Tuesday, September 27, 2016
CONFESSIONS OF A NON-FITNESS GUY (AND HIS BICYCLE)
New life comes from the old Peugeot
X-rays of my troubled right knee show the doctor that it isn’t quite time yet. “Tone up the muscles. Stretch. Do some non-impactful exercises. Go to the gym and ride the stationary bike.”
“I have a stationary bike,” I reply. So I make a commitment to go out on the back patio and ride the thing ten to twenty minutes a day just after rising in the morning. My commitment lasts less than a Middle Eastern cease-fire. Why? Boring. The view of the back fence from the patio never changes. I guess I’ll just settle for a bum knee.
Rummaging around my garage, I frequently move my old Peugeot ten-speed because it’s always in the way. If I move it from in front of the shelves, it’s blocks the workbench. If I move it away from the workbench, it blocks the door. Some times I just lean it up against the side of the house. If it weren’t for the sentimental value, I often think, I’d donate the damned thing to the nearest charity.
Then recently, as I’m rolling the bicycle out of my way to access a shelved box of nails or screws, an inkling inkles: Riding the old ten-speed around the neighborhood and into town, might be just as beneficial and non-impactful an exercise as cranking on the stationary bike for ten minutes at a time. And the view would change.
I pump up the gum-walled tires and hop aboard.
Our neighborhood is relatively flat, but on the Peugeot, even the slightest downhill is a rush. With no more than about fifteen turns of the crank, I’m a mile from home passing the coffee bar, not breaking a sweat and my knee feels great!
Three or four cyclists are there, outfitted in form-fitting pants, garish cycle-centric nylo-fiber shirts with big empty front and back pockets and velo-ads plastered all over them, and helmets.
Even though my cargo shorts and ball cap headgear looks as if I just stepped off a road grader or out of a retirement neighborhood, I stop for a cup of dark roast. One of the fellows says, “I used to have one of those,” pointing to the bike I’ve had since college. After me not contributing to their conversation about their latest “run out to the coast (66 miles),” I mount up and head home.
Did I say we lived in a relatively flat community? The four-minute glide into town is a fifteen-minute grind back into the neighborhood. Rusty in my use of the derailleur, the chain stutters and jerks as I search for the ratio that will allow me to pump my way back home. I concentrate on staying on the seat as opposed to falling forward onto the steel crossbar that looks – from directly above – menacingly similar to one I painfully recall from a very early incident of my bicycling youth. Finally, I reach our driveway, gently touching the toe of my shoe to the ground. I wait there straddling the seat, while my breath catches up with me. It seems it was about a block and a half behind on the final climb to the house.
Yet, the following day, I do it again, modifying my route and lengthening it a bit. I want to check the construction progress on the new Renner gas station going in just south of town. I decide to pick one gear and stay in it whether I’m whizzing along a flat stretch of road or pushing myself to get up the hill. I don’t stop for coffee. I do twenty minutes.
On the third day, I add a bit more and tackle the hill that fronts the Hamburger Ranch Barbecue joint. I enjoy that becoming-familiar rush by coasting down the other side past storefronts and into town.
I’ve ridden the old Peugeot on a daily basis for longer than the most recent, ill-fated Syrian cease-fire lasted. I’m up to between thirty and forty minutes, exploring neighborhoods and country roads, viewing hillside vineyards, paralleling the old railroad line and using the paved path next to the Russian River that we’ve walked many times.
I’m packing my camera now. The scenery is much better than the view of my back fence.
The other day, I saw an old Ford Ferguson tractor rusting in somebody’s front yard. It was like the one upon which I learned to drive.
There’s a great “stairway to heaven” leading up to the oldest part of the town cemetery.
And the Northwestern Pacific right-of-way has all manner of eighty-year-old railroad memorabilia and clutter.
My knee is wrapped and on ice as I type. And as I type, I plan tomorrow’s little itinerary.
Church of the Open Road Press