Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Like a kid on a bike

Not Panic, actually more of a sinking feeling as I finish my second and more thorough search of all the places I might have stashed an inhaler at work. That lower right hand pharmacopeia drawer is the obvious first choice. Normally, floating near the top of the wrack of bottles of aspirin, Ibuprofen, Excedrin, blister packs of decongestant capsules, dental floss dispensers and other patent med’s is the little metal canister, nestled in the bright red inhaler mouthpiece. Finding no solace there I head to the plastic box on the bottom shelf of the prison industries faux cherry wood armoire, which is integrated into the faux cherry wood 3 drawer horizontal file and two shelf bookcase. There in the box, among a jumble of paper napkins I find black plastic table wear, a couple packets of faux wasabi and soy sauce from the local China express, a package of Ricolla cough drops, and the twist off lid of some long ago lost or broken thermal coffee cup. Lying at the bottom of it all there is an empty zip loc sandwich bag, containing an equally empty small paperboard box that once, months ago, held a fresh new inhaler.

Most likely the ‘office’ inhaler is at home, safely tucked away in the seatbag of my singlespeed Quickbeam, the bike I rode home yesterday.

Frustrating because today the office environment alternated by zone from steamy to meat locker. The building owner controls the temperature in this leased building and that person, is located somewhere far away (Kansas City? Oakland, California?) and was not available to make adjustments until after 9:00am. Of course my little interior office is out of the general air flow pattern of the building (air flow such as it is) so whatever we have I tend to have magnified, except of course for airflow. I have a fan on the end of the credenza, which seems to have the effect of a loud stand mixer churning warm pancake batter. Without the magic affects of the missing inhaler the air felt about like pancake batter going in and out of my lungs.   Something is down there at the bottom of those pillowy air sacks, it feels like the tag end of a damp dish towel, or a baby sock, something I can’t cough up, something that, without the aerosol drugs won’t go away or be calmed. Beads of sweat began to pop out on my forehead, this would be a longish day. Oh the epic trials of the denizen of the cubicles.

Why was the inhaler in the bike bag? Monday was the last day of Spring and given a fairly promising weather forecast and much gentle, but persistent support from Mrs C, I had decided to ride my bike home from work. I had just come off of two weeks of work travel and meetings with really no time for riding a bike. The word ‘brutal’ comes to mind but it’s only brutal in the new century sense. In the old century brutal might have involved long hours in a field or forest toiling alone or with other field hands. It might have involved back breaking labor or 12 hour days in a cramped, dark, textile factory. Spending hours driving across the state, participating in meetings, pushing ideas back and forth across a table, or listing tasks on a flip chart … really isn’t brutal. It’s not even mind numbing except that these days I tend to use up my mind’s capacity before the tasks are all listed and assigned.

At any rate a ride home would be therapeutic, though perhaps more challenging than if I had been riding more consistently. Still it is a challenge I relish, more than the challenge of the next meeting or workshop. This would be pleasant and a fitting way to step across the threshold from spring to summer.

These days when I ride a bike I do fine once I get the initial coughing fit out of the way. This part always requires performance enhancing drugs, thus the inhaler.  I have a threshold energy output below which I do fine, but above which bouts of coughing are predictable. That little baby sock gets irritated in its womb of moist lung tissue and it makes its displeasure known. So If I decide to pick up the pace, or am confronted by a serious headwind or sustained climbs I can expect more coughing and more inhaler assistance.

Given that the Quickbeam is a bike with only one gear there was sure to be more intensity. You never appreciate the magic of mechanical assistance so much as when you don’t have gears at your disposal. This sounds like a whine but really it is a blessing. I get to test out my real base level of fitness and dispense with all the foolishness of shifting gears, front and back. On a bike with one gear (in my case a single speed) it is a lot like that kid on a bike, the big rusty hand-me-down JC Higgins cruiser, the only difference being the upgrade from a coaster brake to modern handbrakes.

It is a bit of a lie to say that the QB is a single speed: it has the dubious distinction of having two chain rings. I had it in the shop at lunch for a quick brake adjustment (even canti brakes exceed my mechanical ability!) and a fellow standing at the counter asked “how do you shift that thing?” He noticed the two rings and the absence of any obvious shifters, and was perhaps hoping for a new gee-whiz invisible technology. I explained that the shifting mechanism here was as simple as the rest of the bike: Loosen the rear wheel, slide it forward and lift the chain off the one ring (with your index finger, thus ‘index’ shifting) and onto the other chain ring. Pull the wheel back in the dropsouts and retighten the quick release making sure to eyeball the wheel as straight as possible in alignment with the chainstays. An additional nice touch with the QB is that it foregoes the typical nutted axel for a quick release retention system.  Forget about that six inch crescent wrench.

OBTW!  while I was at the LBS I got a peak at the new fork for the Tournesol!  Nice (didn't have my camera handy, dang) just going out to the powder coat place.  (shades of new bike lust!)

Anyway, back to the QB. I used the ‘climbing gear’ to get over the hill at Waddell creek. In the past, once the novelty wore off I would not bother with ‘shifting’ unless there was a sustained climb. As easy as it is, it is easier still to just stand and crank. But the new me needed the easier gear to summit Mt Waddell. It might have been worse, I thought I might have to walk part of it, but I’m not that far gone. There was an inhaler stops however.

It was a wonderful ride home. With only one gear you can easily get into a simple mind set, you pick up a rhythm that fits your body and your fitness, and then the pedals, and wheels just keep turning over. You hear about this from single speed and fixed gear riders all the time, there is something to it. I’m not obsessed but I do enjoy my time on the one geared wonder. On this bike it is especially pleasant because it fits me well and I have it set up just the way I like it:

Those Midge bars are not what most folks associate with a single speed or fixed gear bike. They are closer to drop bars than upright and this lower position is antithetical to riding in traffic, the assumed application for most one gear bikes. Out on the country roads there is no need to keep your head up watching for traffic, and the grips are wide enough and flared so that there is not much wrist strain. Not ideal for others but a great fit for me.

I took my time, I was riding along well enough but I stopped frequently to take pictures. The route is ordinary enough but for some reason it seemed particularly photogenic that day.


The Camas blooms are gone, now replaced with Lupin

and Foxglove.



This route, so bare and stark last month is now lush with new foliage; the trees are leafed out,

and the grasses have been greatly favored by the cool moist spring.

At the Weyerhaeuser tree nursery, next year’s forests are taking off.

Acres and acres of Douglas fir seedlings, occasionally punctuated with a few hundred thousand Western Red Cedars or Sitka Spruce.

This little guy was basking on the sun warmed black asphalt, I had to swerve to miss him but could not resist going back for a photo op. It appears he escaped death some time back by surrendering the tip of his tail.

Finally, shorts, a short sleeve jersey, and no coat, booties, or long finger gloves!

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