dreaming in the shadows of the Sleeping Maiden

Mt. Tamalpais, August 2, 2012

Mt. Tam glimpsed from Sir Francis Drake Blvd. near the Larkspur Ferry Terminal

Once again, the mountain out of focus, dwarfed in the haze, its ridges in a blur. This time the view of the blur is from the saddle of my bike. It’s the road ahead that happens to be shining brightly in my focus.

I started with good intentions. Loaded a training workout on my Garmin. There was going to be a 3-mile lap in Zone 2, which meant that my heart rate could not go up beyond a certain point … which meant that I couldn’t get carried away with the jolt of endorphins released by bursts of speed or going against the wind or climbing the little steep hill at one end of my training loop that goes from S. Eliseo by the path along the Corte Madera Creek, under US 101, around the parking lot of the Larkspur Ferry Terminal, back on the path and all the way to the end of it, which is a short hop away from San Quentin prison, but a hop that one must cycle in scary traffic.

As I pedaled on, I heeded the beeps from the Garmin warning me the times my heart beat out of the range it was given. I was incredibly bored going that slowly, even as I cranked up my cadence. I was waiting for the next segment to kick in, which I thought I programmed at a more strenuous working pace, but the beep never came. So I moved on to another training program that had me keep my heart rate higher for 10 minutes. Now that was more like it…

I was so busy looking at the numbers, fussing with the Garmin, worrying about segments, laps, and loops, that I completely lost sight not just of the mountain, which, by the way, didn’t ever lose sight of me, that I forgot why I was out on the bike in the first place.

And so I ended up riding for nearly another hour, back and forth along the creek, drinking deeply of the air studded with motes of light. Through the sunlit haze, I saw other cyclists with whom I exchanged smiles. I saw, or rather, noticed, a couple of fathers out with their toddlers.  Some of the fathers were dressed still in their business clothes, but there was nothing formal in their delight at engaging their children in games along the path. I saw, or, again, I noticed the big beefy guys with their little dogs, the tender ways in which they were trying to cajole the pups into playing. And I saw the couple sitting on a bench by the water, or rather, the woman sitting on the bench, and her companion in his wheelchair. Their happiness was indelibly bright on their faces. And I also saw the guy with the matted beard and disheveled hair, wearing what looked like blue hospital clothes, ambling up to the fences of the houses along the path, busy muttering to himself and peeing at one of the gates. Further down the road I saw teenagers washing down the sculls at the boathouse of Marin Rowing Association. Earlier, I saw them out on the water, catching momentum, perhaps in the wake of fast waters from the ferry.

There was so much to see, so much to take in, that there was no way I could keep my heart rate steady in any pre-set zone…