To ride is to be.

April 21, 2011

Lower Mainland

It had been a long day. I can’t begin to tell you how long, that is how long it felt. But now it is dark and there are only mere minutes before it’s over.

I pull in the driveway. The lumbering van grumbles, whines and roars all at once. It’s just about empty now.

The bike was sitting there as I left it. Lonesome, two wheeled implement, leaning on its kick stand like a cowboy in a door frame.

The air inside the van was warm, outside it wasn’t. This spring is just not bringing the happy warmth that we expect and want. The leaves refuse to come out and the blooms are shy and a month late. I step out of the van and walk towards the bike, remove the rain cover, and see a piece of paper on the seat. I had the lights of the truck illuminating the night, it was some outdoor house cleaning advert. Who would put that on a bike seat under the cover…

I click in the choke to the second setting, flip the engine switch, turn the key and the headlight and instruments come on. The clock says 10:21. I put the bike in neutral and push the starter. I now have two engines purring in the night.

I let the bike warm up and go to the van to retrieve my riding gear : balaclava, heated vest, leather jacket, rain pants to put over my jeans, and gore tex shell to finish that up. Thank God for that heated vest. I would have been frozen to death these last few weeks. I find the helmet with the gloves inside and proceed to put on all that gear.

I move the bike down the driveway and then park the van in its place, turn off the engine, the headlights and lock the doors. There is more to do with the van. The inside is littered with the leftovers from all the moving that has been going on. Empty boxes, plastic, pieces of sculpture stands, gum wrappers, wood, raw stones, blankets… Tomorrow. Tomorrow I’ll deal with that.

I stash the van keys in my bag. I have to be so mindful of where I put everything. My surroundings are changing daily so there are no automaticities that can take place. Losing one thing is a small disaster, like the day I could not find my balaclava. someone had misplaced it in the recycling bags at the house… I was out of my mind thinking how cold I was going to be without it…

I get on the bike. The rain pants are slippery on the seat. It’s cold. I plug in the vest. The night is dark and quiet. Get the gloves on. I roll off the gravel driveway unto the alley, the sound of crunching sharp edged gravel under the wheels. I slip a bit on the seat as I go down the curb, those pants… Nothing rides like leather.

I am so tired, my hands, arms, back… lifting, holding, pulling throwing, all the actions required to move. Today I moved hundreds of pounds of stone and I feel it now. I settle on the bike. Vibration, rhythm. I feel the cold seep in any and all opening or weakness of my clothing. For a moment I miss the van. The warmth, the thick comfy high seat, the relaxation it allows. the walls all around that can allow you to pretend that all is nice and cozy.

I get to a traffic light, it’s green, I proceed. The engine revs up. Beowulf rolls to life. I turn the corner and feel the sweet acceleration, the wind. I am alive. The cockpit of the bike is glowing from the light of the instruments, beacons in the night. I feel the tank against my thighs, the heat starting to come off the engine. We meld. Oh how I missed it. Yes. I am a complete addict. A complete bike addict.

The van now seems like this incredibly clumsy, slow, unyieldly machine. A sort of cute dinosaur.

Deep breath, the gears shift, I relax.

I cannot explain it. But I need it. I have to have it, that intensity, that immediacy, the power and the partnership.

I have to ride.

instruments in the dark

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