“I was so thin I could slice bread with my shoulderblades, only I seldom had bread” ― Charles Bukowski, The Last Night of the Earth Poems
One of the goals that I set, years ago, as I started working on my fitness and freedom from automobiles, was I decided never to drive to the grocery store. I pretty much have kept that up. It doesn’t hurt that I have about five grocery stores, of various types, within two miles of my house. I needed some shirataki noodles and tofu, so I rode my bike down to the Cali Saigon mall (I rode my vintage Cannondale – I have put racks and panniers on it to keep my new Poseidon X light).
On the way out of the house, Candy asked me to pick up some baguettes. So after I bought my groceries I stopped by Lee’s Sandwiches for a couple of fresh-out-of-the-oven loaves.
I always feel European riding my bike through my neighborhood with a couple of baguettes sticking up out of my panniers.
“What, if some day or night a demon were to steal after you into your loneliest loneliness and say to you: ‘This life as you now live it and have lived it, you will have to live once more and innumerable times more’ … Would you not throw yourself down and gnash your teeth and curse the demon who spoke thus? Or have you once experienced a tremendous moment when you would have answered him: ‘You are a god and never have I heard anything more divine.” ― Friedrich Nietzsche, The Gay Science
I’ve been riding my bike every day – keeping up pretty well. For July and August I met my goal of ten miles a day and so far in September I’m twenty miles ahead of the pace.
The other day, my son borrowed my road bike which is my go-to ride (my vintage 1987 Cannondale Touring bike, with slightly more modern mountain-bike drivetrain) so he could ride around the ‘hood with his friends. That was fine with me – I haven’t ridden my XOOTR Swift folding bike for a while and I wanted to get it out for a spin or two.
Let’s see, when did I buy that bike – let’s see (the good/bad thing about a journal like this is the past is fixed like a butterfly on a pin) – the box arrived on March 25, 2014 – and I rode it for the first time the next day. So that was eight years ago – the only new bike I’ve bought since 1985. Unfortunately, the bike is no longer manufactured, but it uses standard parts (I have added a 2X front derailleur and done some repairs – no problem) so I can keep it going for a long time.
I pulled the bike down from the hooks in the ceiling of the garage, pumped up the tires… and I was off. It took a little while to get used to the twitchy steering of the small tires and narrow handlebar, but after a few blocks I was enjoying it.
Now I need to get off my lazy ass, fold the thing into my trunk, and go somewhere farther away for a bike ride.
“Rockabye Baby, in the treetop Dont you know a treetop is no safe place to rock? And who put you up there, and your cradle too? Baby, I think someone down here has got it in for you!” ― Shel Silverstein
I decided to ride up to CityLine, about a five mile ride from my house. It’s a huge new development in the long-vacant space of the old Huffhines family farm. At first I was a bit disappointed in the development but as it has matured and mellowed out I am beginning to really like the place. There are sculptures of all sizes and styles scattered throughout – I sat near this one and enjoyed a water bottle before riding back home.
“Coffee is a lot more than just a drink; it’s something happening. Not as in hip, but like an event, a place to be, but not like a location, but like somewhere within yourself. It gives you time, but not actual hours or minutes, but a chance to be, like be yourself, and have a second cup” ― Gertrude Stein, Selected Writings
Here’s what’s in my journal – so you don’t have to strain to read it:
Monday – August 15th 2022 7:20 Staycation Coffee
Woke up at six – not sure why, but slept well and felt good. Maybe lack of television (I’m embarking on my reading plan – finished “Desperate Characters” last night – read in 2 days) – have to try that more. Read a chapter (1) of “Mobius Dick” in the backyard before dawn – then left home on my bike at about six thirty when the sun came up. Nice ride here – went by way of Spring Valley – 4 miles – I wanted to see what Staycation was like at seven on a workday – a little disappointed – only one other customer – bought single-origin drip – an Ethiopian blend – pretty good… Let Me Sip.
I took this photo with my phone and posted it to ‘Gram/Facebook and someone asked about my pens – both the one you can see and the other three in the case. Here’s my reply:
I don’t usually carry nice/expensive pens on my bike – the one you see is one of my favorites, though it is inexpensive. It is a ten dollar Jinhao 159 with a custom Goulet Pens #6 nib. The pen cost under ten dollars (the nib was about fifteen, I think) and I have had people ask, “Is that a Montblanc?” The other pens are a Platinum Preppy, a Hero 616 Parker “51” clone, and, I guess the best, a vintage touchdown-filling Sheaffer inlaid nib pen.
I wrote some more, rode home (by a longer route to get 12 miles in) and the day was still only beginning.
