Friday, March 27, 2009

Ellen Fletcher and Out of the Saddle or no 3-28-09

Pretty close to where I started my ride, I saw one of America's first and easily one of its most powerful bike activists  out for a ride herself  today. On this perfect day for cycling, not too hot or not too cool, Ellen Fletcher (here is the Podcast she ands I did together in '05) was out biking on one of the many roads she helped to make friendly for cyclists, Back when Ellen was placing fire at the heels of local decision makers, green was not a popular way to be and people thought you were odd if you did not drive a car. As recent as 20 years ago, a great preponderance of people thought of the bicycle as no more than a toy. children used until they were enough to drive,   In the 70's when Ellen  first started campaigning  for safer streets for bicycles, the needs of the motorist far outweighed any other user of the road.

Ellen was courageous then. And she is courageous now.  I didn't stop and talk with her because I know how hard it is   for her to get enough wind to speak, let  alone ride a bike! Just a few short months ago, she had a large portion of her lung removed and yet that is a fact that few people even know. If Ellen wants to talk about anything, it's about biking and what we can do to make it safer! And all this from an 80 year old woman!!

Today I rode to the southern edge of Mountain View and back through Palo Alto to the edge of Menlo Park on the rollers at the base of the Coast Range. Most of the 21 miles I got today were pretty focused. What I mean by that is that I  drove it pretty hard  and kept a pretty steady cadence until I got to downtown Palo Alto. The roads I chose for this effort helped a lot. Miramonte Road from El Camino west across the valley was fast for bike travel with hardly any stop signs or lights and its wide bike lanes and soothing fresh blacktop. Nor do the cars travel fast on it. This as Foothill Expwy that it connects to is always an excellent place to roll some strong miles!  

I was also a lot more attentive to how  the bike and I related to each other. This was so because when there are lot of cars around, and less of the right of way  to work with, I have to be mindful of the interplay that is taking place when we share the road together. This is also true when I ride with other cyclists or there are a lot of people asking me questions. Instead of thinking about what the bike and I need from each other, I am trying to be  engaged in the needs of those with whom I am sharing my travels.

For example I made  it up a very steep hill in the homes behind Stanford, If I would have been riding with others I may have made it up for bragging rights or so as not to compromise my pride and never really known exactly why. Well today I made the  grade and I know why. I threw my upper body in front of the handelebars as far as I could. So much so, in fact. I felt like I was pedaling backwards. Whoaaa..

And yet as I go within as I ride, I now realize that unless the hill is really a steep one, I have got to stay in the saddle. This is so because I need to strengthen my legs for the new pedaling position the Eagle puts me in.  I also know that as my legs get stronger and stronger, the only time I will need to get up and off of the seat is when I need to rest my crotch or the ascent itself is a genuinely steep one. 

Because what goes up must come down, the hill on the other side of the short steep one I was proud to have climbed was probably twice as long and much steeper as well. Like a San Francisco  hill, it easily approaches a 20% grade. I still don't know how but I have climbed up it very slowly, inch by inch, and pedal stroke by pedal stroke with all my might on an Ordinary HiWheel. And yet today I almost didn't even go down it because I was remotely afraid that my brakes would not do the job. To help them, I backpedaled the whole painful way down. I felt so relieved to be safely at the bottom. 

Gotta wrap up today because in seven hours, I want to be on the road enjoying the hills with all the other Palo Alto and peninsula cyclists that I know will be out there!!

      THX 4 all of U!!  

Note: This ride is not about me but it is a celebration of all the people who have helped me get back to wholeness physically, emotionally, spiritually, and financially. This as I stand on the shoulders of giants to enjoy the privilege of riding this bike, the only Eagle in active use west of the Mississippi ...

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