Thursday, May 17, 2012

Bike to Work

Today I rode all the way to work for the first time ever. After all, it was Bike to Work Day.

I have made the return trip home via bike on many, many occasions, which is a simple process. Jen and I drive to work in the truck together with the bike. After work I change my clothes, throw my crap in the truck and ride home. Easy.

On a few occasions, I have parked in Folsom to ride in. It was a pain. Bringing work clothes, another set of riding clothes, a towel, soap, shampoo, deodorant and taking a shower at work was a hassle, not to mention it's a lot of stuff to carry. Then to ride back to Folsom after work, load up the truck and sit in rush hour traffic on Highway 50 seemed dumb.

Still, I wanted to participate, but the round trip of 80 miles was daunting. During my ride after work yesterday the wheels started spinning. I could ride from home on Thursday, leave the bike overnight, and ride home Friday. Brilliant!

To ride from home I would have to leave very early to make it to work at a reasonable time, and that of course would require a light. The upside was I could send a bag with all my stuff to work with Jen and ride unencumbered by clothes, supplies, etc. After skipping the event for many years I decided to go for it.

I prepared a duffel bag last night with everything I needed and threw it in the car. I charged up my light battery, attached the headlamp to my helmet, put flashers on my bike, stuffed anything else I needed in my backpack and laid out my clothes.

Morning arrived and I didn’t quite make my 5 a.m. departure time. Being a new experience, I forgot a few things and was scrambling around to find them, but I still managed to roll out at 5:20. I caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror as I walked out, and I looked like The Underminer:

Dear Pixar, please make this movie.

It was still dark enough that I required the light for the first 20 minutes. On the second descent, a narrow one lane road, I nearly hit a deer. The damn thing just stood there in the road like, well, a deer in the headlights.

One thing you notice immediately when using a headlamp is all the junk floating in the air in front of your eyes. There's a lot of stuff suspended in the air you breathe. So much so that I have to wonder, as a cyclist, what has accumulated in my lungs after all these years. I can picture my body on the autopsy table (you know, when I'm 105 or so) and after making the Y-cut, the doctor starts pulling various stuff out. It's like the scene in Jaws—a pile of dirt, rocks, nails, bugs, birds, old tires, a license plate or two . . .

Shortly after the deer encounter I almost crashed going around a gate. The residents like to pile rocks in the gully to the side—the place everyone rides or walks to get around the gate—hoping this will dissuade people from using their private road. This behavior has always confounded me. I don’t think a few rocks are going to stop a murderous nutjob carrying a chainsaw. But I do think it has probably put a few innocent kids on the pavement. Anyway, I hit one of those rocks and my front tire came out from under me. I recovered and kept it upright, but it was a close call. I continued down the descent, my eyes watering from the wind. I couldn’t find my glasses with clear lenses, so for one of the few times ever I was riding without eye protection.

After dropping down into Cameron Park, I had one major road to cross, and then it was quiet roads for a while. The morning was cool and overcast. I rode at a comfortable tempo, my headlamp cutting a path through the darkness. In the quiet my mind wandered, and I thought about the 24-hour races, some of the few times I have used lights. Good times with good friends.

After riding residential streets for a while, I did the climb up Oak Hollow, then dropped down into El Dorado Hills. From there the bike trail along Bass Lake Road took me into Serrano. After riding a stretch of road, the next 30 minutes were all on dirt—the Serrano Trail, Powerline, New York Creek, Wild Oaks and Brown’s Ravine. Mountain biking on fun trails, almost all of which were downhill, was an awesome way to start the work day.

After popping out at Dyke 8 I had a short jaunt on East Natoma to the bike trail.

The bike trail was 18 miles of uneventful monotony, but that’s fine. It beats dealing with cars any day. At the end I just had about 1.5 miles of Folsom Boulevard to contend with, and I was at work. I scored a “May is Bike Month” T-shirt, some yogurt, a protein bar, an orange and a bottle of water.

I stopped by the car to grab my duffel bag and headed in for my shower. In the end, it wasn’t much of a hassle at all, and I had a great time. I actually want to start earlier next time to get more time in the dark.

After years of riding uphill towards home, it was nice to see this elevation profile!


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