Friday, September 20, 2013

Day 47 of 365: Misadventures in Bicycling

Yesterday was supposed to be a running day. But, like a champ, I had left all my running gear in my gym bag. And my gym bag was left in our car. Which was currently 35 miles away. And, as anyone with knee issues knows, when your knee braces are not available, you do not run. End of story.

So instead I decided to drag my bike out and take it on its maiden voyage(ish) through my new town. A town that, unlike any other place I had lived in, seemed to have more acres of forest than it did actual people. The bike's tires were in desperate need of air, but, thankfully, I had a foot pump in my backpack to get everything set.

So I packed up my backpack with my foot pump (just in case something else went wrong with the tires), a bottle of water, and my keys. I slipped my phone in my back pocket and started playing Pandora. After five breaks in a single song, I replaced Pandora with the regular MP3 player, cursing the decision to use my phone over my trusted iPod for music. But I continue on, hellbent on trying out the turnpike near my neighborhood.

I turned onto the turnpike and quickly learned that "turnpike" was a bit of a misnomer. It's a road. A road that quickly de-evolves into a dirt road. Which quickly de-evolves even further into what I can only describe as a hiking trail. A hiking trail which gigantic puddles in the middle of its road. These are the type of roads that people go to when they need to shoot a road scene in a medieval movie. Where the main character has been sent on a quest to the local shire, where he'll meet a wizard and have glorious adventures. But I pressed on. I got off my bike and walked over the rocks and fed it through the puddles as I tiptoed around the edges. The map said I would find a road that would bring me back to the main stretch and I was hellbent on finding it. Besides, where was my sense of adventure?

The roads got rockier and rockier. The puddles became bigger and bigger. If my bike had been named Artax, it would've died halfway through, because the puddled areas were nothing short of the Swamp of Sadness. But I kept going, because -- surely -- I would find the road that brought me back to the main road. I just needed to keep on keeping on.

I was suddenly incredibly thankful for bringing my phone along, as I checked it downright obsessively to find just where this stupid road was. And, as the map told me, I had finally made it. According to the satellite mapping system, I had finally come to the junction of the medieval road and civilization. All I had to do was turn right and I would be on my way to paved roads in no time!

Only there was no place for me to turn right. Just woods. Woods as far as the eye could see.

According to Google Maps, going forward would only result in a dead end. A dead end with -- you guessed it -- more woods. I had no choice but to turn back.

At this point, I had spent a meager 20 minutes actually riding my bike, plus an additional 20-30 minutes feeding it through swamplands. I was half-tempted to abandon it, as I had spent so much time on these medieval-like roads that I almost didn't recognize my bike. Surely, this was some metallic version of a horse, lent to me by the local blacksmith as I made my way to the shire.

And so I turned around. All the puddled areas that I had expertly circumnavigated were now areas where my feet would slip, filling my shoes with mud. My sense of adventure was nonexistent at this point. Especially when I considered how much it would cost to visit the local tanner at whatever shire I was supposed to have visited to have these shoes expertly fixed.

I went over rocks. I went over water. The rocks slowly gave way to gravel. I hopped back on my metallic horse and I biked for the second time past a house that, given its location and its large metal gate by the driveway, let me know one thing and one thing only: this dude wanted to be left the fuck alone. And it just so happened that, as I was finally finding solid (read: dirt) ground, I realized something pretty horrifying:

In the midst of my adventures in the woods, I did something to create a leak in my front tire.

My front tire, which had been filled to maximum capacity with air before I had left, was now so soft that my rim was actually touching ground. I had no choice but to get off my bike -- not even a stone throw from LeaveMeAlone Jones -- and pump up my tires, praying that it would get me back to my original land, hoping that my feudal lord would not be too disappointed that I never made it to the shire.

I continued on my quest, finding myself trekking uphill on dirt and gravel terrain. I had originally went on this adventure as an alternative to the knee-battering activity known as running. But, as I so learned, I might as well have been stomping barefoot on granite stone for an hour, because every tendon in my knees was in agony. And, just as the gravel slowly turned into a magical futuristic invention I later learned was called "asphalt", I paused to pump air in my weird, mechanical horse, for a second time, and continued onwards until I saw a vaguely familiar road.

I followed that road as far as my leaky rounded horse hooves (or "tires", as they call them) could take me, paused again to fill them with air, and continued forward, shocked by how quickly a different version of these mechanical horses -- perhaps even mechanic carriages -- zipped by me on this "asphalt" road. I was just happy no one jumped out of these metallic carriages with bows and arrows and demanded my remaining silver.

I paused briefly at the nearby lake, if only to dip my shoes in and wash the mud off of them. I tried daintily balancing on a rock, dipping one toe in at a time, before realizing how silly it was, trying to keep a foot dry when it was only going to get soaked in lake water. I then jumped in up to my ankles, swishing the water around my once-new shoes, and tip-toed back to the road.

I zipped home, even as my legs tried to give out on me, even as my mechanical horse (or "bike") lost its air. I had to get back: I had left the door to my mechanical carriage storage lot (or "garage") open and had been gone for way longer than expected. I made a right onto my street, parked my bike and its squishy tires into the garage, and stomped up the stairs. I threw my shoes, along my with soaked socks and disgustingly muddied pants, into the washing machine, and trudged upstairs, where I drew myself a steaming-hot bath, turned on the music from the in-wall speakers, and proceeded to take a very, very long bubble bath, complete with a glass (or two) of champagne and a bowl of ice cream. Because if the soap and water wouldn't wash away the adventure of that day, the champagne definitely would.

I had originally set out with a specific pair of shoes on, hoping to gently break them in as I rode my bike around town. I think it's safe to say I've broken them in now.

Oh, and that road? I checked online after my semi-drunken bath. According to the satellite view of earth, that road does exist. It just so happens to be a dead end on the main drag, followed by acres of woods. And the best part? This imaginary road apparently goes across the middle of a lake in these woods. That's what I get for blindly trusting GPS to get me through the forest of Arda.

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