“Veil after veil of thin dusky gauze is lifted, and by degrees the forms and colours of things are restored to them, and we watch the dawn remaking the world in its antique pattern.” ― Oscar Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray
Candy had a flight to California to visit some friends and I took her to the airport early – at about 5:45 in the morning. Since I retired I have not driven more than a couple miles – except for taking folks to and from the airport – I have been using my bike for transportation. Since I was driving to Love Field to drop Candy off before dawn, I decided to kill two birds with one stone. I loaded my bike and cycling stuff into the car and drove from Love Field down to Trammell Crow Park in the river bottoms (not very far at all) and waited for the sun to come up behind the crystal towers of downtown.
I have been to this odd park by the river many times over the decades. It’s surprisingly isolated – plus more than a little sketchy at night. At this time of the morning there was only one other car – a guy was out letting his black Labrador retriever run in the vast open space of the floodplain (you can see him and his dog in the photo with my bike above) – but nobody else.
There is a relatively new trail that runs from the park (there has been a trail from downtown to the park for years) all the way west to a new bridge over the river and then connects to the South Campion trail in Irving. This is park of the connecting piece that, when finished, will connect Dallas and Fort Worth with cycling trails.
I have ridden the Irving trails but was very interested in riding the new connector in the river bottoms. Once the sun was above the horizon, I clipped in, rode one lap around where the little park lake used to be (it has dried up completely during the current drought) and then branched out to the west. I was a little nervous about leaving the car unattended in the isolated park – it is an area where bad things could happen – but not too many hoodlums are up and about at six in the morning
It was a blast. The concrete of the trail is smooth and wide and the area is wide open. There is a vast space between the levees on each side – which is full of water during flood stage – but was very dry right now. To the south, about a mile away, giant construction machines roared away moving huge mounds of earth – in a project to build up the levees along the Trinity river.
I rode about six miles across the bridge into Irving and down the Campion trail a bit – then turned around and headed back. On my return trip, I started to see more and more cyclists coming the other way, and a couple that actually passed me (I am the world’s slowest cyclist, after all).
When I made it back to the park, I was surprised to see the parking lot – and a second, overflow lot – completely filled with cars. There were a lot of folks out on the trail – most with bikes but a few dog walkers. Plus there were two spirited games of cricket going on in the flat space of the river bottom.
I guess I didn’t have to worry about the car sitting out there by itself.
It was so much fun. As my health improves and fitness increases I want to go back and ride farther. And farther. And farther.
“Every person needs to take one day away. A day in which one consciously separates the past from the future. Jobs, family, employers, and friends can exist one day without any one of us, and if our egos permit us to confess, they could exist eternally in our absence. Each person deserves a day away in which no problems are confronted, no solutions searched for. Each of us needs to withdraw from the cares which will not withdraw from us.”
― Maya Angelou, Wouldn’t Take Nothing for My Journey Now
Every morning I have been making a thermos of coffee and taking it with me on a bike ride – stopping after a few miles in a shady spot to drink my hot beverage. But today I left my Aeropress and bean grinder on the shelf and rode four miles to The Coolest Coffee Shop in the Dallas Fort Worth Metroplex for a large drip. The Staycation coffee was good – a bit darker of a roast than I usually choose, but better (much) than a Starbucks. They advertise Single Origin Coffee for market price – and I want to go try that out – but it was very busy today – a mother with three kids in front of me took ten minutes to choose their pastries – and the woman behind the counter looked relieved when I said, “Large drip, please.”
I was tempted by the cool air conditioning inside – it hit one hundred and seven today – but I went ahead and plopped down at the end of a big picnic table outside. I had brought a journal (I have a blue dotted book I use exclusively for cycling notes) and a selection of fountain pens – so I sat down to sip my coffee and write a couple of pages.
It reminded me of a time more than two decades ago when I would drop Lee off for two hours of art lessons and then go to Starbucks (no local gourmet coffee then) and write while I listened to the folks around me talk. On Saturday mornings in Starbucks there were a lot of people confessing their sins of Friday night.
Outside at Staycation is filled with young mothers and their children – so no juicy gossip. The women next to me were talking about books – I need to bring my Kindle to Staycation and read a bit – that would be nice.
The mercury was rising and I wanted to get another eight miles in so I didn’t stay too long. It was nice, though. I need to go back and try some single origin.
“I love the smell of book ink in the morning.” ― Umberto Eco
Day two of the rest of my life. I didn’t get up as early as I liked – but I did pack up my bike and hit the road by 8 AM. Today I decided simply to loop around through the square mile of the Duck Creek Neighborhood – and get my five miles in that way.
I stopped five miles in and grabbed a table under the trees in Huffhines Park (not far at all from where I live). After my ride yesterday I added a pair of Bluetooth earbuds, a notebook, reading glasses, and a Kaweco Sport fountain pen – so I could sit, listen to music, drink my thermos of coffee, and write a bit.
