Bike Case

I was out, riding.

That those four words were true were significant enough that it didn’t matter that the ride was less than 20 miles, or that I was home under two hours, or that turning the pedals over (and over) seemed, and felt, a surprising capability. Yet there I was, turning the pedals over (and over). I was out, riding.

I saw the young man on the corner, dressed in mostly black… skinny jeans, tousled hair, eyes focused on the device in hand. A bike case sat on the sidewalk next to him. He appeared to be waiting for a ride. As I climbed closer, a young woman ran up the side street toward him—she called out; he turned, smiled.

Timing, such as it was, had it so that I passed him, and his bike case, just before the young woman got to him. As i rode by him, I said “Safe travels and a good ride.”

He turned toward me, but I never saw his expression, and I didn’t hear a response if there had been one.

But I was out, riding, and that was more than enough for me… and I knew he would be out, riding, wherever it was that he was going, and that seemed something even greater.

Two Men By The Water

The first required a double-take.

Older in years and dressed for warmth, he was above the tide line and amongst the driftwood, back to the water. Next to him, initially and at distance, I saw a partner in a fleece jacket, with him dotingly adjusting the collar. As I rode by, though, I realized the partner had no arms, nor a head—it was a sizeable driftwood log he’d uprighted and dressed. I coasted, sat up, and looked back over my shoulder to confirm the sight. He was still adjusting the fleece’s collar.

The second might as well’ve been Ahab.

He stood at the edge of the seawall, near the point. Before him, the wind blew in from the north, stirring up the chop that kept people off the water. He wore a long woolen overcoat, his hands shoved into the side pockets, and stood in a wide stance. His mid-length hair swirled in the air. A puff of smoke blew back from him, and as I neared, I knew it to be pipe tobacco. As if on cue, he turned his head slightly and I saw a wooden pipe’s silhouette curling down from his mouth, the bowl nearly disappearing into the man’s thick beard. He appeared in a place of tension.

I continued my ride along the water, but took note of little else.

Posting Up

I’d looked at the radar, gambled, and failed. Still, it was warm-ish, the sun was angling between the clouds, and I knew the showers would pass. My clothes would dry on me throughout the evening. A mild inconvenience, but, too, a welcome bit of variety.

Along the short afterthought of a bike path, I looked down and appreciated the intermittent reflections of my bike and silhouette in the small puddles. I knew, too, that the two little bumps were coming up, and I smiled into the notion of once again indulging my habit of using them as a brief pump track.

Ahead, a rider turned onto the path coming toward me. At a distance, I saw that they were wearing a grey hoodie, hood up, and jeans. I wondered how they felt about the rain, about being in it while on a bike, about where they were going and how warm they’d be later on.

As I watched, and wondered, the rider sat up and held their hands a bit off the hoods, balancing. After a beat or two, the rider shot their arms up into the air. Victory. They held this for another beat or two, then went back down to the hoods, steadied, pedaled a little bit, then repeated the cycle again—hands hovering, pause, victory, pause, steady, pause.

We passed each other, and I smiled and nodded toward the woman as she continued along.

I forgot about being dry, in wondering about warmth. What I’d witnessed was enough.

Flicking Through

Toward the end of summer, the high school kid that’d been working in the shop came out on a couple of the weekend morning shop rides. He rode a budget cross bike set up with flat pedals and wore basketball shorts over his cycling shorts. He was a good kid and I could tell the summer in the shop had been a mutually appreciated time for all parties involved.

On the first ride, he dropped us twice—the first after the shop owner had playfully, in his self-deprecating way, mentioned something about climbing and that the kid didn’t need to take it too easy on us on the first big climb… after which, of course, the kid took off and the shop owner and I looked over at each other, shook our heads, swore, and got down to the business of not getting gapped too much. The kid later dropped us on a flyer for the town sign. The shop owner and I reassured ourselves with talk of wisdom, treachery and stamina.

On the second ride, the shop owner rolled up to me and asked what I thought about using the ride as a skills session and I smiled and agreed and he drifted back to the kid. I spun and listened to the guidance from the shop owner, adjusting my ride to match the scenario of instruction—sitting up to provide a bigger draft, getting into the drops to reduce it, drifting subtly in the lane for him to follow. After a bit, the shop owner brought up the matter of rotating through and the subtleties and responsibilities and nuance within taking a pull.

I sat up a bit, drifted out and flicked my elbow—I heard the shop owner smile, explain the flick, then encourage the kid to take the lead (cautioning against surging). The kid rolled through, concentrating on all he’d been told, and I drifted back to the shop owner and we looked at each other and smiled and left it at that.


The group had, uncommonly, remained intact up the almost-half-mile, 7-light rise into the city. At the top, we’d rounded the corner together. Bags were jostled by the uneven bricks, some lines were crossed.  At the next light, we waited—poised for the sprint.

Then, behind me and to my left, I heard the unmistakable notes of the call to charge enthusiastically blown through a kazoo. A few riders and a few more surrounding pedestrians answered aloud: “CHARGE!”

The light changed. We charged.


I was riding because I hadn’t been and I’d lost something as a result. I hadn’t had a thought I’d find it, the something, but I’d hoped I’d find a piece, or a step toward, whatever it was. I’d pushed a little, but not a lot—there was more to push and less for pushing—and that’s how it’d gone for most of the ride. I was happy to be out there; I was reminded of what was absent.

Life had gotten the better of me for a while, more than I liked and more than one could easily admit. Amidst schedules and obligations and miscellany that, I’m learning, is just how it goes sometimes, I’d stopped riding. I’d forgotten how much riding meant, what it did.

At the bottom of a short descent that T’d into another quiet county road, a table and sign had been set up at the base of a tree. A flag hung above, swirling in the crosswind, just in front of an old hanging scale. I stopped at the intersection, smiled, and rode on. I thought about the sign—Rhubarb $2.00/lb—and the numerous stalks available along with a collection jar. I stopped and turned around.

I picked two stalks (a pound and a half, the scale told me) and snapped them in half. Around the bottom of the bunch, I wrapped the gilet I’d removed halfway through the ride. I stuffed the arrangement into my center back pocket, left a $5 bill, remounted my bike, and kicked off.

Immediately, the ride felt different. Better, as though the whole thing had supposed to be a grocery run and I’d fulfilled my task. I felt the tops of the stalks resting along my back, between my shoulder blades, shifting slightly with me as I pedaled. I smiled.


Couched Shadows


Turned on my side on the couch, my consciousness fading slightly, I watched the far wall where the shadows of branches shifted. I recognized a contentedness in my exhaustion. It hadn’t been a special ride—a common loop at an idle pace—but, for any number of reasons, it’d been a taxing one. The exhaustion told me I’d done something physically; the contentedness told me I’d done it well enough in some nonphysical measure. The shadows continued to drift on the far wall. I drifted into the fatigue.