Today was a typical Saturday: sleeping in a bit, some coffee, brunch, time in prayer, and then off to my "office," if you will--a church across town. It's about 4 miles, depending on my route. It begins with a lot of downhill (meaning uphill for the return, of course), and then a leisurely traversal of our city's core.
This time of year, it also means rain and leaves. When dry and crunchy, leaves present some of the ultimate cycling pleasure... what is it about tossing up a billow of leaves and hearing them under one's tires that makes for such enjoyment?
But, when wet and ground into a kind of paste, they make for some nasty, slip-prone cycling. One of my favorite streets in town this time of year is an amazing display of green-going-to-yellow; riding under it is almost mesmerizing. But now it is becoming dangerous, forcing me out from where the bike lane would be (if there were one) into the jealously-guarded lane of auto-traffic.
The city's street-cleaning protocol does not seem to take cyclists into account here, as leaves tend to be allowed to stack up and become enormous soggy heaps for long periods between pick-ups. Sadly, this is one of the best cross-town streets here for slower cycling. So, I'm taking a different bike route while the leaves are on the road... I'll miss this street, though.
This brings up for me a long-standing question: why is it assumed that cyclists want to travel on the busiest roads? So many bike lanes are just where I wouldn't want to go: next to major arteries with lots of trucks, noise, and distractions.
That aside, it was a pleasant-enough day for a ride--if you had rain gear!
When the day's activities were done, the sun was close to going down. The rain was light, but steady. I had on my rather bright yellow raincoat and some new rain pants. The splash of the raindrops always catches one at first, but then I settled into the pleasant rhythm of my leaf-litter-avoiding route home.
When I come home in the rain on my bike, the house always seems extra cozy, extra wonderful. In so many ways, moving from a car to a bike changes one's perspective and fosters a more direct encounter with life. In addition to slowing down life to a more sane pace, it also fosters gratitude--like the gratitude one feels for a warm, dry house after a mid-fall ride in the rain. Feeling that kind of thankfulness for the things more automated life tends to take for granted is a real gift, and something I think we need more of if we are going to get healthier and care more for each other, our communities, and our environment.
How does your November riding experience encourage gratitude? Or, have you put your "steel steed" away for the season? If so, perhaps you might want to think again.