Monthly Archives: April 2008

No April showers

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At least not this week, which has meant the best spring training week I’ve had, I think, ever. If I didn’t get on my bike, I got out the canoe — earliest entry into the Hudson ever, too. Normally, it would be running too high, fast and dirty to make me want to deal with it, but without the spring rains, it was lovely, flat and relatively easy. (You still forget that the Hudson is tidal at your peril when you’re pushing a muscle-powered boat. Tide charts are here; don’t leave home without them.) I even got through another hundred miles without a flat, so my week was good.

It’s also the time of year when some of the little errands can be done by bike, though nothing makes it easy. Of the three places I had to stop today, exactly none of them had anything like a place to lock up my bike. At one place I used a light pole, at the bank I used their flag pole, and at the Post Office I gave up and took a chance on having my bike stolen (I truly only had to run in, drop a prepaid package, and run out) because there was absolutely nothing to lock it to. Very frustrating. No convenience stores ever have a bike rack anymore, so the best I can do usually is to lock to a picnic table. I know it’s not news that the car is king, but really, what would it take to have a little bike post for us to lock to?

Valve stem blowout is a winner!

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Yes, if you had “valve stem blowout” as your predicted cause of my next flat, you’re a winner. Not only is it getting discouraging, but I’m running out of tubes (and those CO2 cartridges aren’t free, either). That was Friday, and I made my change and shortened my loop. Yesterday I actually got out and did 40k without a single flat tire — some kind of minor miracle.

Took a canoe out on the lake today, sidestepping the entire flat tire issue, and saw the most amazing thing I have ever seen: snapping turtle sex. In shallow water I just about ran over a moss-backed snapping turtle, and for a minute I thought it was another dead one because it seemed to be entwined in something (a couple of years ago there was one caught up in a cast-off tire, floating down there for months). But as I got about three inches away from it, its head moved and I suddenly realized that what it was entwined with was another snapping turtle, and they were making hot monkey love. Apparently, even a big green canoe can’t distract a snapper on a mission. The lake was lousy with box turtles, too, more than I’ve ever seen — basking, swimming, popping their little heads out of the water. Hundreds of them. But they weren’t getting what the snapper was getting.

Walking barefoot through the lumber district

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Is not at romantic as it sounds. Started the day with a bike ride down by the river, where I instantly regretted my failure to bring my camera. The fog was drifting over the river, and only over the river, about 20 feet high and so thick you couldn’t see the other side. And then the sun broke through from the other side, making it all magically beautiful. The Livingston Avenue Bridge appeared suspended in mist. Two big rowboats out on the river looked like they were beating in the clouds. A rescue squad was drilling with an overturned raft in the frigid waters just off the boat ramp. A million things to photograph, and me without my camera. Oh well.

So I ran up the bike path in the warming sun for the first time this season, popped out at Watervliet and into Schuyler Flats, where I watched someone fly a model airplane for a few minutes, had a little chat with him and took my leave. Climbed up into Albany Rural Cemetery and the skies started to darken; by the time I got to the gate on the other side, the skies opened up, but I could ride the road with my eyes closed, so it wasn’t really a problem. As I got back into the city and headed down Broadway, I thought of how good my chances of flatting were, with all the rain and so much crap on the streets. I’d barely thought it before there was a spectacular spray of air and water coming off my front tire, the kind of nice, high-pressure, leave no doubts blowout you just don’t see much anymore. Close to my destination, the rain having let up but not stopped, I didn’t feel like fixing a flat in that neighborhood or in the rain, so I took off my shoes and decided to sacrifice my socks for the cause as I walked carefully through the extremely rough pavement and sidewalks of the industrial neighborhood just off the north edge of downtown. Well, I’ve seen odder things in that neighborhood than a sopping wet, spandexed biker in sock feet walking his bike around. (In fact, it’s the odder things that worried me.)

Tally up TWO punctures in the front, so if I’d tried to patch, I’d have eaten up my annual CO2 cartridge supply and ended up walking anyway. My tires, after only 2000 km, look like they’ve had the pox, pitted and scarred and probably not much longer for this world. If only they weren’t so good, they’d be gone already, but I’ve been loving them, so let’s see if they can survive another couple hundred k.

April rides

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When the weather’s right, as it was all this week, there is really nothing better than a spring bike ride. The air is just warm enough and the sun warms your body the rest of the way — you can feel the earth gaining heat, rather than losing it. The air is clean, and you can really feel your progress from ride to ride as you gain back the legs you lost over the winter. Of course, the downside is that all the roadside trash is highly visible — those washcloths that kept appearing last summer haven’t gone anywhere. The roadkill count isn’t too bad — three or four newly dead possums, a couple of slightly more dead cats, and in what I can only consider some kind of a conspiracy against me, four randomly placed banana peels appeared along yesterday’s route. The headwind was tough going out, but I rationalized that I’d get it back on the way home — which is of course ridiculous. The wind always changes before you get back, and it did yesterday, too. Plus, I felt so good that I let myself get a little lost, and took a really roundabout route that brought me up into the wind again on the last leg. The last eight miles, out of about 34, were just painful, but that’s how you get better. I missed out on the hard hills of spring last year, being too preoccupied with home repairs, and then never had my climbing legs all summer, so now’s the time to do the work.

Took my “new” bike over the 2000K mark this week, not as impressive as some people but not too bad overall. Now if I can just keep convincing myself to get out there. Despite the fact that I’ve NEVER regretted going out on a ride, it takes a herculean effort to conquer my brain’s objections — too cold, too warm, too windy, too early, too late — and get those endorphins swimming in the blood. My brain, when it comes to exercise, is not to be trusted.

Not dead.

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Shadows of Tusk

Just stricken with ennui. What have I been doing? Listening to “Tusk” — a lot. Seriously. Thinking of how to make a photograph that involves ballet shoes and the oven but isn’t, you know, creepy. Figuring out how to fix a broken lifter on my hatchback, and wondering, given how seized up it is, how it didn’t break ages ago. Spending a night out with friends and playing bar trivia, with all of us ready to throw the game just so we could get home because it was flamin’ 9:30 already! (We’re OLD! We can’t be hanging in bars all night!) Proofreading books written largely in German, and largely in footnote. Turning some of the world’s worst photographs into something semi-suitable for publication. Reading about the history of France, twice, with a third to come. Searching for a good history of the Netherlands or Holland or whatever they call it. Experimenting with fantastic new eye drops. Enjoying both the REM and Rolling Stones channels on Sirius. Getting completely wrapped up in Celebrity Rehab. Doing basic plumbing for fun but no profit – and if you think spending hours on your back swearing at rusted out metal isn’t fun, you have something to learn. Getting in some spring rides, on those rare occasions it’s not raining. Wondering where my socket set could have gone. Ferrying daughters to ballet, to school, to dances. Making a serious wrong turn because I got distracted by the dead possum. Flossing. Converting em dashes to en dashes, and trying to remember the names of popular typefaces of the 1980s. Not eating cheese. Recycling electronics (but then finding even more hiding in nooks and crannies).

Did I mention, listening to “Tusk”?