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dreaming in the shadows of the Sleeping Maiden

Mt. Tamalpais, October 2012

Mt. Tam glimpsed barely – as a small triangular peak – from the parking lot of the Fairfax Library

Had to go for a bike ride today. With rain, and lots of it, in the forecast, I wanted to get in a challenge on wheels that would get those endorphins in high enough gear to last me through the gloomy skies on the horizon. Not that the endorphins as such will last, but the memory of the ride could help light up some dulled spots in the neural network.

I decided to go climb a bit on the bike. The route (toward Camp Tamarancho) I had in mind is for mountain bikers. I ride a hybrid, neither a mountain bike, nor a road bike. Best and worst of both. Chose this type of bike six months ago, when I started riding, because I wasn’t sure what kind of rider I would turn out to be. Turns out I prefer roads, though I haven’t really tried mountain biking in the proper sense.

Anyway, I decided to climb just long enough on this particular road to reach the end of the paved area. I already tried to climb this road, the paved part of it, a few days ago, making it only half way up before I ran out of breath and leg power.  When I started to climb today and shifted, a little too late, the chain wouldn’t catch, so I went back to the bottom and tried again. Once I fixed the chain problem and headed back up, I found myself barely making progress, as if stuck in a vat of molasses. I wondered if I should give up, since I had no “face” to lose. I was alone, after all. But that’s just it, as I was alone, I realized, there was no shame in trying again. What was there to lose?

So down I went again, this time making a short side trip, building up some speed, and heading back up the hill. Several mountain bikers whizzed past me on their way down, and one passed me on the way up, giving me the broadest smile of encouragement. And so I kept pedaling and turning with the winding road, deciding not to worry about the descent, and just taking each turn of the pedal one at a time. And sure enough, and soon enough, I came to the spot that was, apparently not that far from where the dirt road starts. There I stopped for a short rest and some water. As I sat there, more mountain bikers were descending, among them, I realized, a friend, Celia Graterol. This was my first experience of running into friends while biking. Another rush of sorts.

The came the descent. And it was fun – and gripless; that is, I wasn’t clutching the handlebars as if my knuckles had the sole responsibility of getting me down safely. In fact, the descent was fun, like skiing used to be. And so in the rush of my small accomplishment of the climb and descent, I kept on riding with a little more wind in the wings of my pedaling feet.

Took a little detour on the way home to another area that is a gateway for mountain bikers. There, making the turn in the parking lot, I found myself behind a road cyclist on a very fancy road bike. He was not young, maybe even older than me. He was dressed in Spandex that was color-coordinated with his bike and helmet. And he was going fast. But, for some reason, maybe because of my super-charged endorphins, he wasn’t going fast enough for me. So I passed him. I don’t think he liked that. At the next small roller of a hill, he was on my tail, then next to me. “Good job,” he said to me, then took off, dropping me.

For the rest of my ride through Ross and Kentfield, and on to Larkspur, he was in sight, but impossible to catch, even as I shifted this way and that, spinning, coaxing more power from my legs, doing all sorts of tricks, trying to catch up with him, all the while minding traffic. I’ll never know if he was really mad that I passed him, or if he was flirting with me. Then again, it could be that he was just paying me a compliment….