Friday, November 28, 2008

The Little Engine That Could, but just didn't feel like it

My car has convulsed its final throes of death and is being auctioned off for parts as we speak. It happened that night of tsunami rain we had a couple of weeks ago, a Wednesday. As I drove along, realizing how hard it was to see in the world of blinking, moving lights reflecting off a hundred different wet surfaces, I thought, "No one should be out on a bike in this rain."

And yet.

I was minutes from carlessness.

Does this mean I will go back on my word? That hence forward I will be out there on my bike in that rainy darkness? No, it does not. There are other solutions, one of which to sign up for the allegedly amazing Zipcar system, for use on such miserable occasions. When and if I do that, I'll let you know how it works.

Meanwhile, let me finish my story -- predictable though it may be. Why is it that cars rarely break down at midday in dry weather in familiar areas? I was trying to get to Jessica's house but had become lost, a state that feels as familiar as my own skin. The street that was supposed to lead to her house dead ended behind a school, and I pulled into its parking lot to turn around. The engine killed, as it is wont to do -- only this time it wouldn't start up again. I called triple A, then wondered if I'd been dumb enough to let the oil run out. I can't keep up with it, it's such a guzzler. Better fix that, before the tow truck guy finds out and thinks I'm a dope. I got soaked to my skin while pouring in one and a half bottles, working by the spare light from a couple of lit windows in the school. Then I got soaked to the bone while trying to get the attention of someone inside. Finally a janitor appeared and carefully opened the door one inch, as if the rain might suddenly decide to travel horizontally and soak him too.

"Hi. My car just broke down over there. You gonna be rolling that gate closed any time soon?" I pointed to the long cyclone fence gate pulled back from the entrance on wheels.
"We close it at six," he said. It was quarter till.
"I've called the tow truck but they said it might take an hour."
"Alright then, I'll keep it open till quarter to seven."
"Thanks pal."

I had an errand to do.

Uh-oh. lunch break's over.

To be continued...

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Regarding bodily injury

As it turns out, I'm good to go. No breakage, only bruising and some aching, especially my hand. By now almost nothing. It's nice to know you can fall past fifty and not break into a million pieces. I hope that continues. Not the falling, the surviving part. Gotta keep taking those calcium pills, just in case. Every morning, every night. No shrinking bones for this girl.

There's only so much you can do, though. You can wear all the safety equipment known to man but you can't live in a glass bubble. I'm not giving up my bicycle ways as long as I can still move.

On the other hand, at least I'm not out there climbing some damn mountain, wearing a sign that says "kill me" like certain friends of mine. Get a clue people. Notice how no one lives up there? Ever wonder why? Not fit for humans, perhaps? Don't come crying to me when you fall into a crevasse. Duh. I coulda told you that would happen. In fact I did tell you. I've told all my friends of that ilk. But oh no, let's go put ourselves in mortal danger when we could be curled up in front of the fireplace at home with a good book. Next thing you know it's all over the news and millions of dollars are being spent and still more lives being risked in order to rescue them. And all your loved ones are suspended in cruel agony while they await the outcome.

And then of course there's bungie-jumping. You won't trust your car to a mechanic without all the credentials and references in the world, but you'll hand over fifty bucks to some 22-year old stranger, for the service of tying a large rubber band around your feet and presumably making sure it's not too long, so that you can dive head first off a cliff. Can the guy do knots? Can he do math? Does he know to figure in that if you're heavier than the last guy, you're going to want a shorter rubber band? Does anyone know how much that rubber band has been used already?

Woe. I didn't mean to get off on such a rant. Getting back to cycling, I have a survey question for you other bikers out there. This is my fifth wipe-out since I started this bike commuting malarkey three years ago. Do you think that's high? I guess what I really want to know (or do I?) is: "Is it me? Or is it just.... the way it is out there?" (Couch potatoes need not reply.)

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Splattered Cyclist Leaves the Scene of the Slime

OK, this time I'm really back, I promise.

Shall I start with my latest bike wipe-out story, or my latest car-death story? Hmmm, how to choose? I have so MUCH to tell you.

OK, I'll start with the present and work back. Hopefully nothing interesting will happen before I fill in the blogging gap between NOW and THEN.

Just this past Saturday. I hop on the Bromp and head for the Hollywood Transit Station. (And for all you furriners, this ain't THAT Hollywood. Please. I don't live within spitting distance of that writhing tarpit of fatuousness.) Anyway, I'm riding along, minding my own business. Fortuitously, my partner Lindi (not her real name) decided she'd ride along with me as far as the coffee shop near the station, so she's right behind me. Fortuitously I say because unbeknownst to us I was about to need some assistance. Just as we're gliding past the Hollywood Library IN the bike lane, travelling in a perfectly straight line, my cute little wheels slip out from under me and I splat onto the pavement. I lie there smackered witless, my head sticking out past the bike lane directly in the path of oncoming cars, my body lying across the bike lane directly in the path of oncoming Lindi. Fortunately both Lindi and the cars stop, in the nick.

Taking inventory, I was sure I'd broken at least a knee and a hip, and possibly a hand. My helmet had tapped the ground but not enough to dislodge my brain, like those other times. Those of you belonging to Portland will be heartwarmed to know what happened next.

In the ensuing seconds no fewer than three cars stopped, whose drivers and passengers emerged and approached with worried faces, inquiring about my heath. One of them helped Lindi pry my body off the asphalt. Another one, a woman in her seventies, even asked, "Did I do something to cause you to fall? I just passed you, but I thought I gave you plenty of room..."

(Can you imagine someone being that adorable in this lawsuit-happy nation?)

I told her no, there had been plenty of room, it was clearly the fault of the leaves. This launched an impassioned discussion among the group about the treacherous qualities of wet leaves.

"I'm very opposed to leaves on the bike path!" said one indignantly, as if the leaves deserved a good talking to. When we'd all had our say we dispersed, exchanging thanks and wishes of safe travel.

The city does a pretty good job of keeping up with it, but sometimes the leaves win, temporarily. The bike lane there on Tillamook was laquered with a good strata of humus. The next morning, Sunday, riding the exact same route at around the same time, I came upon the city street cleaning trucks at work with their big scoopers and water squirters and round brushes.