on A Ride

Today I jumped on my trusty, almost rusty, orange Schwinn Le Tour III with one goal in mind: to ride some new asphalt.

This bike is set up as a cheap-o winter singlespeed and will be sporting Schwalbe Marathon Winter tires this season to get me through the Big Cold. For now, it's got some sweet Ruffy Tuffy's and an old man gear (42/18) for tooling up and tooling down and tooling all around. I like the bike very much and it's in the very best color of all for bikes. Orange is both fastest and sexiest. Even on 30 year-old frames.

Anyway, I buzzed from Casa Del Hoffa down the byways and parkways, across the river, down many leaf-strewn paths and found myself biking around Sunset Memorial Park Cemetery trying to find an entrance to the Minneapolis Diagonal Trail.

In my quest for trail access, my eyes did not fully reckon what they were negotiating. That place is beautiful! If you have not had a chance to wheel yourself around it, please seek out a day like today (70F in Minneapolis on November 2—surely a sign that our political fortunes will change for the better on Tuesday) and buzz around a bit. It's a stunningly peaceful, well designed place and the only cemetery I've seen apart for the one in the middle of Boston that I would deign to lay my bones in post-mortem. And the one in Boston, I'm pretty sure, is no longer accepting corpses for—or in—any position.

I found the Diagonal, rode all 1.5 miles of it length and turned around with bahn mi on my mind. These for the unintiated, are unspeakably tasty Vietnamese sandwiches made on petit baguettes and feature various meats and vegetables. It's best not the think of the actual provenence of the protein, but they are hella tasty. I most frequently get the ones at Quang, but can recommend them from almost anywhere. I just happen to be a Quang man.

Sandwich in hand, I headed out for a pretty little spot along the Greenway where there are chairs for anyone to use. I think it's at the Greenway and James or maybe Irving. One of those. It's a nice spot to eat a late lunch and watch the bicycles pass by.

And pass by they did, in great numbers. I was gobsmacked by the variety of people and bikes that wheeled past. If I were a betting man, I'd wager there were 200 bikes that paraded in front of me as I sat, content in the sun, eating one of my favorite foods. There were old bikes and new. Fast bikes and slow. Big people and small. Even a man who pedaled with his arms as his legs were withered and obviously not useful.

As I watched, short narrations entered my mind. Tiny works of theater played out in the 10 seconds or so each biker or group of bikers occupied my field of view. This guy is angry about something, or maybe always angry. That woman is sad and working it out on two wheels. Here is a couple that has not been one for long, but are very much keen on getting to know one another. The young man on the dilapidated Huffy is on the way to work. Biking is not a passtime for him, it's a necessity.

What a wonderful thing it is to sit in the sun on November day and open oneself up to the world, and the people, in it. Unlike cars, which are all Cylon masks and pretty much the some, one to the other, bikes are as individual as their riders. Hints, clues and suggestions about the people riding them are on display and open for interpretation, if only you take the time to look.

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