I’ve been riding my bike to and from work for the past couple weeks. I leave my car downtown, use Alisa’s car at home, and ride all day. It’s been great. There’s nothing like arriving at work very, very awake — worked up by wind and traffic and the realities of speed and balance. My usual Bexley-downtown commute is four miles each way, through Franklin Park and Wolfe Park, along the roaring Alum Creek and through the neighborhoods north and south of Broad Street. Urban. Nice. I wave at everyone and everyone waves back. Except the day I rode with a BB gun bungee-corded to the back of my bike. That’s a different story for a different day.
A chief motivator is Doug Morgan, a zealot for bikes, busses, livable communities, and other rare and insightful quirks. Doug lives on the other side of town, so he gets to use the Olentangy River bike path. I’d heard of it and want to experience it. So I invited myself on his ride. He was glad for the company. I warned him that I’m not so fast. “No problem,” encouraged Doug. “We can go at your pace. Can you be at my house at 7 a.m.?”
I could. I did. Here is my entry in the log of the first mate.
Preparations for first voyage today began yesterday with a navigation question: “How was I to get to the captain’s house at 7 a.m.?” Comments from friends disqualified the original plan to use my car and bike rack. (Doug Wyatt asked: “Seems contrary to the whole idea, doesn’t it?”)
So this morning, I rose in the wee hours and got to Broad and High to catch the COTA #2 at 5:57 a.m. Used the bike rack on the front of the bus. I was able to follow 2 of 3 basic steps to secure the bike — then the bus driver (they call themselves “operators”) came out to show me the easy last step. Fare = $1.50. Quiet ride, nice passengers, mostly bleary-eyed.
It was odd to sit in the bus, seeing my bike on the front of the bus. As we barreled forward, it looked like we were perpetually stuck in the moment where I’m getting hit by the bus: there’s my bike, just in front of the moving bus, right where it would be at the moment of fatal impact. But where’s Artie? Must be under the bus, or flying over the bus in some undignified way. (Reminded me of Michael Hampton’s observation: Ever wonder why deer throw back their heads so flamboyantly and fabulously after they get hit by cars on the highway? It’s quite a last gesture.)
Arrived by bus at coffee shop at 6:18, North Broadway and High. I overcame the embarrassment of walking in dressed as I was. From top to bottom: red helmet, glasses, grin, blue windbreaker, wrinkled dress shorts, legs, black socks, black oxford shoes. I left a tip in the jar, drank tea and read the newspaper.
6:45 a.m. Biked to Doug’s. Nice house. He talks a great game about livable communities and modest homes, but he’s got a beauty on a hill. This sort of modesty I could get used to. (Note to captain: come see my house. If yours is modest, mine is ashamed.)
6:56 a.m. Doug pops out of his modest house wearing immodest biker shorts, like the ones that inspire the “camel toe” craze.
That was pretty much the last time I saw Doug from the front. Every once in a while I saw him, increasingly ahead, calling back: “Is this pace OK with you?”
Me, exhibiting newfound frankness: “No. I can’t keep up.”
Doug: “Oh, sorry. Hey, why don’t you set the pace?”
Then he would race off again, way ahead.
We had an unbalanced conversation. Doug gave me a running history of the development of the lands we were passing through, pointing out the waterfowl and vegetation. I offered gasping, blood-in-the-mouth-gurgling pleas for a slower pace.
Doug: “No problem.” Then he was gone again.
7:15 a.m. Through my tears of sweat, I saw two Asian fellows — adult son, elder father — who had hopped off their bikes to harvest what looked like leaks. Big armfuls of leeks, the diameter of broomsticks.
7:40 a.m. We arrived downtown, through the wonderful development at North Bank Park and Doug invited me to his 8 a.m. breakfast with City Year. I thanked him and came back to the office to dry off, meditate on my physical condition and the equipment I need (new bike), and plot to someday ride with Doug again.