Enough existential worrying. It is time to get back into the everyday world. Focus my attention on something else.
Like riding my bike all the way home from work.
That’s right. Saturday, May 31, 2014 was it. The day I finally tackled a challenge I had set for myself at the time I started using a bike as part of my commute.
I would bike all the way home.
Now, let me explain for just a minute. I live 31 miles away from my place of employment. Most days, I bike 5 miles to LA Union Station, where I board a train that takes me the remaining 25 miles, and which, conveniently enough, drops me off a few blocks away from the museum. Very nice, indeed. The evening commute is the same in reverse.
So, yes, I bike a grand total of 10 miles a day on any given work day.
And let me tell you: I am no aspiring Tour de France champion here. 10 miles a day is enough. By the time I get home in the evening, I’m pretty wiped and ready for a nice soothing shower and some hot tea (now that wine is out of the picture).
Weekend riding is around 15 – 20 miles depending on what I’m doing. I will often go for rides around the city, and I have hit the 30+ mile mark on those leisurely treks on multiple occasions.
But this felt like something new. Something different. Something challenging. This was a predetermined route. My 30+ mile bike rides on weekends tend to just kinda happen. I don’t always set out to bike 30-something miles when I leave my apartment. And there are definitely lots of stops in between. You know, stop for coffee somewhere. Visit a museum somewhere. Pick up some groceries. Run another errand or two. Then head on home where a quick tally shows I biked more than 30 miles that day.
Nope – this would be a continuous, one-way, non-stop 31-mile trip.
And I know that many a cyclist out there can bike 31 miles without even breaking a sweat or feeling one strain in the leg muscles. But for us hybrid-riding commuter cyclists whose daily workout does not exceed 10 miles?? And who, by the way, has a basket on the front of that hybrid bike? This was my own Tour de France. Although maybe I should call it the Tour de San Fernando Valley since I spent the bulk of that 31 miles in said geologic depression.
So I was nervous. But I was excited too. And I was ready.
And I did it.
I departed right at 6:00pm last night and immediately hit my first hill. And the strain of climbing that hill made me wonder over and over again: why are some hills so much more challenging than others? I have noticed in my own daily rides, which do include going up and down some steepies here, that I struggle more on those gentle slopes – the ones that are barely discernible – than I do on the 45+ degree angle guys. Why is that? Why is a slight hill such a strain? I’m not an expert but I thought it might have something to do with momentum and the forward motion of the bicycle. If it has a great momentum going already then hitting the steeper hills just keeps propelling it forward. A slow and steady climb will put a stop to that momentum and put the full strain of powering the bike on me.
Anyway, once I topped that hill – which finally happened (huff puff) at Mile 3 – I felt accomplished. So I still have 28 miles to go. But man, I climbed that flippin’ hill. All 3 miles of it. Where is my trophy, eh?
And the ride only got more powerful from there.
I lost myself in my surroundings, taking in as much of the botany as I could. Man, the LA County area has some incredible flowers here! Such pretty reds, and yellows, and purples. And I loved all the ferocious guard dogs I passed – mostly Chihuahuas and Rat Terriers – that made sure I didn’t get any closer to the private yards I was sailing past.
Whimsical architecture, like hotels built to resemble medieval castles, caught my eye too. Why can’t we have more of that? Who doesn’t want to stay in a place that looks like something right out of a story book, huh? Okay, there might be some out there that don’t aspire to become a Disney princess, but I’m just saying… if I could choose between a medieval castle and a “modern” building that looks like a creature from outer space? I’m going with Sleeping Beauty here.
But of all that, I had two favorite moments: the first was in Burbank (around Mile 23) when I passed by a couple out walking a miniature horse and a pygmy goat. Yes. A miniature horse and a pygmy goat. Walking them on leashes like they were a large and small dog. I had to stare for several minutes before I realized what I was seeing. And then by the time I thought to try and capture the moment photographically to prove it actually happened, they were a half a block away.
I want a miniature horse and a pygmy goat.
Favorite Moment # 2: the LA River bike path (Miles 25 – 29). The LA River is, surprisingly, not a complete toxic waste dump… at least just north of downtown LA. It is actually flush with foliage and birds, including one of my favorite species, the black-necked stilt! I LOVE those little guys! And I was in luck – there were a few hanging out on my side of the river too. I managed to snap a photo of them before it got too dark.
And then, I made it home. Mile 31. At 8:51pm. Almost 3 hours (yes, I’m slow), but man, would I trade that 3 hours for anything else? Nope! The world is a different place when you’re looking at it from a bicycle. Everything feels closer – like I’m experiencing it more when I’m swooping by at my whopping 6mph. Like I’m seeing it more clearly. And I’m appreciating it more.
That’s why I’m going to do it again. Next Saturday 🙂