Monday, February 20, 2012

Thanks, But I'll Ride by Tim Woody

I'm reposting this in its entirety from The Ride Journal because I can't say it any better myself. Tim Woody blogs regularly at http://alaskabikeblog.blogspot.com


Looking out of my office window into the dim, late-afternoon light of an Alaskan winter’s day, I cannot see through the curtain of snow that obscures the mountains on the edge of town. Street lights are coming on early, and I hear two co-workers murmuring about theirdreaded drive home on a crowded, ice-coated highway. 
I stifle a smug smile and slice my pre-ride apple. I feel no trepidation as I look forward to my commute. My snow bike is parked downstairs. I know the bike paths will be quiet, uncrowded and covered with a few inches of dry, velvet-like powder. 
A few years ago, on a day like this, a couple of people would have already asked how I planned to get home. I’ve lost count of how many times co-workers have offered me rides on rainy and snowy days. That rarely happens anymore because everyone knows I’ll decline their invitations. Even my wife has stopped offering to come pick me up, unless she knows I’m facing a headwind strong enough to stop a freight train. 
It strikes me as sad that people who drive to work every day have a hard time understanding why the rest of us voluntarily subject ourselves to wind, heat, rain, cold and snow – you know, the real world – instead of climbing into climate-controlled steel bubbles. I blame this on the tendency that people have to describe weather as “bad.” 

One recent morning, the local newspaper carried a headline about “bad weather” putting cars into tailspins during the previous day’s rush hour. unless it’s severe enough to wreck your house or maim your loved ones, there is no “bad” weather. There’s just weather. Some is more comfortable, and some is less comfortable. It’s what you make of it. 
A woman who sometimes chats with me briefly by the back door as she walks to her car happened to see me gearing up to ride in several inches of new snow one night. She laughed and yelled, “You’re a madman!” 
No, I’m not. 
I’m not even all that tough, or brave, or any of the other things that some people call bike commuters (to our faces) when they’re impressed by what we endure. I’m just a bike nerd who likes getting exercise and having fun at the same time. 
I love to pedal through busy intersections on dark, snowy days, especially when the wind is filling the air with dry, swirling snow. The blizzard-like effect makes the weather look especially nasty to motorists as I plough through the churned-up slush furrowed by all the passing traffic. As I cross in front of their idling cars, I feel the drivers’ eyes watching me through wet, icy windshields as they wait for the light to turn green. 
I know they think I’m crazy. Many of them have unhesitatingly told me so. But I also know that I’m the sane one. Because as they robotically roll toward the next red light, I drop away from the street and roll down onto a dark, quiet bike path through the woods and begin to ride beside a frozen stream as I skirt the edges of quiet neighbourhoods. I often share my commute with a moose or two, and sometimes a fox, or a beaver that has surfaced through a hole in the creek ice. 
Not a single brake light glows on the dark path ahead of me. No horns honk, no sirens wail and no grim news blares from a radio. I listen to my tires roll through fresh powder. Snow swirls in the amber glow of street lights when I pass under roads. 
Somewhere, maybe one of my co-workers briefly thinks of me out in the snowstorm, shivers a bit and grips the steering wheel a little tighter. 
Underneath the black balaclava that covers my face, I’m smiling. Crazy? Let them think so. But I’m one of the few people enjoying the rush hour.
Tim Woody. Anchorage, Alaska. Tim rides all winter and writes the blog Bicycles & Icicles. www.alaskabikeblog.blogspot.com