Beautifully hot today. Chuck and I are going to sleep in the tepee. A cool breeze always makes its way under the canvas and the moon will be full. I’ll lie in our makeshift bed and watch it silhouette the branches on the tepee’s canvas sides.
Today was my first big bicycle commute. I have always wanted to do this, but have always thought that 21 miles is too far. Or it’s too much vertical. Or I don’t have the right bike. Or I don’t have time.
My friend Gina commutes to work every day, though. She lives close to her job, and it’s practical for her. I was envious.
So, I started eliminating barriers. Chuck has a bike I can use. It is a small mountain bike and is almost 30 years old, but it works and it has enough gears that I can climb hills with it. He got it all fixed up for me with a new water bottle holder and a rack for my bike pannier.
I looked through my calendar. When can I find the time to do these long-ass rides? What about taking the bike to work on my car and riding home one day, then riding back the following morning to be reunited with my car? Hey! I can do that! I found four times this month when that can work. Today was my first opportunity.
In picturing me doing this, you need to understand what kind of cyclist I really am. Not a confident one. I am generally the type of cyclist people associate with twittering birds in a little European village. I tootle along in my flower print dress and floppy sunhat. There are flowers in the wicker basket on my handlebars. People smile as I go by, and I spray them with Love’s “Baby Soft”.
The tandem doesn’t count. On the tandem, I just sit on the back and pedal like crazy. This is the first bike I have ever owned that has speeds. And hand breaks. Such agency.
Picture me in tennies, with yoga pants covering up my bike shorts so no one will see my leg-fat. Envision a loose, button-down shirt and fashion sunglasses. I buckled my helmet and started off. About one-third of the way home, I realized that I had a KILLER headache. I thought, I’m dehydrated. I’m stressed. I’m craning my neck. I’m having a stroke! I reached up to wipe sweat off my brow and bumped my helmet back on my head. Instantly, the blood flow to my scalp returned with a miraculous rush. AHHHHHH! What a feeling! My helmet was too tight.
This was a good adventure for me. I was alone with my derailer. There was no one to whine to and no way to chicken out. By the time I had done the 21 miles, I KNEW those gears; had MASTERED the ranges. All in all, I did OK. I managed busy streets with no bike lanes during rush hour. I climbed all 2,000 feet of vertical. It took me two and a half hours. I crawled up the front steps when I got home.
Tomorrow, it’s literally all downhill.