3,000 miles. That is (approximately) how far I rode my bicycle(s) in 2015. It’s an accomplishment many have surpassed with ease, but it’s one worth noting nonetheless. Worth noting to whom remains to be seen. But on this first evening of the new year, January 1, 2016, this web blog starts with not a bang, but a proud whisper, a simple note to self: “Hey, you really did that. Great job!”
To put that distance into some perspective: 3,000 miles (or 4828.04 kilometers) is the equivalent of going from San Diego, California to New York, New York. Or from Vancouver, British Columbia to Ottawa, Quebec. Or just a little less than from Tangier, Morocco to Moscow, Russia (maybe including the ferry ride). And so on. When thought of in those terms, it’s a very, very long way. I’m an average guy, not an elite cyclist, so I felt every mile.
So how did I do it? Why did I do it? What difference does it make? Can I inspire others to have an awesome year in whatever arena they choose? As I begin a new year of bicycling (4,000 miles, perhaps?), those are the sorts of questions I hope to explore. Along with some stories, personalities, maybe some tips and tricks, and whatever else seems relevant, interesting or worth (web)logging about.
While biking is the main fodder/food for thought, it is not the only one, just currently the main topic. I also do yoga, meditate, work, attempt to be in better shape, volunteer (currently at two bike groups), have friends, family, and soon again roommates, enjoy movies, tv and comedy, plus other stuff. Which if I write about may be by turns amusing, compelling, educational, or boring as hell. Hopefully not the last one. Boring is bad. Unless you’re a miner.
So let’s get to it: Today I biked 25 miles. Not a huge distance, but not a walk in the park either. It was cold (40’s), cloudy, a bit windy, but dry here. Here being the self-proclaimed “Live Music Capital of the World,” Austin, Texas. (Feel free to visit, but please don’t move here – too many people already are doing that, rents are high, traffic’s horrible, summers are super hot and humid, and it’s full of bicyclists.) Anyway, I picked up my riding buddy and we intended to join a local bike advocacy group, Bike Austin, for their Chasing the New Year’s Baby ride. Well, my friend had left his tire at my place and I left it there too, so the group ride didn’t happen. First rule of cycling: plan ahead. But we went on our own ride, and that was fine.
Heading through Zilker Park which houses the famously cold, spring-fed waters of Barton Springs, we found hordes of people attending what turned out to be the annual Polar Bear Dip. I was wearing a t-shirt for a previous event yesterday, but haven’t been to it. Maybe next year. Turning south we ascended some decent hills and made it all the way to the forbiddingly-named Slaughter Lane. Taking a break, I asked a nice convenience store clerk named Naomi if I could fill up one of my water bottles with some Vitamin Water XXX açai-blueberry-pomegranate (I prefer sugar-free but this flavor tastes horrible), and she let me have it for free. (A Dude likes free stuff.)
Now, I don’t know what the X’s are for, but one site claims it’s “The kind of XXX you can consume in front of your mother.” I will say I also enjoyed some Blueberry Belvita Breakfast Biscuits and a Think Thin Brownie Crunch high protein bar. The former have whole grain oats and the latter 20 grams of protein and no sugar, so both are a good way to stay fueled. While I’m not getting paid for product placements (yet), some readers if and when they arrive, may find such suggestions helpful. If not, there’s probably a comment box down there.
After a Wiz, moving on down the road, we passed a young woman with pink hair, a suitcase, a Play-doh set and not enough clothes standing out front of an apartment complex. I noticed she looked distraught and was crying. She may have been kicked out by a mean relative or was fleeing a domestic abuse situation, or just lost. I said there was a bus stop and she replied “I don’t know where to go.” Sad.
Crossing the road, I felt I had to do something. So I came back, apologized for butting in, and mentioned she could call 2-1-1, the United Way help line. But she didn’t have a cell phone, so I suggested a convenience store might let her use their phone. I felt sad for her but could not think of anything else to do, so we left her at the bus stop. Hopefully she found some help. Seeing the world from a bicycle — if you’re paying attention — puts you in touch with a different and more immediate reality than flying by in a car. And that world is not always pretty.
