Back to work. 30 days of biking, #12

I was on vacation last week, so of course the sun is out today, warming my back while I’m on break and huddled over my notebook so I can see it in the shadow of my body.

But you don’t care about that.

What you want to know is who finally made spring happen this year.

I humbly confess it was me—and in the simplest way possible.

I finally cleaned the winter salt off my coffee bike this morning.

In quick order, the sun broke through, the wind diminished, bluebirds asked about mealworms—hey, Sam, what gives, you had them last year—the earth warmed, I put on my work shirt, and cranky people smiled.

So, you’re welcome.

And since you also want to know how much all that cleaned-off salt and dirt and grit weighed, I’ll estimate.

At least 10 pounds, maybe 35.

I’m not good at estimating. It was a lot.

My April streak of riding every day remains unbroken. Amazing that no matter which direction I rode last week I ended each day with about 16 miles.

Well, that changes today.

April 12. 1 mile.

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Go fish. 30 days of biking, #11

Two Canada geese flew off to the west from the ditch as I pulled over to take a picture.

This area takes on water every spring. Sometimes the water gets high enough to cross the road.

When the water recedes, it leaves waste from the previous season’s corn crop on the edges of the road.

So it’s pretty easy to see why the geese are attracted to the area.

You might say they keep mistaking a cornfield for a small lake.

But it’s no mistake: they’re attracted to fresh water.

And here it is.

It’s more accurate to say the farmer mistakes a wetland for a cornfield—often replanting after the first crop drowns.

Not that the farmer’s persistence bothers the geese.

Or confuses them.

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Knock on wood. 30 days of biking, #10

If I have a favorite tree, I keep it a secret.

From that tree, from other trees, from myself.

Because to have a favorite is to invest emotion and worry about that tree and remember another tree just like it that was also beautiful in the spring and fell apart soon after.

And to remember the part of the older tree that remained had to be removed like the rest of it because it was no longer a tree but the memory of one.

Better to think of a forest than a tree within that forest.

The forest endures, even as trees within it fall to bugs, lightning or age.

I say forest though the trees around my house don’t qualify as a forest.

Not the Bradford pear between the house and vegetable garden.

Not the cottonwood trees behind and above the shed that make me sneeze when their cotton lays on the yard like a light snow.

Not the maples in front of the house or behind, in the ravine, where they hog the edge, trying to block older, taller oaks from the sun.

Not the birch trees north of the Santa Fe rails that multiply with ease.

Not the walnut or oak or pine or birch or peach or apple trees.

Not the fir trees I’ll plant next week to replace some of the pines.

So, while I don’t have a favorite tree, I do have a favorite faux forest.

It’s the one I see at the beginning and end of many bicycle rides.

April 10. 14 miles.

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Centerville Road. 30 days of biking, #9

No Arno. No architectural landmarks. No Medici.

Nothing here by da Vinci, Palladio, or Michelangelo. Not even once upon a time.

Indeed, little evidence of the city-state beyond the provision and grading of this road.

The bicycle? Yes, evidence of a technology beyond the Middle Ages. Granted.

(You might also have noted the photograph itself and its distribution via the internet. Chronological giveaway.)

But this is not Florence.

This is a vanishing point.

And above it this day—as in the 20th century, the 17th and the 15th—clouds.

The clouds of the Renaissance.

Free for the looking and good enough for me.

April 9. 16 miles.

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New shoes. 30 days of biking, #8

I’ve been using SPD-compatible shoes for almost as long as Shimano has made SPD pedals.

But I spent a few years before the 1990 launch of Shimano Pedaling Dynamics riding clipless Look pedals.

In fact, I continued to ride Look two or three years after Shimano’s tiny two-bolt cleat hit the scene—for several reasons:

1. Look was singularly responsible for the Pythonesque death of the toe clip and strap. (I can hear the foot bondage apologists even now: “They’re not dead yet.”) As someone who remembers nailing cleats onto the soles of his shoes—by engaging the back plate of the pedals, the nailed cleat ensured the feet had no reasonable escape from strangulating toe straps—my gratitude belongs to Look.

2. Look was a road pedal. I was a road cyclist. Shimano introduced SPD to bring clipless technology to the mountain bike community, which was outside my scope of interest.

3. I had Look pedals, Look shoes, Look cleats and Look cleat covers; switching to SPDs would mean abandoning all the money I’d already sent to France.

4. I worried the SPD system would focus pressure on the soles of my feet, leading to painful hot spots (it did not).

Thirty years ago, the main appeal of SPD pedals for a roadie like me was walking to and from my bike without destroying the cleats on my shoes.

And in the end, that advantage was enough to get me to bolt mountain-bike pedals onto my road bike.

No more replacing cleat after cleat, cleat cover after cleat cover.

And no more carrying slippers on the bike so I could walk into a breakfast place like a regular person (a regular person wearing Spandex shorts, but you catch my drift).

I don’t always ride with SPD pedals—platform pedals and regular shoes have been doing fine for a couple hundred years—but I can’t imagine doing without them.

Or the walkable shoes that snap into them so effortlessly.

April 8. 16 miles.

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