It was so nice. A large group was playing cricket in the outfield of the softball diamond. I remembered when I was at a meeting with the Richardson Park Department at the Huffhines Recreational Center (right across the little pond from where I sat today) I recommended the city put in a proper cricket pitch on some vacant parkland across Plano road. They looked at me like I had lost my mind – but I stand by my idea.
I watched a large bug climbing the tree next to me. Huge, black, full of odd angles and jagged bits (I guess to make him look unappealing to predators) he used his surprisingly delicate legs to find his way up the rough park towards the distant leaves.
The squirrels chattered by, one hauling a half of an Osage Orange fruit up a tree.
There is a constant parade of walkers – most with dogs – going by on the jogging trail. A mother with her young daughter strolled by – the daughter was blind, feeling ahead with her white-tipped cane, but with confident strides holding her mother’s hand.
And I finished my coffee – I let the song come to an end and packed it all up. I put in another five miles – I need to drink my coffee sooner – it gave me a burst of energy, I felt faster and the pavement rolled by easier.
“Every time I hear a political speech or I read those of our leaders, I am horrified at having, for years, heard nothing which sounded human. It is always the same words telling the same lies. And the fact that men accept this, that the people’s anger has not destroyed these hollow clowns, strikes me as proof that men attribute no importance to the way they are governed; that they gamble—yes, gamble—with a whole part of their life and their so called “vital interest.” ― Albert Camus, Notebooks 1935-1942
Staycation is a great coffee shop. The owner, Nichole Gregory, took a 1940’s cottage left in the middle of downtown Richardson and modified it into a very pleasant and comfortable place to grab a cup of Joe. I can’t recommend it higher.
After we had our coffee, Nick rode home – but I still wanted to put a few more miles in and I still wanted to stop and write (Yes, I could have written in the coffee shop – but I wanted to try something else). So I went up the Central Trail, then down the Collins Bike Lane, to the Duck Creek Extension trail across Arapaho. Thinking about a place to stop and write (there are a lot of benches… but surprisingly few tables), I remembered about a concrete bench that was stuck incongruously in the middle of a traffic circle at American Parkway and Presidential Drive – I ride my bike past there every now and then when trying to build up mileage. It’s a light commercial area – and would be deserted on a Saturday so I decided to go there… and it worked well.
I wrote my pages – packed up and wandered around the ‘hood until I had my ten miles for the day. Made it home before eleven AM – a good start to the day.
“Always carry a notebook. And I mean always. The short-term memory only retains information for three minutes; unless it is committed to paper you can lose an idea for ever.”
― Will Self
I meant to get up early – and didn’t really… but didn’t sleep too late. I ground some extra beans and made a thermos of coffee with my Aeropress. My portable Aeropress Go and hand grinder are on my desk at work – or I might have simply filled the thermos with hot water and made the stuff fresh – but the few minutes it sits in the steel vacuum vessel won’t hurt the taste much.
I packed up my loose-leaf binder notebook and selected four pens. Recently I bought some pen holders (brand name Diodrio) that fit on interchangeable stretchy Velcro straps – and they have been very useful to me. The straps come in several sizes so the pens can be attached to any notebook, from a small Moleskine to a big loose leaf. This is truly the best of all possible worlds.
I have been trying out the idea of morning pages from Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way. Every day, I had write three pages in the notebook – about whatever comes to mind. She recommends never re-reading them, and even destroying the writing after each day. I don’t do that – there may be some useful ideas in there so I am keeping them… at least for a while.
The idea is to write in the morning, immediately upon rising. That doesn’t work for me – there are too many emergencies and interruptions starting as soon as I open my eyes. I have been able to finish the pages (one important aspect is to write the three sheets every day, without fail) daily, but sometimes haven’t finished them until late at night.
It’s actually easy for me to do the writing – I’ve been writing daily for at least three decades, after all – but I like the aspect of handwriting (it slows me down a bit – and gives me a chance to use my beloved fountain pens) and the idea of writing with no preconceptions.
One thing I also enjoy is writing in different places. So today I decided to pack up my bike with some coffee, my notebook, and ride to some place to get in the scribbling and caffeinate myself at the same time. It looked like some rain – so after about five miles of riding I settled in at a little pocket park with a roofed picnic area. Collins Park – at Alma and Collins – I have stopped there before – and have met other riders there for pre-work coffee. It’s nice, has a power outlet, a drinking fountain, and a bike rack (that I never use). I pulled in just in time, as the rain started coming down – not too bad – little more than a stout Texas sprinkle.
So I put my earbuds in, started a Spotify playlist on my phone, and wrote my morning pages.
Then I pulled out a folding Bluetooth keyboard and wrote this entry on my phone. It worked pretty well – a morning with a bicycle, coffee, fountain pens, and some extra blog writing. Yes, this is truly the best of all possible worlds.