The toll of my commute

Before yesterday’s ride into work, I had topped off the air in my tires and lubed my chain. No, those aren’t euphemisms–they’re simple bike maintenance that makes riding easier.

In addition to that, the wind was at my back, so I felt like I was flying to work. I was looking for birds in the river I ride along, watching the sky turn from gray to blue, checking the progress on the bike path underpass they’re building that will make my commute faster and easier when it’s done as I’ll sail under a thoroughfare rather than having to stop, look and listen at a crosswalk randomly placed on Dead Man’s Curve. I thought this was the best moment in my commute, but I was wrong.
As DC came into view, my thoughts turned to work, to sitting down at my desk, turning on my computer and…shit. My computer was at home. I thought this was the worst moment in my commute, but I was wrong.
I debated for a moment and then turned around to return home. Turned around to ride straight into that wind. At least my tires were full and my chain running smoothly.
And, on the way home, I got to see a bald eagle flashing his white head and tail as he sailed above the trees across the river just in front of me. After awhile a small bird came and sniped at the eagle and they eventually disappeared into the trees. I thought this was the best moment in my commute, but I was wrong.
A moment later, two ducks appeared from the trees, flapping their wings frantically, flying for all they were worth, which, for waterfowl, doesn’t add up to much. I chuckled a bit as I usually do when I watch ducks flying; they’re the tugboats of the sky. Then the eagle appeared, hot on their tails, and I realized why the ducks were so frantic. I was able to track their chase across the open horizon in front of me until they disappeared behind trees on the other side of the path.
I didn’t see the eagle catch the ducks, but she didn’t seem too worried that she wouldn’t. Watching that unfold was the best moment of my commute…sorry ducks.
Eventually I got up the hill that we live atop, came inside, rode the elevator up to our floor, walked my bike down the hallway, unlocked our door and…found that an hour after I’d left, everyone was still asleep. No wonder I’m the tired, cranky one who falls asleep on the couch every evening–more so tonight, I thought, because I’ll be later getting into work and so that much later getting home. I thought this was the worst moment in my commute, but I was wrong.
As I was hightailing it back to work, I cut through a parking lot as I always do: around the first speed bump, over the second and around the third one, cutting a quick turn between the edge of the bump and a curb that protrudes there while looking over my shoulder for traffic that might be coming down the merging lane.
Right as whipped my wheel around that final bump, into the slot next to the curb, a chipmunk darted right into my path as I stood up onto my pedals to accelerate out of the maneuver. He stopped straight under my wheel, and in a flash, I’d killed him.
That was the worst moment of my commute. I’m no clod. I know for whom the bell tolls.


Papa Bradstein will ride 200 miles across Massachusetts in two days to help fight cancer. Please support his ride.

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