Montage Mondays, Stumptown Tuesdays

Monday night at the Montage is becoming a bit of a habit.  Wine bottles are half-price and the place isn’t nearly as crazy and loud as usual.  Last night we went out with new “couple friends” and split crawfish beignets, oyster shooters, two bottles of wine, a myriad of seafood entrees (catfish!  blackened marlin! ), and a big, bountiful bowl of bread pudding.

It was heaven.

I rode my bike there in the pitch black and was nearly taken out by an out of control skate-boarder.  I saw our lives flash before my eyes as he dug his heels into the edge of his board, swerving out of my lane just in the nick of time.

Life and death: it’s as precarious as a skateboarder’s skill level in some cases.

The ride to Stumptown this morning was cold and breezy.  I forgot to put my gloves on and didn’t want to stop to pull them out so instead I suffered the short mile ride, pulled my sleeve-mittens over my fingers and used the top brake instead of the levers.

I’m amazed by the way the air is changing around us every day.  The leaves are starting to skitter and darkness is getting… well, darker.  The pitch black more pitchy.  The air less inviting.  The wind more wicked.  It’s not even cold yet, really, and I’m already starting to slowly freeze.  The weather reports showers for today and I hope to god they are right for once – I need to see how my bike moves in the wet and mud.

The blond, soft-spoken kid with the new bike at Stumptown today turned out to be one of the instructors for the local cross clinics that are held in September.  I picked his brain a bit about good strategies for learning the remount and he gave me some useful tips.  Josh and I discussed chaos theory, cold-weather bike strategy, and cyclo-cross, in that order.  The clock hit 7:20am and we rolled down the nearest bike route into downtown.  I turned off the Esplanade at Stark and he continued into the Northwest.

The morning time feels precious to me these days.  A gift I have to cherish.  It’s the only time that I can see how things might settle, how everything I need to get done might get accomplished.  It’s my moment of clarity and peace before the shit-storm of my crazy job starts.

I’m hot and cold about work right now – there are moments where I really love the challenge and the insane hyjinx and there are moments when I just want it all to go away.  I’m sure this is typical but I’d love to get to a point where I feel more in control, where I feel like I am confident every morning when I get in that I will be able to check everything off my list and then some.  The important part is that I continue to learn and grow everyday.  Every day I am stretching myself to try something new, to be scared, to mingle with the possibility of failure both in my professional life and my personal life.

Cyclo-cross is important for me in a lot of ways.  Sure, I’ll get off on the adrenaline and I’m sort of “built” for the sport in terms of my love for both pain and mud.  But the truth is that I’ve always been intimidated by bikes and racing.  I’m intimidated by the gear and the shops and, sometimes, the speed.

My elementary school boyfriend went through the window of a car on Christmas Eve while riding a bike with no brakes.  We were in the fourth grade.  He wasn’t wearing a helmet and ended up in the hospital for about three months.  He had very significant lasting mental damage.

In middle school I was friends with a very athletic, amazing kid named Chris.  I fancied him but we only dated for about 2 days… you know how that goes.  He put his front wheel into a curb on a long descent at the end of a 70 mile ride with his father.  He was propelled off his bike, slid 50 feet on the concrete and wrapped around a telephone poll.  He survived but is a paraplegic now.

You could say that I probably shouldn’t get involved in the lives of cyclists. :)  And look at me – practically married to a veritable Italian Hammer who lives, breathes, eats and sleeps cycling.

It’s been hard over the years to relax about it and let go.  I can’t control what happens out on the road – I know he’s safe but I’m not worried about him, I’m worried about all those mindless, zipping cars.  I never make him tell me when he’ll be back from a ride but I always start to worry after three hours have passed.  He usually won’t ride much past three hours or, if he’s going to, I know about it first.

My heartrate increases and I begin contemplating calling local hospitals.  Did he remember to bring the little card I gave him?  The one that tells them who to call if something happens?  I can be a total head case.

I handle myself fairly well on a bike but I still don’t climb out of the saddle very cleanly and I descend like a freaking grandmother.  I always check Sam’s cyclometer when he gets home and I lose my mind when I click over to max speed and it says something like “47mph”.  I go for the brakes at about 35mph and even then I feel sketchy.

Cyclo-cross is a way for me to be competitive on a bike without having to descend at 47mph.  It’s a way for me to improve my handling skills and increase my comfort level so that I can feel better, safer, stronger, more confident on the road.  Every day that I ride my bike I try to be better, ride stronger, ride safer.

I’m still intimidated by the gear but it’s getting better day by day as I read website after website about geometry, frame construction, gearing ratios, and cornering techniques.  I’m like a pre-schooler at home trying to tap into every bit of knowledge that Sam has.  “How do lugs work?”  “What’s the advantage of brazing?”  “Why are the seat-stays wavy like that?”  “How do wheel-makers make wheels?”  “What’s the advantage of making your own wheels?”  “Why is Columbus tubing so special?”

I swear to god that man is made of patience.  I would have told me to shutup 2 years ago.

We’re trying to squeeze in a ride after work today and hopefully we’ll have some rain to make it interesting.  In the meantime, I have goats to wrangle.

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