Sunday, January 26, 2014

37.2823

Or, a cyclist rolling over sixty years and many thousands of miles.

No lenses were cracked in the taking of this photo.
 Perpetual pen pal Patrick O'Grady asked if I would ride my age in miles this weekend, given that I just rolled over 60. Given the short, cold days and my own laziness, I decided to ride it in kilometers instead, pushing around the Bandelier Loop with a loop through Pajarito Acres to get the miles over 60 metric clicks today (add that to 15 cold miles yesterday). Hence the title of this post.

Seems rather anticlimactic. Several of the folks over at the Mad Dog Pickle Barrel are far ahead of me. Since we are all cyclists, age is more of a gentle reminder that the other shore is coming up rather than a debilitating fact of looming infirmity. Andy, Steve, Larry, both Patricks, and Veloben are all either in the pack or in some cases, off the front, as is Patrick O'Brien, or Maynard Hershon, who at 72, looks like he is ready for a double century and a motorcycle trip.
2012 Biker Rally, State Capitol, Santa Fe
I rode down on the K1100RS

So in addition to the usual egocentric and narcissistic reasons we bloggers blog, this post is to remind cyclists and non-cyclists alike that those dollars and miles are not spent in vain. They are spent in the Local Bike Shop and out on the road or trail, and are good insurance at keeping us healthy, happy, and fit for a lot longer than if we were only riding the Lazy Boy and railing at losing football teams instead. I guess you can even put that newfangled LANL pedometer on your ankle and get credit for cadence as well as steps.  That's good.
My very first bike.
That's my kid brother Steve learning to ride it,
assisted by our dad. Couldn't find a pic of me on it.

Cycling is nothing new to me, but I had the usual layoff upon reaching 18 and converting to The Church of Internal Combustion. I rode the wheels off my Sears single speed bike as a kid and teen. Like most, that bike got banished to the garage ceiling of my parent's house as soon as I could afford something motorized. In my case, a Honda CB-450 motorcycle. Later it was augmented by a 1969 Ford Mustang that my parents traded me for a bottle of wine and a dozen donuts, as the car was a rustbucket held together with duct tape and prayers. The straight six and 3 speed manual transmission, though, were strong and sound. Those two buggies got me through undergrad school.

My second bike. Early-mid sixties.
Sears Crusader with the "gas tank" and built in headlight
Web photo. Shit, we could never afford a 911.

The 1979 gas crisis found me and my first wife, Robin, on Long Island during the odd-even days. I had just started riding again in '79 on a  borrowed bike. For the usual reasons of health (I was, shall we say, getting pudgy), convenience, and finances, it made sense to get bicycles to commute to the SUNY campus at Stony Brook, so we bought a Motobecane Mirage and a Peugeot UO-8 at a local bike shop, J&B Cycles in East Setauket. I had my Motobecane a week or two and was promptly launched over a car driven by a motorist who was making a sudden U-turn, as a fellow motorist in a gas line stalled his own car and a gap opened. Waking up as the ambulance arrived, I joined the legions of cyclists who have been indoctrinated into The Friends of Mr. Pavement. There is a picture taken of me glumly sitting at the kitchen table a couple days later with black eyes, a broken nose, stitches in my forehead, and contemplating the increasingly intense bouts of the dry heaves I was getting from the concussion. Thankfully, I can't find that photo.

Unlike many who decide after a bad crash that cycling is too dangerous, I kept riding, occasionally kicking myself for not handling that crash better, given my years on motorcycles, both road and dirt bikes. Lesson learned. Plus, riding was fun. Riding out to the east end of Long Island and back helped me get through the breakup with Robin and focus on self-improvement and finishing up graduate studies. In 1985, I got my first road racing bike, the original black Cannondale aluminum boneshaker, an SR300, to go with the reconstructed Motobecane commuter that had the decal of the VW Bug embossed on it from that '79 crash.

Road from Amsterdam to Den Hagg, 1986
Motobecane Mirage lived a long life after dueling with the Volkswagen Bug
Moving to Honolulu in 1987 to take a job in the Geology Dept. of the U of Hawaii, I started riding organized centuries and kept commuting. A short stint with a race team demonstrated that when the road tilted up or someone jumped, I was left wondering what happened. Hence advocacy. The Honolulu Bike Plan (1999 version) and Los Alamos Bike Plan and Complete Streets Policy documents are in the win column. Plus, the Santa Fe, TORGV, and Red River Century rides are as good as they get.

Its been a long and interesting road. Hopefully, it will go on for a while. Age does have its issues. A bad back from a 2005 disk herniation has me in a more upright posture on the road bikes and had me retire the hardtail for a double boinger. There is perhaps less endurance (or more laziness) than in times past. Recovery is longer, but the blood pressure and rest pulse are quite good. The wheels keep on turning. I feel great.

President of the Hawaii Bicycling League, ~1998. Haleiwa Metric Century

Hana Highway Trip, Maui. 1999

With Meena out for a tandem ride, late '90's



Bike to Work Day, LANL, 2006


With LAPD Capt. Randy Foster working on bike safety, 2012. LA Daily Post File Photo.

Holy Smokes. Where did the time go?

11 comments:

Steve A said...

Thanks for the retrospective.

Maynard said...

Let's ride some miles together in 2014, Khal! Thanks for the kind mention and the perfectly expressed sense of time passing under your wheels.

Khal said...

Thanks, Maynard. Was good to see you and I'll definitely take you up on that offer.

Khal

Anonymous said...

Happy Birthday again, Khal.

Whenever a friend of mine would be asked "What are you training for?", he'd always reply "Old age".

You still have a standing invitation to head half a state north to join me in Grand Junction for a ride over the Monument. We can ride bikes and talk geology.

John in GJ

Chandra said...

Khal,
Loved this post, especially because it was so well written; walking us through memory lane.

You are absolutely right: Based on all the possible 'complications' of a Porsche, one can not afford it :)

Peace and Many More Happy Miles to you.

PS. Meena - Such a pretty name; derived, quite possibly, from the Tamil word, Meen (pronounced just like 'mean'), which means fish, in Tamil.

Anonymous said...

Seems you came to Long Island just after I moved out for the second and last time.

"Since we are all cyclists, age is more of a gentle reminder that the other shore is coming up rather than a debilitating fact of looming infirmity." Nice line that. will have to put it to work around here some day. And thank you for the kind mention above.

Be Well,

Veloben

Patrick O'Grady said...

Well done, sir. I'm right behind you. Look for the portly, slobbering Mick filling your rear-view mirror.

Ian Brett Cooper said...

Hey Khal, if you were in Holland on your Motobecane Mirage in 1986, we must have crossed paths. I was riding my Motobecane Super Mirage around Holland that summer.

Small world (though I guess not quite small enough, since we didn't actually meet).

Khal said...

Ian, I was in Amsterdam on the week of the Summer Solstice in '86, in order to interview for a job at a university in Amsterdam. Then I rode to the coast and took the ferry to UK and rode to Cambridge for a conference at Cambridge Univ. Then back to Amsterdam. It was the time of my life, but unfortunately (or fortunately, perhaps--one never knows), they hired the other guy who they flew out.

Jimbo said...

Happy belated birthday, you crazy old bastard!

Reid said...

When I lived in Minneapolis a few years ago and was in the road biking club, there were several guys in their 70s who would, each Sunday in the summer, ride the 5am double century and then spend the rest of the day on other club rides.