A Little Bike Ride

Pack

My old bike. I bought it for sixty bucks at a pawn shop over fifteen years ago.

I’m finally feeling back to my normal mediocre self and Texas is having its handful of decent weather days so I’d like to get some bike riding in. It’s tough during the week because I’m so tired when I get home from work that, even though I might have a few minutes of sunlight, all I can think of is to fall into bed and decompress, even if I don’t fall completely asleep.

Well, in this modern age, you have to try and do double duty in everything. There is no time left – it feels as if it has all been used up. Not only do you have to be doing something all the time, you have to be doing two things if you don’t want to fall further behind. In that spirit, we were out of milk. So I decided to ride my bicycle to the Target Superstore and buy a gallon plus a few other sundries that we were in need of.

That’s doing double duty. Shopping and exercise. It isn’t very far – about a mile, plus no real traffic – I can ride the new trail down to the park and then cut over on a little-used feeder road. Then across the back mall parking lot. Our neighborhood strip of big boxes sits where a big ‘ol traditional mall used to squat. For years it was declining, used more as a foul-weather walking route for elderly folks than as a place to fleece excited shoppers. At any rate, they bulldozed it, leaving the anchor tenants on the end and filling in with a row of familiar warehouse-style establishments. The food court was replaced by a line of fast-food slinging eateries strung along the main road like a string of pearls before swing.

But behind this capitalist extravaganza the huge old mall back parking lot remains empty and immense, used only to give motorcycle lessons on weekend mornings – two-wheeled newbies slowly winding between long groupings of red plastic cones. Today, though, it was deserted except for some guy out in the middle changing his oil, an occasional truck coming in to pull and replace a smelly dumpster, and one pair of isolated cars – probably teenagers hooking up. It’s easy for me to cross this vast desert of asphalt – the only thing to look out for are a few drainage grates with long, wheel grabbing slots, always facing the wrong way – parallel to the direction I’m riding.

There is nothing as stupid looking and pitiful as an old fat man riding a bicycle. I feel so idiotic and silly, but I have had a lifetime of experience ignoring my ridiculousness, so I pedal on.

I had a surprisingly difficult time getting there. It’s a bit of an uphill slog coming up from the creek and then, crossing the lot, I ran into a strong headwind. Off to the west was a black roll of approaching storm cloud and the humid south wind was spinning into the complex, feeding the tempest. Still, I caught my breath, downshifted a cog, and kept on going.

Locking my bike and backpack to a steel bench out in front (the nice thing about having a fifteen year old piece of crap bike is that I don’t need the highest security lock) I went in to get my gallon of milk and other stuff. I noticed that once I stopped pedaling and started walking around the cool store, my shirt became spotted in sweat. I looked extra stupid amongst other, car borne shoppers. The Next time, wear a dark t-shirt – mental note.

So I stuffed my gallon of milk into the backpack (it fit easier than I expected) and headed home. I guess I underestimated the wind, because I was able to get almost all the way back without even turning a pedal – propelled by the brisk breeze at my back.

Buoyed by my success, I made a list of close in destinations I could ride my bike to. Along this route, there is the big box variety/grocery store, two hardware stores, a couple of Pho places, tons of fast food, an office supply store, and a haircut place. The other way is the big Vietnamese shopping center – and I can get there without leaving the trail. If I want to go a little farther, I can cut through an industrial area and get to the DART rail station, library, and a whole complex of diverse ethic eateries.

Jeez – if the weather was nicer for more of the year I could get rid of the car.

I’m still pretty stupid looking, though.