06 August 2016

What Makes Her Think She Can't?

After eating a tasty, thoroughly unhealthy, Original Stromboli--one of those foods you live on when you're a twenty-year-old student precisely because it's so tasty and unhealthy, in addition to filling and cheap--I managed to ju-u-ust miss a train back to New York. 

It was nearly dark by that time, and riding back would have meant pedaling another 40 kilometers or so (I'd already done about 120).  I didn't mind the distance, but the last part of that route would have taken me through desolate industrial and post-industrial areas near Newark-Liberty Airport.  

I seriously wonder whether the lights on the streets in those areas are turned off after trucks make their last deliveries--or disappear into one of the potholes in those streets.  Seriously, those craters can make the Ho Chih Minh trail seem like a magic carpet.  I've cycled those streets in the dark.  If some of my Catholic school education had stuck, I might've been fingering a rosary strand (what we used to call "worry beads").

Jackie Loza riding her bike
No, she's not me.  From San Diego Magazine

The time-table indicated that another train would arrive in bit more than half an hour.  I didn't want to wait that long, and I could've wandered around New Brunswick and discovered other old haunts that have been turned into sushi restaurants or ice cream parlors.  But I figured that doing so would cause me to miss another train.

So what to do?  Well, I knew that if I crossed the bridge over the Raritan and continued up Route 27--something I did many times in the old days--I probably could catch the next train a little further along the line.  

The next stop is Edison, a small station that the trains skip sometimes.  Besides, it wasn't very far:  I could make it in ten minutes without trying.  After that, there was Metuchen--"the Brainy Borough".  I knew I had plenty of time to get there and that, if I channeled the inner racer I never had, I could make it to Metro Park, the station after that.  Along the way, I'd burn off at least a little of the mozzerella cheese, cappicola, salami, peppers and onions stuffed into Italian bread dough (I told you it was unhealthy!)  I downed before missing the train in New Brunswick.

I played it safe, getting to Metuchen with about ten minutes to spare.  The train I boarded was nearly empty.  At the next station, a friendly black woman boarded and sat across from me.

She wanted to charge her smart phone.  I pointed to what looked like--turns out, what was--a port.  She admired my bike and asked where I'd been riding.

"You can actually ride a bike that far?" she wondered.

I assured her that it's not only possible, but that I've done even longer rides, and other people have done rides that were longer still.

"I couldn't make it around the block, let alone do what you did."

I explained that nobody rides that long on his or her first ride; you build yourself up to ever-increasing distances.  And, really, if you keep on riding, you don't even have to plan on building yourself up; it just happens as a matter of course.

She explained that she'd "have a hard time riding" because her legs were "shot" from years of playing racquetball.  I pointed out that if she has a bike with gears, she can shift to a lower gear and get as much exercise as she gets from racquetball or any other sport, without the stress on her knees.

"I don't know how you do it!" she marvelled.

I find it interesting that people who engage in all manner of athletic pursuits simply can't fathom the idea of riding a bike more than a few blocks.  Even long-distance runners I've talked to don't believe they can ride a bike as far, let alone further, than they run.

But the woman I met last night was even more astounding than any of them.  Not only was she a racquetball player, she is, from what she told me, an accomplished medical researcher.   I don't doubt it:  I mentioned that my sister-in-law is a microbiologist and she was familiar with, not only the kind of work she does, but the institute in which she conducts it.

I don't know about you, but I think that if I were involved in cutting-edge research and could play racquetball, I'd be pretty confident in my ability to do just about anything--including a bike ride!

We disembarked at Penn Station. ("Lead us not into Penn Station"?)  She was going to meet her boyfriend.  I wonder whether she told him about the crazy cyclist she met on the train, and whether he believed anyone would ride as much as I did. 


  1. Slow cyclists leave the faster runners behind within the first block. Gears beat feet every time! Somehow the runners I meet seem to not grasp that on a bike, they can get the same amount of exercise, but they'll get to see a whole lot more.

  2. Steve--I wonder why runners don't grasp that fact. Then again, I get the feeling runners don't run in order to see things along the way.