Monday, December 28, 2009

Riding Into the New Year

I have this tradition; I go for a bike ride on New Years day. It makes sense and no sense in so many ways.

When I was a bachelor in Olympia I got into the habit of riding out to Boston Harbor. It’s a very pleasant ride and was my 20-mile-after-work-de-stress ride. New Years day it’s different than the middle of summer. Usually bleak, cold, rainy in some form, a very Raymond Carver take on the new year. Strengthens my inner Jean Paul Sartre. Like so many places in northern climes, winter here has a way of painting the landscape starkly. Here, it all goes gray, event the evergreens take on a darker shade of grey. On the plus side, all the drunks are either home sleeping it off, stuck in the ditch sleeping it off, or in the drunk tank, sleeping it off. VERY little traffic.

Often I would ask that profound bicycling question: Why am I dong this? Am I crazy to get out of a perfectly warm bed, dress up in lots of clothes and then ride out in the raw coastal weather on the first day of the year? For some things the reason just cannot be spoken.

But if timed so that you arrive at the quaint little Boston Harbor Marina about noon you get a different look at that question. Sometimes the answer to the riddle comes in a form unlike an answer. Riding a bike, all bundled up in the drizzle/rain/mist/clammy coastal fog, you come upon a scene that suggests that, answer or not, their others who march to a drumbeat within. If I am crazy, these people are clearly crazier than I: A local polar bear dip. All the pasty pale people strip off their clothes and dash out into Budd Inlet, turn an alarming shade of 80’s hot pink, and then dash back to wrap themselves in towels and don flip flops. It seems so odd to see them trudging back up the hill to warm homes, swaddled in gaudy beach towels, huddling under umbrellas to avoid the rain. My soggy, rain appropriate apparel does not seem so odd.

Since we moved to Rocky Acres I have abandoned the Boston Harbor tradition, though I still get out for an obligatory News Years spin. This year I have signed up to ride a permanent, a 200K rando route. This particular ride is meaningful for me in a number of ways: it is the first ‘perm’ I ‘invented’, and it travels along the shores of Hood Canal, the place my 'hand to mouth' working class family lived when I was born. It will be very peaceful, the drunks of Thurston, Mason, and Jefferson Counties will all have done their part to clear the early morning roads. There will be Herons and Bald Eagles along the way, they’ll acknowledge my existence, if necessary, but only just. This newly born year will sleep peacefully, and hopefully there will be no terrorist surprise to jolt us from the slumber.

I’ll ride this slowly at ‘Adrian Hands’ pace. Partly to honor Adrian, but more so because I am out of shape, a little under the weather and not likely able to set any new PR’s for the distance. Even though this is a very easy route, pancake flat and the route sheet fits on half a page, it seems fitting not to rush through it; there is the rest of the year, replete with opportunities to put in heroic efforts.

I made note of this on our bike club on-line discussion list and was pleasantly surprised to have several riders ask to come along. It would be great to have company though it’s likely that I will not see these friends for much of the ride. Even so, nothing like sharing a bag of Doritos and a Coke with like minded seekers at the little nowhere stop of Brinnon.

Whether New Years day finds you dipping into icy waters or sinking into the couch watching the Rose Bowl, (or nursing a bad hangover...) I hope you have the very best possible 2010!

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