18 August 2008

Day Three (Commute Day One)


"What is that awful racket?" These were Ike's first words out of bed this morning. "Oh great, it's raining."

It's not that we're not used to rain out here in Portland. Just not now. Not like this. Earlier this summer we strung thirty-some days together without a drip of rain and here on my first day of the yearlong car-free commute comes the rarest of anamolies on the Portland weather scene: an early morning summer thunderstorm--with raindrops the size and volume of genetically modified grapes.

I thought I'd have some time to gear up for the rainy season. Instead I grabbed some swim trunks, river shoes and a windbreaker. Plus these tacky orange-lens bike glasses my wife bought me. I looked more like a tourist on the Oregon coast then a bike commuter.

Everything felt different today. My road bike replaced by a cruiser. I had to revert to my old pannier bags as the one's provided by Black Sheep are better described as -resistant than -proof when used as a hyphenated adjective in combination with the noun water. They didn't quite snap on the rack. Plus no clipless pedals. [Actually, there are. One side of the pedal is flat, the other has clipless attachments. My bad. --sph 8/20]

What's worse, they hadn't towed Johnny yet so it was sitting there mocking me--with the window paint adornment from Friday's video shoot (when I thought it would be funny to let the kids experiment in some adult-supervised vandalism). Those little Mickey Mouse stickers are driving me crazy. I so want to scrub them off. But it isn't my car anymore. Just a public eyesore parked in front of my house.

Then I started riding. Instantly I'm drenched. But it's warm. The traffic on 7th is backed up blocks to Burnside. What gives? With all my hand-wringing over the commute, I couldn't have gotten out of the house before 9 am. I cruise past dozens of vehicles in the bike lane to arrive at the Morrison intersection where the answer's revealed. The electrical storm caused the light to stick on red.

Pathetic and soaked I turn to the only other rider I've seen today, who is stopped at the light. "There's only advantages to bike riding."

What did he say? I asked him to explain.

"You don't have to wait in traffic."

That twist of perspective made the rest of the ride a breeze. And the new bike rode like a dream. We waited for a break in the cross-traffic and made a break for it. I'm not sure how long the cars were there.

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