Cycling Diary #1

So, I’m almost done reading David Byrne’s, Bicycle Diaries, and (though I have mixed feelings about the book) it has got me thinking about all the things I see and think while on the road. Though my posts about cycling may seem like nothing more than pointless ramblings (who am I kidding, this could be a description for much of my writing), I’d like to think that my time on the bike provides perspective in two ways. First, as Byrne has reminded me, one gains a unique view on the world when seeing it from a bike. Secondly, the gift of time on a bike provides much time for reflection.

Yesterday, I got on the train with my buddy Juan and headed for San Juan Capistrano with the intention of riding 70+ miles back to San Diego. Our train was set to leave at 8:10 and, due to a broken down train in front of us, by 8:45 we had made it about 8 miles up the coast. A train ride that should have taken just over an hour took well over two. We would inch forward for a few miles and then stop. It was a sick cycle and we soon were joking we could have ridden our bikes north and beaten the train. Fortunately we had all day, so our frustration was insignificant compared to the people who actually had to be somewhere. We heard many complaints and I couldn’t help but think of how many people in other parts of the world use trains for their primary form of transportation. Why is mass transit so poor in Southern California? Why are we so obsessed with cars?

The biggest surprise of the train trip was seeing a buck (male deer for all of you who never drive east of the 5 or north of L.A.) in a canyon in Sorrento Valley. I have seen deer crossing signs around Torrey Pines State Park, have always laughed at them and never thought that they were actually valid. I think we saw one of the five that actually still live in San Diego, but lets continue to develop overly developed land, build more freeways and sell more cars…

As we got closer to our destination, all of the fuel I had consumed for the upcoming ride began to take its natural movement, but it’s okay Juan convinced me we’d be there soon so I should wait to use the restroom until we stop. After all, I might get stuck in the head while at the train station in San Juan and be forced to ride 100+ miles instead of just 70. Let’s just say that I learned that the only thing worse than having to go to the bathroom while in public is having to do so while wearing a cycling bib. At least I walked into the restaurant wearing my helmet. Protection is a must in uncharted territory.

After close to three hours we were finally on the road, so we thought. I had a flat, already. After another ten minutes we were on our way. Juan thought he knew our route, and to his credit he had mapped it out on mapmyride.com. But mapmyride didn’t tell us that there was construction and that the bike path was torn into a mix of gravel and ragged rubble. Two miles, less than ten minutes later, PSHHHHHHHHHH, another flat. Juan’s bike this time. We pulled off the road, I went and scouted out the route while he began to repair his tire. Unfortunately his flat, wasn’t so simple. A rock had put a hole in his tire about an inch long. Our quick 70 miles quickly became tour de suck. Juan did his best impression of Macgyver, stuffed a dollar bill in the tire around the hole and, 7 miles later, we found a bike shop. Finally tire was fixed, now, NOW we would be on our way.

For the most part the rest of our ride went rather smoothly. Other than getting a bit lost, it was relatively uneventful. We took turns pulling, met up with a few others who hopped on and we were flying. It was a fairly fast paced ride and my legs are feeling it today.

The contrast between riding through San Onofre & Camp Pendaleton and through the more crowded areas (San Clemente, Oceanside, Del Mar, etc.) was fascinating. On my bike I often find myself observing how it seems that the simple act of driving a car makes people think that they are the most important person in the world. Honking horns, running stop signs and just having the general sense that the direction they are going is more important than where the other is headed (I am just as guilty of this as the next person…). Its as if the car is an amplifier for the human condition of self-centeredness. I’d like to think that my time on the bike has helped me to be more aware of this, but then again I still find myself yelling at cars who nearly hit me almost every time I’m on the road (as if one of us owns it or something). I think things like, “stay out of the bike lane and I’ll stay out of the car lane!” or “don’t these drivers know, as a cyclist, I have the same rights as they do?” (read up on it, it’s true). Truth be told, we all need to calm down, recognize and respect those with whom we share the road.