Archives for posts with tag: biking

Today was an ideal day for biking to work: partly sunny, partly cloudy, teen temperatures, and only a slight breeze. So, perhaps this is a good day to post something I wrote 13 years ago about the worst day of biking to work I’ve ever had.

Yesterday was the absolute worst cycling commute to work I have had in seven years of living in BC! I have biked in various extreme conditions: torrential downpours, high winds, falling snow and icy streets but remind me never to set out when it is plus two with a mixture of snow and rain coming down on a layer of snow and rain already there. In the morning, as I looked outside into the wet and dreary darkness of the pre-dawn and began to whine about the conditions, my wife actually had the audacity to laugh at me for my cowardice. And so I consoled myself as I often do, “I guess it’s not that bad once I get out there; people in Winnipeg bike in a lot worse conditions.” So I set out with determination.

After about a kilometer of tenacious pedaling a colleague waved cheerfully as he passed me in his car. I gritted my teeth wishing I had asked for a ride. And then a few kilometers further as I turned a corner I wiped out because of the greasy ice that was forming underneath the slush. I picked myself up off the slimy pavement with luckily only my arm and my pride in pain. From then on I was on busier streets and each car that passed me mercilessly spewed forth a rich concoction of sand, salt, and slush in my direction. My Gortex suit is like armor but eventually even it surrendered to the barrage of slush that began oozing up and down my left side. My gears began to be clogged by the freezing slush so that my chain constantly slipped, turning my usual rhythmic pedaling into a vicious staccato. I was not happy. And to top it all off, the man at the bus stop who usually ignores me when I greet him upon passing, sneered visibly at my misery as I limped by.

In the past I have cycled in great self-righteousness. I am reducing green-house gasses and saving the planet and halting the ominous onslaught of global warming. In fact if all of us were biking we wouldn’t be having all this strange weather in the first place! I am stopping the war in Iraq because I am reducing our dependence on foreign oil imports. I am keeping my body in good health by getting an hour of cardiovascular exercise every day. I am saving ten dollars a day on fuel and the cost of another car and can instead spend that money on more worthy things like going on a family vacation or feeding the hungry. I am slowing down my life by becoming more in tune with my surroundings and my body and spirit. And on and on I could pontificate about the benefits of cycling to work (I did that in a previous post written five years after this particular day). All this did not matter yesterday morning as I cursed my own stupidity and stubbornness, my wife for laughing, my colleague for waving, each passing slush-spewing motorist, my bike for freezing up, the meteorologist who forecasted this mess and God who is ultimately to blame for everything.

The rain and snow turned to rain only by day’s end so I decided I would brave the commute home rather than bedding down in my office as I had initially surmised. After hearing about my ordeal, another colleague did feel great sympathy and offered me a ride home, but I refused just to prove to myself that it was an isolated experience. I could not let the elements defeat my high principles. If it was not for the world, I had to do it for myself at least!

The cycle home was wet but routine. My heart felt light after the heaviness of the morning. As I approached the intersection where I had wiped out in the morning I decided to symbolically spit on the very spot in victorious defiance of the elements. Just as I was about to launch a mighty “arch de triumph” toward the cursed street, a car rolled through the intersection oblivious to my presence in the midst of my sacred moment. Were it not for my blood-curdling yell and the straight arm tactic honed in the cow pasture football games of western Manitoba, that car would have made me the latest item on the menu of some Road-kill Café. When the poor woman driving the car came to from the shock of seeing my hand and open mouth so close to her windshield, she finally slammed on the brakes to avoid me by mere inches.

Oh the joys of cycling to work! This morning—with the previous day now a muddled memory—as I peered through the cracks of the Venetian louvers I was soothed by the predictable drizzle of a more typical west coast winter morning. Ahhh! The delectable beauty of this damp grayness unmatched by any clear prairie sunrise! I set out with new hope for a routine ride to work and I was not disappointed. Although climate change and the war in Iraq continue, at least my life of cycling to work was as it should be. The man at the bus stop did not even acknowledge my existence.

This semester has been a very full one for me. I’m teaching more hours per week and more students than ever before. Being introverted, my “relational quota” fills up fast anyway, but I’m feeling that I just don’t have enough energy for significant “face time” with students outside of class. I’m just not able to even know all 200 students in my classes by name, never mind remembering those I had last year whom I meet in the hallway! I hope they are understanding. I want to care about them all and show them all they matter greatly.

