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Published: September 27th 2004
Enjoying All of Norfolk
This ain't me, it's a buddy of mine, showing off his skills along Norfolk's waterfront. But hey, it's an eye-catching image, right?
A sunny Sunday afternoon in Indian Summer beckons to a bicyclist. The air moves with a gentle breeze, panoply of steak and hamburg grilled on charcoal and gas, with just a touch of deet. The sun is sinking low into the sky, another two hours of daylight remaining, at most. A twenty-mile ride into the sun on a warm, clear afternoon awaits.
Suburbia sprawls ahead to the horizon, a maze of boulevards (minus the requisite trees) and avenues (not wide enough to bear the name). Cars roar by at 30, 40, 50 miles per hour, and yet the ride begins, slowly picking up speed as lungs open up and the heart quickens. A momentarily empty stretch of four lane, divided blacktop ahead, and no cars behind. A quick tuck down onto the aero bars hanging over the front, and speed picks up 10%. Stay to the left of the white line, where the pavement is smoother and the glass shards fewer. Feel the rhythm as legs move in a constant circle, diaphragm moves up and down, up and down, wrists and handlebars twitch to avoid a small pothole.
A lurch, a wobble, a momentary lapse of stability! Patience, don't lose the rhythm. Tilt the hips to the side and dip the bike over and yes, there it is again! The back wheel slipping to the side with a tactile squish felt in the seat of the shorts. Look down the road, see the empty parking lot, glide to a stop out of traffic and reach back, pinching the back tire. Pinch the front tire, note the difference and unclip the frame pump. Snap the pump onto the tire stem and start pumping, watching the pressure build up to 50, 60, 75 psi, 80, just a little farther, 85, a few more stiff strokes, 90, come on, almost there! 95, yes, that's it, and a few more for good measure! Unhook the pump from the stem; clip it back into place on the frame, and one kick, two, off again.
The sun is now below the tops of the trees, beams of light pulsate while riding through in and out of the shadows. Even behind the sunglasses the light is still almost blinding, following the road straight into the sun. Look ahead and notice the car disappearing into the shadows, no red taillights following behind. Reach back with one hand and twice tap the button on the back of the battery-powered light, sending out a blinking red signal to all those behind. Slip into the shadows a little more confident of being seen.
The signal turns yellow up ahead, then red. Sit up in the saddle and pull in the brakes. A big delivery truck lies at wait. Look back and see the empty stretch of road, no cars in sight. Coast towards the license plate on the truck, watching the signals. The steady white pedestrian is replaced with a flashing red hand, and the opposing signal switches from green to yellow. Grip the brakes a little bit more, coming closer, closer to the bumper of the truck. The opposing signal switches from yellow to red before disappearing from sight as the truck looms in front and above. Getting closer, closer to the truck, too close, gotta stop! A crunch, a lurch forward, a belch of diesel smoke and the truck rumbles forward into the intersection. Pedal! Pedal hard! Stay within inches of the bumper and get up out of the saddle. Legs going faster, faster, spinning too fast and shift up! Harder gear, legs going slower. Rock the bike back and forth like a metronome. Shift again, and again. The truck pulls away slightly. Tuck down into the drops, fingers on the brakes just in case. Keep low and alert in the pool of still air trailing behind the truck. Listen to the pitch of the exhaust, alert for signals of an impending stop. Find the rhythm, feel the legs spin. Glance down for a fraction of a second at the speedometer. 27 mph. Keep it steady, breathe deep. Follow the truck. A quarter mile, a half mile, legs are starting to burn, lungs are starting to sting with the diesel fumes. The pitch of the engine drops a notch just before the brakes light up. Stand up in the pedals and burst around the left of the truck. Wave to driver for good measure while decelerating in the sudden roar of headwind.
Keep the legs turning, turning. Slip through the intersections at the last moment as the light shifts from yellow to red. Or coast to a stop at a red light, taking the time to breathe deep and sip some water. Park the bike over the magnetic sensors buried in the asphalt to trigger the lights before pushing off clipping back into the pedals. Watch the sun slip closer, closer to the horizon.
A passing steel beast, an insult hurled out the window by a woman whose face is as fake as her hair color, “Get on the sidewalk where you belong!” She roars away before I have a chance to answer, “Get out of your SUV and live life! Turn off the air conditioning and feel the wind! Bask in the rays of the sun, not the television”
The streetlights wink on overhead, casting yellow cones of light in front of my path. The sky shifts from blue to purple, from red to brown and black. The clouds overhead glow pink in the reflected glow of the city lights. Ahead one light glows stronger above a porch. I clip out of one pedal and stand beside my bike on the other as I come to a stop before lifting my bike over my shoulder and climbing the stairs to the front porch. As I roll my bicycle into the closet my cell phone rings in my back pocket,
“Hello? Yeah, yeah, I’m home…It was great ride.”
Tot: 1.449s; Tpl: 0.043s; cc: 10; qc: 53; dbt: 0.026s; 1; m:saturn w:www (18.104.22.168); sld: 4;
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