Spring makes bike ride a lot longer

April 29, 2009 

On a rainy fall day I can ride my bike to town in a relatively miserable 10 minutes. But on a sunny, warm spring morning, after one of the longest winters in years, (there is still snow in shady and north facing yards) it took me about forty-five minutes to go two miles.

Before I even got on the bike, a dark green English style model with fenders and a bell, I had to visit with my rooster, a barred Plymouth rock named Miles Standish, who is a bit of a dandy, which is a good trait in a rooster.

If he were mean he would be in the stew pot.

Well, someone else's stew pot. I can't eat my chickens. I even had trouble swallowing the hooter (spruce grouse) that my husband shot right out of that tree way up on Mt. Ripinsky the day before. We were on snowshoes, following the hooter's "hoo-hoo," which sounds like someone blowing over the top of a glass gallon growler from the Haines Brewery, when I spotted him. He looked like a huge blue-gray rooster, without the comb. After the bullet hit him, he deflated like a balloon. "You shoot the next one," my husband said, and luckily it flew away before I had to say I couldn't.

Anyway, after I visited with the hens and Miles, I clipped my helmet on and headed out the driveway. There are two important lessons I learned from a near fatal bike-truck collision four years ago. Cyclists should pretend to be invisible. If that doesn't work and you still are about to crash into a car, dive over the hood rather than try to stop and skid under the wheels.

That way you may only break a shoulder or a collarbone.

I tried not to think about that and had only pedaled a few hundred yards before I met my neighbor Betty raking and burning leaves. She reminded me to call the police if I planned on burning any winter brush, since she had forgotten to and was visited by an officer. She also told me that she was having trouble with her credit card company. They won't send the bill to a post office box anymore. "Apparently they are suspicious because terrorists are the only ones that use post office boxes," she said. So she did what we always do in this town without home mail delivery, she added her box number to the name of the road. The post office used to accept mail addressed this way, but Betty said, there are rules against that, and they must be followed, so now they won't.

Before we could solve that problem, Betty, who is a widow in her 70s, said she had cleaned the chain on her bike and had taken it for a spin up and down the road and that the eagles nesting in her big spruce tree are tending eggs.

Next door to Betty, in the woods by the stream, another neighbor waved as he readied his skiff and crab pots for the season.

I hadn't gone much farther when I saw that the neighbors who had been south all winter were back, and pulled in their dirt drive in the woods to say "Hi."

From them, I learned all about rogue waves on Oregon beaches. They were especially pleased to be back in the neighborhood since their daughter lives one house below them, and their grand daughter, along with two of their great-grandchildren, are building a new home right behind theirs.

It was a challenge to start pedaling again on the steep hill, but this bike has a third sprocket, or "granny gear" which makes it easier. I pumped by a friendly golden retriever and the water tower that Drake, a pilot, turned into his home, with Nepalese prayer flags flapping on the porch, then down into the 100-year-old Fort Seward neighborhood.

On a busy corner, a crew of young men and dogs were building a boardwalk from the street to a garden cafe, (after clearing a snow pile out of the way). I stopped to chat and got to hold a new baby belonging to the cafe owner. Cora Tulip is two months old. I was also invited to a memorial birthday party in two weeks for Cora's grandfather, who was born in May and always celebrated by throwing a big shindig for himself. He died skiing on Chilkoot Lake after his big heart stopped. He also grew hundreds of red, yellow, and orange tulips in boxes in front of his horseshoe pit, thus Cora's middle name. Her grandmother smiled and said, "Isn't she an angel?" Of course I agreed, as Cora did that baby snuffle and grunt against my shoulder.

When I got home, there was a chick peeping in a box in the mudroom. That rooster may be gentle, but he is getting the job done. My daughter stole some eggs and put them in an incubator in the first-grade class where she is student teaching. That means I'm a grandmother too -- sort of. All the more reason to wear a helmet when I ride over to tell Betty.

Which I suppose is a long way of saying that spring is here -- and I am the lucky person who is in it, as poet Mary Oliver would say.


Heather Lende lives and writes in Haines.

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