Tuesday, January 22, 2013

When the evening is spread out against the sky.

I used to tow Rapunzel (now 9 and riding her own bicycle to school thanks very much) home from her Mountain View preschool.  It was a long tiring ride for me but a pretty pleasant excurion for her, or at least that seems to be how she remembers the experience.  For transport I relied on a two-kid Burley wagon.  I put snacks and drinks in one pocket and books toys and magazines in another pocket and there was a flash-light for picture books on dark evenings plus a soft blanket to snuggle under if she was snoozy.  There was even a small portable music player so she could chill to her favorite tunes.

Heading up the street we made quite the pair:  Rapunzel lounging and snacking and flicking through the pages of a book and me sweating and struggling forward but mostly enjoying the bicycling.  Generally people, cars, and bicyclists ignored us.  Sometimes people were really mean.  Every now and then we met someone friendly who would ride with us for a bit and this was extra nice because I would get tired and company helped pass the time. 

The guy (never got his name) who I remember most fondly rode a dark upright bicycle, was dressed in a manner I'd call old world, was a little bit elegant, and after saying hello to me asked Rapunzel if she was having a pleasant evening.  People often noticed our wagon and sometimes noticed the luxury accommodations, but rarely had the courtesy to speak to Rapunzel directly so I warmed up quickly.

Somehow the guy and I ended up riding along on Bryant Street.  He was on his way to a local café for a coffee which he planned to follow up with a visit to the book-store.  He told me he was retired.  I think I talked about the wagon and the evening and then it came out that I was a California transplant and he asked me how I liked it here and I said that I loved the weather because I really love the weather.  We pedalled along and he said "People who think the seasons do not change are not bicyclists."

I remember when I still lived in New England and the subject of moving to California came up people would often say "I could never live somewhere where the seasons do not change."  The seasons do change here, but it's more subtle than weeks of rain or a blizzard.  You need to be out in it, preferably for more than a few minutes at a time, to understand what the weather is doing and to hear it's different messages.  For instance right now we are in winter and there was a cold snap for a bit and in the morning I would see some frost.  Before that it was rainier and everything got really green, including the thorny Coast Live Oak trees that get to looking like old ladies preparing for a party when the pale green comes out on their crowns.  And for weeks now, as I roll along feeling stormy because of recent bicycle accidents and assorted violence, for weeks on top of all the dark thoughts there have been spectacular skies.  Deep pure blues.  Long streaks of peach intermingled with azure.  I'll be waiting for the light at the intersection of Oregon and Bryant and at my level is a tangle of sharp metal edges and black exhaust but above me the sky is fluidly changing from one shade of blue to the next with the steady silhouettes of redwood trees in front. 

I got the Contraption Captain to snap this pic shortly after we met up in Palo Alto.  This is just after the super annoying intersection of El Camino and Sand Hill where the cars are especially frantic about getting home and especially flagrant about breaking the law.  Red light?  Fuck it, I'm going.  No Turn On Red?  Must mean someone else.  The cars are super agro here.  If you make it across in one piece you can take a bicycle lane along Sand Hill or you can opt for a slower quieter trip on the multi-use path that runs part of the way beside Sand Hill.  This is a picture of the beginning of the mult-use path.  For added interest, I made sure to have the Contraption Captain include the Fourth Bay Area Hellion's Gate, visible to the naked eye in the lower left corner of the photograph.  This stairway represents one of a total of seven possible entrances to Hell and is located across from the Stanford Mall so it sees a lot of use.  Bicyclists need to be extra wary when bypassing the Fourth Gate or the Palo Alto demons may reach out and pull you into it's fiery maw.

But the sky, as you can see I think, is very very pretty. 

1 comment:

  1. It's a little different over here in New York City, chafe. I foolishly wrote at the weekend about how it was currently unseasonably warm (http://invisiblevisibleman.blogspot.com/2013/01/a-blown-nose-blown-world-environment.html). Then today it was 28 degrees when I was cycling to work - with a wind chill taking it down into single figures. I spent quite a bit of the day wondering if I'd done myself permanent damage.

    All the best,