The riding buddy had gone ahead. Struggling alone to catch up on a long, slow uphill gradient, I thought to myself that I was fortunate to have a place to live (overpriced as Austin rents are). We finally reached our starting point, Bicycle Sport Shop, but only had 20 miles on our bicycle phone application which I just recently got and where you can follow my rides, Strava. The receptionist at the urgent care clinic once again kindly let me use take care of some urgent bladder bidness and use the facilities. (A Dude likes to urinate.) Anyway, I suggested to the riding buddy a 5-mile loop through downtown to make it to 25. Crossing the iconic Congress Avenue Bridge (aka the Ann Richards, former governor), I was on the wide sidewalk under which seasonally reside Austin’s welcome but smelly undocumented immigrant Mexican free-tail bats. (I’m pro-immigrant, BTW, having come from an immigrant family like most everyone else in the US.)
I was quickly approaching a group of tourists stretched out in a line. They weren’t budging, and as I approached, my handlebar extender caught the purse of one of the young women, and I went down. It was pretty quick and hard but I wasn’t hurt too badly. I was more shocked and angry, saying “You shouldn’t take up the whole sidewalk.” To their credit, they stopped to help me, but I gave them the naughty finger wag. I quickly realized that they took that to mean I didn’t need help, so they started walking away. I had caught a few words of Spanish before the fall, so still lying on the ground, for some unknown reason, I blurted out after them “¡Orgullosos!” (It means prideful in Spanish, but also arrogant, which is what I was going for.) They looked shocked but kept walking, and I remounted and biked on.
Immediately I came upon another pedestrian who had seen my ignominious crash. He judgementally said, “You know, you’re not supposed to be on the bridge.” Still smarting, I retorted, “Yes we can be, and go look it up!” Which it turns out to probably not be true downtown, but I’d rather risk the ire of a cranky walker or a ticket than get runover by a car any day. Since breaking the 3,000-mile mark on December 30th, I’ve been feeling pretty full of myself about my biking. So the lesson learned here is an oldie but goodie: pride really does goeth before a fall. (The actual quote for you Biblical nitpickers is from Proverbs: “Pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall.”) And also, yield to pedestrians, even if they’re being jerks.
So even in “Keep it Weird” Austin, gravity is still the law. Funny thing was this same type of fall happened to our most famous bicyclist, Lance Armstrong, on one of his Tours de France, when he fell over after catching the straps of a spectator’s bag. He remounted and caught up with the leaders who were waiting for him, and well, you know the rest of that story. Of course he had a slightly larger stage with millions watching him on tv, and a whole different level of issues with pride and not admitting he took PED’s. Whatever you make think of the Uniballer (I thought of this on my own but was not the first — I’m guessing that was former pal Robin Williams [RIP Mork]), but I will give a nod to his awesome if expensive bike shop, Mellow Johnny’s.
Cycling around the Capitol building, we saw a band of assbrothers who were proudly (there’s that word again) practicing their newly legal right to practice the Open Carry of firearms. Ignoring them and escaping without bullet holes, we then headed to the end of my ride. My riding pahdnuh would continue another 25, a great job of work by him. Again, you may view my rides on my Strava page: https://www.strava.com/athletes/12498368.
My New Year’s Ride log is here.
The title of this post is borrowed from a Nietzche book. And yes, the blog name is a nod to The Dude, Jeff Bridge’s iconic character in the 1998 Coen Brothers’ film, The Big Lebowski.
The Dude: Yeah, well. The Dude abides.
The Stranger: The Dude abides. I don’t know about you but I take comfort in that. It’s good knowin’ he’s out there. The Dude. Takin’ ‘er easy for all us sinners. Shoosh. I sure hope he makes the finals.
Clearly I’m not The Dude – that would be blasphemous – I’m just A Dude. But I do abide much of my free time on A Bike. And so A Dude A Bikes. Get it? Got it. Good. And so endeth today’s ride and this post. Thanks for reading! Keep on doing that, and I’ll keep on riding.