5:30. It's been a rough day. Classes went fine, but the meeting was long and
frustrating, the software wasn't working right, the machine shop still isn't done with my
parts, the two transfer students took a lot of time, and I didn't get the grading done for
tomorrow. That means two textbooks and the papers have to go home with me. A heavy
Hmm. At least there's a tailwind, according to the flags on the downtown buildings. I
pin my pants legs, start the stopwatch on my cyclometer, and head south. Here's the rule:
If I get the first few traffic lights red, I get to take it easy, but if they're green, I
try to get home fast.
Watch that car turning left. OK, I made it through that light. Look back, merge left,
then left again into the turn lane. If I catch a red light, I usually count how many
seconds it stops me... but there's my left turn arrow. Go... and soon, the first downhill.
But the next light's red, and I hit the brakes - rats, the really long light
before the bridge is already green! If this one weren't ... but now it's green too!
Upshift, stand up, pedal, pedal... made it to the bridge on the yellow! I glance down, and
I'm doing 20 mph on the bridge uphill, still carrying my momentum! 17, 16, 15, blast it,
this used to be easier - then I crest the top and sweep down the other side of the bridge.
Exit ramp to the right, nobody to yield to, and tuck in down the steep corkscrew hill,
looking for the next light.
I wish they'd trim that tree, I can never see the light until... red! Oh well, it
doesn't matter much, because I almost always catch this one or the next one. Slow to a
stop... no, now it's green! Rats, I didn't finish my downshift - no matter, the next one's
red. 10 mph to kill time until...come on, come on...
Green! I'm in my best starting gear and I've still got a little momentum. I'm across
the intersection before the next three cars even get started. Wow, I can't believe how
good I did on the lights! And the flag is out to honor the tailwind... upshift, tuck down
low, keep your head down, keep your elbows in...
25 miles per hour! Nice tailwind! I've got to be careful, there's a heck of a hill
coming up... try to breathe deep, use all your lungs, but save some energy. Spin! Pedal
round, don't push, save some energy...
A car full of teenagers yells something... don't bother me kids, I'm working here ...
but the kid in back is grinning, and he gives me a thumbs up. I'd love to draft, but
they're pulling away. Stay low.. hop the railroad tracks, look for the smoothest path
through the bumps on the other side...
... and the five way light is green too. Amazing! Watch for crazies from all the lanes,
stand up for the rise, and signal the right turn. It's hill time.
I've got momentum. I can do this. I can run the middle gear if I stand. 16 mph. Damn, I
wish I didn't have those textbooks! Damn, I wish I didn't weigh the extra 10 pounds. Damn,
I wish this hill weren't so steep... 15 mph... 14.5 mph... keep standing... my thighs
hurt... my lungs hurt... just to the telephone pole... breathe deep... I'm NOT letting it
get below 14 mph... my thighs hurt... three cars pass... watch the potholes... Rats, I've
got to sit down...
Turn right, into the residential street... not so steep, upshift... what do those
little kids on the porch think? Can they hear the freight train puffing uphill? breathe
deep... my side hurts...
Bend right, and it gets steep again... oh, shoot, the light's green up ahead! That
means it'll be red when I get there. That's it, I'm backing off! My side's hurting
anyway... downshift, 14 mph. 12 mph. Downshift again, 10 mph. And stop and count the
seconds until it's green. The lady in the car next to me peeks at me suspiciously out of
the corner of her eye. I'm still puffing...
Here it comes... cross street's red... wait for it... go! I lost 25 seconds at the
light, but my tailwind's still here. Too bad my legs are gone, I just can't push. Come on,
spin, tuck down, you've got a good time going. Watch that car - will the lady see me?
She's got the stop sign, move left so I'm visible... she stopped, tuck back down... my
legs are limp... spin, spin!
Take the narrow lane... keep back buddy, there's no room for passing... finally, the
first four-way, the last of the uphill. Car on my right, he's got the right of way, but
he's not sure, so I flag him through, come on, come on, come on! Microsecond track stand,
and repeat at the next stop sign.
And it's flat again and wide again. My legs are mostly rubber... I can't push, gotta
spin, get way down low, ah look at that flag! Tailwind... 20 mph... 22 mph... oh, my
Last light, time it right, count the red... it'll be green in three seconds, two
seconds, one second, green! and I roll through and tuck in again... there are two kids on
bikes, they want to race, I hope they're smart enough to stay right. Whoosh! Maybe next
Stop sign, another stop sign, how short can a stop be and be legal? Now watch the bike
path... it's usually empty, but oops... "Excuse me", keep it slower, don't scare
them, catch my breath... traffic's clear, cross the road, watch the gravel, right turn
through the parking lot, watch for cars... man my side hurts, man, I wish I were in better
Onto the four-lane, merge to the left turn lane, got it! Sprint into our street... and
signal right, into the driveway, and get the stopwatch, and stop!
"Hi, Dad. How was your ride?"
"Great! 24 minutes! I love tailwinds!"