|The Grizzly Peak Cyclists|
Gathering for the Diablo Ride at the
Pleasant Hill BART station,
9 am January 1, 2015
Chronological age could not be the whole story. Oded turned seventy in November, and he still commutes by bicycle to the large financial institution where we toiled together for a quarter century. Most weeks he rides his bike into the Berkeley Hills, and he went on the Diablo ride even though he's recovering from a bad cold. It took us over four hours to reach the junction where the North and South Gate roads converge, elevation 2,170 ft.; just 58 minutes for him to continue solo to the summit, elevation 3,864 ft. Alison, 65, was one of the dozens of cyclists who passed us on the way up, notable because her bicycle sported front and rear pink panniers, and a stuffed animal fastened to the rear luggage rack. More about that lass in a bit.
And if there's really no excuse for going months without riding, there is some interesting context. Over Christmas I had the stomach flu, and spent most of three days in bed, needing to sit and rest each time I hiked from the bedroom to the kitchen. It was a slightly altered state of consciousness: dozing; listening to excerpts of Hunter S. Thompson's Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas on NPR; calling the Aetna advice line. The nurses were reassuring, prescribing rice and clear fluids, no dairy products; I was compliant. The gonzo journalism was oddly reassuring too, showing that language could follow where mind leads, even unto the recesses of recreational drug use. Nevertheless, there was no denying that I was sick, and living alone too, and fear introduced itself.
At midnight, 3 days post-flu, 6.5 hours before I'd set my alarm to wake up for the Diablo ride, I was toasting 2015 with sparkling apple juice at a folk dance in Palo Alto. It was a moment Jean would have savored. In the cozy delirium of our marital myth, we had our own style of gonzo, say with carrot sticks dangling from our lips instead of cigarette holders à la Uncle Duke. A widower should not stay at home like a shut in on New Years Eve, especially after the lessons of recent illness. The two dancers I talked to on the topic of New Years resolutions both agreed they were futile attempts to appease insatiable inner prosecutors. You might have a careful, healthy existence, and still come to a horrible end because you bored yourself to death. Better off trying to find a path to joy.
It's not always joyful, obviously, but there is a sweet solitude in a long bike ride, when the rhythm of your exertions sets down a bassline as your eyes
|Oded, South Gate Road|
Elevation approx. 1,500 ft.
Alison was resting at the junction when I arrived, and quite willing to talk when her bicycle sparked my curiosity. She's proud to have reached medicare age, and thanks the American people for their generosity in providing her health care. Fair enough, since she attends to the people's health in her capacity as a Nuclear Medicine Technologist. The rack ornament is named Moosie. Alison acquired him in the Glacier National Park in 2002, and "He has ridden every mile
|Alison at the Junction|
Her windbreaker is pale pink,
and there are pink stripes on her helmet
Oded and I agreed to try a ride into the Berkeley Hills in February, after I recover from New Years. Then he left for the summit, while I rode down to BART. Oded's a loyal friend, and since I got laid-off in February, he's been a reliable source of quiet encouragement. I'm starting my own bicycle commute in a couple of weeks—got a job teaching a C++ night class at a community college—and I resolved to be a better friend myself, in the uphill riding department.
|A view descending North Gate|
|His Majesty Clark I|
On the dining room table,
waiting to be served.
Clark was ecstatic to see me when I got home to Alameda, two short hours after leaving the junction. I filled his food bowl, then attacked the fridge like the savage wolf I am at heart: two mugs of soup, two large carrots with hummus, a tin of sardines on a slab of bread. It was winter, it was cold and dark outside, yet I was warm and well fed. Happy 2015 to all.