Oh man. Where did I go? Things around here have been pretty intense.
Last weekend, my good friend Laura was in town for a visit which coincided nicely with the East Bay Bike Party. After picking up her rental bike, we vamoosed off to Alameda and Bay Farm Islands for a quick look around. Laura is the cyclist I can only hope to be when I grow up – aware of her body and her bike as a singular machine, capable of planning a route and taking care of herself while she rides it. Despite plans to ride in Bike Party that night, we decided to take a ride so Laura could stretch her legs after a long night on Amtrak.
When I last saw Laura, I had gone to visit her in Bend, OR – one of the most outdoors-y cities in the country. This was also just about two years ago, and during a time I had only loosely considered buying a bike. I rode, pitifully and slowly around Bend, trailing behind my friend’s partner as we headed to the store for eggs and beer. Because Laura and her partner are cyclists and cyclecross racers (and both much taller than me) I took a pass on even attempting to ride their nicer bikes, and was instead relegated to what is affectionately referred to as The Drunk Bike. It has coaster brakes, a seat from hell, loose handlebars, and is heavier than you would believe possible. Needless to say, after that experience I was eager to redeem myself here on my home turf and prove myself one of her people.
After the Alameda ride, we came home to take showers, a nap, and get ready for bike party. My roommate and her boyfriend would be joining us for that last bit. Several hours after passing out cold, we woke up, made some unfortunate choices in eye make up, and rolled out to Bike Party dressed, respectively, like Tron, Blinky the Ghost from Pac Man, and a giant-afro space dancer. We rode the five miles to the starting point, to the confused amusement of many West Oakland residents and stunned, joyful awe of every child we encountered.
Bike Party, as always, was magical and ridiculous. The theme was Dancing with the Stars, Aliens, Astronauts – you can imagine the chaos and the horrifying, awkward, brilliant dancing that ensued. It was a warm night with good people, new friends and old, perfect music, and more whiskey than was probably necessary.
The next morning our living room looked like a great war between bike species had been fought there – the hybrids vs. the roadies. Bikes, costume parts, helmets, a singular shoe, and jackets were everywhere. Slowly we pulled ourselves together and Laura and I headed out for a ride we had planned before her arrival.
We went back to the rental shop, traded out her commuter for a road bike, and set out on what was to become my first half century. We kept a good pace, moving along nicely, reveling in our respective culture shock – me with riding a distance I could not possibly pretend was ‘nothing’, thus moving into the echelons of real cyclists, and her with riding for so long in a city, complete with traffic infrastructure.
Along the route, we found where the Bay Trail ends and were wildly, inappropriately proud of ourselves, and ended at Point Pinole Regional Park. To find it, we accidentally got on a freeway, on an exit at such a steep grade we overtook vehicle traffic coming off of it. But the view from the picnic bench where we took a rest was spectacular.
After dumping a good deal of water on my head and even more down my throat, we took off, head back towards Oakland on a flatter, streets-only route, stopping to down some vitamin water and sugary snacks. Once back on the Bay Trail, we made our way back down towards Berkeley, traveling up towards campus and back down a long stretch of bike boulevard to give our weary legs a rest. All in all, we biked just over 50 miles, and I was as surprised as anyone that I could walk when all was said and done.
The following day was a whirlwind of Thai food, mojitos, an impromptu dinner, and a very frenzied cab ride back to the Amtrak station.
With a half-century under my belt, I feel somehow a world more confident than I did after any 20, 30, or 40 mile ride I have done. Maybe its the mentality that people raise tons of money to ride this far. People get jerseys for riding this far. People train to ride this far. This, too, will become routine – as all the preceding distances have become, but I have crossed some internal line – found where the trail ended and then just kept going.