I think people can only handle so many significant relationships. At some point we reach our relational quota and we can’t invest like we would like to and some relationships will receive less energy than others. In my case, the first thing that goes is the people I do not see on a daily or weekly basis, i.e. blog readers. Thanks for your comments on my past few blogs. I wish I could converse with each comment but my face to face relationships will get my priority. [Although I am task oriented and I will reach my goal of 52 posts this year, even if it means they take the form of a confession!]

I had an epiphany moment this morning biking to work. Last Friday I biked home in the rain with some trepidation, having just learned of my sister being hit by a car as a pedestrian. Now she lies in hospital in critical condition probably because someone was in too much of a hurry. I don’t see her much as she lives 2000 miles away but she is family, a close relationship. It was “too close to home.” This morning I was battling a good headwind, but the sun was on my back and the fog was lifting as I prayed for my sister. Maybe if we were all biking or walking to work she’d be looking after a patient instead of being one. Biking or walking to work gets us more in touch with people and weather. I may complain about the weather in a few months but right now rain, shine or wind is all good. I’m thankful for life. I met Bill and his dog this morning [see earlier blog]. I think when we are in touch with the weather and with people we are also more in touch with God.

Bill was an army brat as a boy. He probably wasn’t raised to be an army brat; most boys whose fathers were in the army probably weren’t. Stereotypically they were raised with strict discipline, similar to preacher’s kids. Preacher’s kids and army kids are similar in a lot of ways besides being raised strict to keep up the image. They moved a lot. Their dads were gone a lot. Obviously this made an impact on who they became as adults.

Bill became a traveling salesman as an adult. I think he sold everything from Watkins and Fuller Brush to cars. All the stories kind of run together for me and rarely had much to do with what he sold. They were usually about the people on the way, and the adventures he had on the road. Now Bill is retired. He told me the other day that he has been married for 60 years but he really doesn’t look that old but maybe that is because he walks a few miles every day. The reason I wonder is because I wonder whether half of what he says is true. It doesn’t really matter. He loves to tell stories and I enjoy listening.

I’ve been meeting Bill almost every day for the past few years, ever since the new Discovery Trail opened up in Abbotsford. He walks his dog and I bike to work. At first I just biked by and waved or said, “mornin,” but after he noticed we were both regulars he flagged me down for a chat. I sometimes stop or if we are going in the same direction I pedal slowly while he walks and eventually we part with a, “have a good one!” or “teach those kids something today!” If the weather is bad or I’m a bit late I usually just wave and he yells something after me that I can’t understand. After a number of months I figured since we had shared information about the state of our bowels, surely we could also exchange names. This was of course accompanied by the standard hearty Canadian handshake.

Our conversations include the whole range: things are wives are doing, why his dog is scared of my bike, what a good dog he is, which part of his body is aching today, something about politics [often a rant against our present premier], how times have changed, the schools he went to, life on the prairies, life in BC, what’s happening at my work and in my family, what’s happening in his medical appointments, household adventures, and of course the major topic – the weather! The weather is not just small talk in Canada. It is our national religion. My apologies to hockey but if it wasn’t for the weather in Canada, hockey wouldn’t exist. We talk about that too. We also talk about religion since he knows I’m a professor at a Bible college. And he always apologizes when his language gets away on him. He cusses with the best of them! I suppose that comes with being a salesman, I don’t know.

I have not seen Bill for a few weeks now. Last week I had reading week so I worked from home. This week I’ve been on my regular schedule, yet have not seen him. This morning was a beautiful sunny spring morning. There is no weather-based reason he should not be out walking his dog. I have to confess I actually looked for him around every corner and was disappointed that I did not see him anywhere. I am a person of routine and so is he. If my routine is upset in the morning I often forget numerous things during the day. It was troubling to not meet him, but I think it might be more than the break in the routine. I’m beginning to care for him as a human being. I hope he is well. I hope is wife his well. I hope his dog is well. I want to tell him about my wife who has been on strike to give him more fodder for complaints against the premier! If he died I would want to go to his funeral and yet no one would know to contact me. These thoughts ran through my head. I realized that we have developed a real human connection.

I miss you Bill. I hope I see you tomorrow. Even though the forecast is for rain, I might stop anyway just to see how you are doing.