Mid-Life Cycling

Mid-Life Cycling

29 November 2015

The Last Sunday

Americans regard Labor Day as the unofficial end of summer.   If it is, perhaps today--Thanksgiving Sunday, or the last Sunday of November--is the unofficial end of fall or the  beginning of the Christmas season.

Today felt like the end of a season of some sort.  The ride I took today was more than pleasant; the skies cleared of yesterday's rain and the crispness one could feel in the air a couple of days ago has given way to a bracing nip.

I rode to Point Lookout, in part because I hadn't ridden there in a while, but also because I figured that, since my route wouldn't take me anywhere near the malls or any other retail "magnet", I wouldn't encounter much traffic.  

Turns out, I was right.  In fact, the streets of Atlantic and Long Beaches--the first two Nassau County towns I encounter after crossing the bridge from Queens--were deserted.  I sometimes encounter that on Saturdays or High Holy Days, as a large number of observant Jews live in the area.  But to encounter hardly a car, cyclist or pedestrian on a Sunday, even when it isn't beach season, is unusual, to say the least.  

I did, however, notice that the bars were full, and it didn't look like the patrons were "doing" brunch.  When I glanced into one of the windows, I saw the reason why:  Most of the patrons, it seemed, were gazing at football (American-style) matches on wide-screen TVs as they munched on chicken wings and quaffed brews.

In fact, the largest congregation of people I saw outdoors were standing on line at an ice cream stand, open for the last time until, probably, March. (A handlettered sign read, "See you in the Spring!:)  Even the sorts of people one encounters along the beaches and Point Lookout in the Fall and Winter--bird watchers, philosophers and poets manques, fisher-men and -women--were gone, with a few exceptions:

It almost seemed as if the tide would have stayed out as long as that man and his dog trotted on the sandbar.  I wonder if these souls felt the same way:

Today I rode alone, by choice.  In other years, I have ridden on the last Sunday in November with people with whom I never rode--or even never saw--again.  Whether or not I continued to ride during the winter (I did in most years, though usually not as much as I rode during the other seasons), I wouldn't see them.   By the time the next cycling season began--in February or March or April, depending on that year's weather--they were gone, to new schools, new jobs, new towns (or even states or countries), new lives.

The mild weather we've enjoyed in this part of the world this fall may well continue through the next few months, and I may not cycle much less than I have ridden during the past few weeks.  Or we may be snow- and ice-bound, as we were for several weeks last winter, and ride very little.  Or there might be some other change in my life, for better or worse, that affects or doesn't affect how much I ride between now and the time lilacs and cherry blossoms start opening themselves to the furtive early-spring sun.

Whatever happens, today, like every last Sunday in November I recall, feels like the unofficial end of cycling season.  Any ride I take after today, and before the beginning of Spring or the new cycling season, will seem like an interlude rather than a normal part of the cycle. 

Somehow it seems fitting that I rode Arielle, my Mercian Audax.  Out of all of my bikes, she seems to most embody the spirit of my riding.  If I could only take one more ride, I'd choose her.  I doubt that today's trek will be my last before Spring.  Still, Arielle seems to be the right bike to ride at the end of the season.

(There isn't much to lean a bike against at Point Lookout!)

28 November 2015

We're Not All Surly Scofflaws

When Donald Trump said that Mexico was sending rapists to this country, many people rightly expressed outrage.

Likewise, there would be plenty of righteous umbrage expressed if African-Americans were portrayed as gangsters,  "welfare queens" or even basketball players, just as we would not tolerate a broad-brushed characterization of Jews as money-hungry.

However, I've noticed that--at least here in New York--many people, including news anchors, think it's perfectly all right to characterize all cyclists as surly scofflaws.  I wish I'd recorded the segment in which an announcer on a local all-news station--the one to which most NYC taxi drivers listen--said that cyclists "never" obey the traffic law and that a proposed law would ensure that we do.

By Andreas Kambanis

Granted, there are cyclists who blow through red lights and sideswipe pedestrians and others. I don't have any statistics, but I know they don't constitute "all" cyclists, any more than the attacks in Paris or the World Trade Center are proof that "all" Muslims or Arabs, or people from the Middle East or North Africa, are terrorists.

What people forget is in painting all members of a group with a broad brush, they are further alienating themselves from that group, just as they are alienating members of that group from themselves.  That, in turn, causes some members of the group--whether they're Muslims or black teenagers or cyclists or whatever--to believe that, no matter how well they behave, they are lumped in with the worst members of their group.  So, they figure, there is no point in changing their ways--or they, out of anger, become even bolder or more brazen in their antisocial behavior.

What I heard yesterday on 1010 WINS is not an isolated example, and it is not part of a new trend.  About twenty years ago, a certain local television reporter staged an incident in which he, while crossing a street, was knocked down by a "cyclist".  (I put "cyclist" in quotation marks because, as the incident was fake, I have to wonder whether the person on the bike was actually a cyclist.  Perhaps he was just playing one on TV.)  As we were even more of a minority than we are now, there was even less outcry than there has been over more recent examples of anti-cycling bias.  Then again, the story had a shorter "shelf life" than today's anti-biker screeds.

So, I urge cyclists to be on the lookout for more examples of anti-bike bias in the meida, and to call the television and radio stations, news-papers and -sites, and other media outlets on it.  At the same time, I appeal to my fellow riders to be considerate of pedestrians, especially those who are elderly and disabled--and to obey traffic signs and signals.  After all, cyclists in Montreal and Paris do it, and it doesn't seem to slow them down.

27 November 2015

Thanksgiving Post-Prandial

I am sure that the ride I took yesterday didn't burn off nearly as many calories as I consumed during Thanksgiving dinner.   I suppose most people could say that the bike ride, walk, run, swim, skate or whatever they took (if, indeed, they took any of those) after their holiday repasts could say  .the same.  

Anyway, yesterday was a lovely day all the way around, from the beginning.  As I left to go to my friends' place, I was greeted by this:

The window is in a building two doors down from where I live.  I had seen the cat once before; if I do say so myself, she knows she's looking at a friend when she sees me.  Were there not a screen (as there was yesterday) or windowpane between us, I'd be stroking and possibly feeding her.  I'm sure she knows that.

What's striking about that cat is that her body is white and she has patches of colors on her head and rear--a reversal of what one normally sees. (Both of my cats have colorful bodies and patches of white.)  One of these days, I'll ask her human how he or she found her.

After spending the afternoon with food and friends (possibly in that order), I snuck out for a ride before dessert.  I tried to capture, on my cell phone, a tree in near-perfect late-fall sunset hue arched over a street.  What I got instead was the beginning of the sunset.  Oh well.

From there, I rambled over to the Worlds' Fair Marina prominade, which rims Flushing Bay from LaGuardia Airport to the Flushing Bridge, a span that provides some of the most necropolitic vistas in this city. Just east of the airport, I chanced upon this schizophrenic scene:

Then I went back for dessert, which added even more calories than I burned off.  But, hey, it was Thanksgiving.  And the food and company were great.

After that, I rode to visit a friend and co-worker in the hospital.  He's in a coronary care unit, where eating isn't allowed, so I couldn't bring any of the food I'd shared with my friends.  It was sad, but it showed me a few things for which I'm thankful. 

P.S. No Black Friday for me!