Wednesday, May 13, 2015

ode to the commuter

to see one riding on her way
across the asphalt road
with bags attached and fenders strong
legs afire, this transporting mode

keeps air more clean and particle-free
and works his muscles well
chain marks on his calf, or narrow pant
are often the cycling tell

panniers on the rear, one left, one right
carry her work, her clothes
while she wears helmet, glasses, gloves and coat
and covers to protect her toes

he rides with caution and with ease
the streets he knows by heart
snow and rain and wind and hail
he from his bicycle won't part

I ride behind her fully at peace
I trust her every decision
her movements are so smooth I am
captured by the vigilance and precision

I am not nearly so strong and true
as to daily ride my way around town
I admire the commuter, each her, each him,
my highest respect and regard are theirs, hands down.

yesterday was SLC's Mayor's Bike to Work day, with mayor ralph becker and county mayor ben mcadams.
a hundred or so cyclists showed up at the starting point, and moseyed through bike paths and city streets to the city-county building downtown.
I've never felt so confident riding behind cyclists:  these commuters are steady, vigilant, smart, and wise.  thus the ode. (which proves why I am not a poet!)

hats off to every commuter, everywhere ~  hats off, and helmets on.

Saturday, May 9, 2015

nine dollars

The road up Big Mountain, gated during winter months, offers surprise and delight each spring. Receding snow pulls back inch by inch, revealing moose and deer scat, red rock gravel tumbled down from hillsides, new cracks and frost heaves. A bolt from a snowmobile, a mangled and misshapen glove, a ski pole basket. Familiar landmarks, and the intangible but certain promise of new growth.

While the road is still closed to motor traffic, intrepid cyclists ford fingers of snow and ice to reach bare asphalt and continue their upward journeys. This year the plow came early, shoving aside, during the first week of March, what little snow remained. On a bright April day the road, though free of snow, is not free of gravel and rocks and red dust, nor the rare but deadly shard that pokes up and into unfortunate bicycle tires.

I felt it, argued against it, doubted myself, convinced myself it was true, and finally, braked to a slow stop. The rear tire—of course—the one with the complicated derailleur to navigate as I take the wheel off and endeavor to put it back on. The chain goes under this one—no, over—no, this way around the cassette . . .

Biking Buddy Bob played the hero role, removing my tire, stripping the deflated tube, then checking for the culprit, the minuscule piece of glass, rock, metal I had run over. Nothing. I handed him the new tube, the cartridge in its dispenser. Five minutes, maybe a few more, and we were again pedaling, heading down toward the reservoir, Little Mountain summit, home.

I ride thousands of miles, outside, each year. I bicycle our Wasatch canyons regularly, grunting and sweating as I climb, grinning like a fool as I descend. I clean my chain, wash my bike, re-lube. I keep a spare tube and cartridge and sunscreen in my tiny seat pack. Ten bucks and an expired driver license in my front bento box. And I get a flat tire perhaps two or three times a year. Tube, seven dollars. Cartridge, two dollars.

Each spring I participate in the greening of our world. Trees sprout buds, gray-brown trunks and limbs flecked with pale green hope. Red twig dogwood deepens in color, thickens. The shoots of winter-dormant plants green the hillsides, creeping their way up the canyon, each week another few hundred feet higher. Trees then burst into leaf and blossom, bird’s nests once again veiled by fluttering leaves. I tuck behind Biking Buddy Bob’s wheel and float down the canyon.

I pedal as summer heats the earth, as brilliant yellow arrowleaf balsamroot dies, cracks break apart earth, the creeks quiet and laze downhill. Crisp morning air, hot midday sun, sweat, dirt, grime, brownies at Brighton, a PayDay at the East Canyon Resort store. Sunflowers burst, their heliotropic heads following daylight east to west. When they, too, die, stalks thin and dry, and temperatures drop, the world again changes in front of my wheels, and I pedal up the canyon and skirt lumps of snow pushed against the berm. More layers, toe covers, pink cheeks, the thrill of a hot shower back home. The gate at the base of Big Mountain is once again locked. Snow falls, then melts.

Tube, seven dollars. Cartridge, two.

Thursday, May 7, 2015


stormclouds are hovering over the salt lake basin, sitting on our mountain peaks. they swirl, whisking away, returning, then tumbling down and releasing themselves, sometimes torrentially, sometimes as widely scattered sprinkles. they've been here for days and days.

they release rain in the afternoon, during the night, in the middle of the day.

I went to bed last night convinced that the night rain would stop sometime in the deep, black, early hours. my cycling clothes sat in a pile in the bathroom, and I'd pumped up my tires and checked my lights before I closed up for the night. alarm set for 4:45, I was going to have an early morning ride in between storms.
when I opened the garage door I looked at my driveway, noticing the damp cement that was beginning to dry, but also noticing hundreds of little dark spots that looked suspiciously like raindrops. I looked up, there was the almost-full moon, just a few thin clouds passing nearby.
clouds hung more thickly over the canyon.
well, hell, I was dressed, ready to go, what's a little rain?

it only sprinkled on me during the first mile, and for a few miles in the middle of my ride and I learned, many years ago, that I do not melt.
the pavement, however, was damp in the good spots, and plain old wet most everywhere else.
when I first spotted one, I thought it was a twig.
the second one was not a twig.
ten inches long, glowing with the reflection of my headlight, its tumid body slick with rain.

legless wildlife?
another one. eight inches.
another one, six or seven inches, then a big long twelve-incher.  little five inchers.
I've heard that when you cut an earthworm into two pieces, each will grow into a unique body again. (apparently it depends upon where it is amputated -- the worm can possibly grow a new head or a new tail, or become two worms, or just die.)
I'm guessing that when I run over an earthworm, I'm probably cutting it into two pieces, and occasionally, cutting it in the exact right spot.
does this mean I'm increasing the earthworm population?

near the bottom of the canyon, on my way homeward, movement off to my right caught my attention. a deer, no, three deer. a fawn, two doe, grazing the hillside.

I prefer my wildlife to have legs.