Saturday, May 17, 2008

April in Paris or Wherever Happen to Be Biking When

If you spent the first part of your life in other places and came lately to the Pacific Northwest, you soon realize that you can’t tell the seasons by the calendar. One year it was 53 on Christmas and only 50 on the Fourth of July. So I have other ways of marking the seasons. For instance, the first day I put on my bike shorts is the first day of summer. I see lots of young male cyclists with bare knees toughing the November rain, but not me. It has to be summer.

This year the first day of summer was this past Thursday, May 14. That was when I tossed my long polypropylene bike pants in the laundry and donned my shorts. Then I headed for downtown shopping via the west sidewalk of Rainier Avenue S. Because it was summer, that gave me an excuse to stop at Baskin Robbins for a “small vanilla milk shake.” Well at least I asked for a small one. But never mind, the proprietor filled a half gallon blender jar better half full of ice cream. Then he charged me five bucks.

I sat at the little café table in front of the big Baskin Robins window wall sipping the lovely thing while the CD player filled the shop with a jazz piano/vocal arrangement of “April in Paris.” It used to be that whenever I heard that tune, I immediately started dreaming of Paris with its baroque architecture along the Seine and side walk cafes beneath chestnut trees and started feeling nostalgic and wander lusty. But this time I stopped myself. Because suddenly I realized that no matter how beautiful it was whenever I was in Paris, I wasn’t any happier then than I was at that moment on Thursday in Baskin Robbins on Rainier Avenue South. That’s because ever since I broke my hip and thought I’d never ride again, I know how lucky I am just to be alive and riding my bike.

Mind you the scene outside the Baskin Robbins window wall on Rainier was a far cry from Paris. It was mostly crumbling concrete and chain link fencing with barbed wire. Many of the tumble down commercial establishments were being demolished for hopefully better days to come with the nearby McClellan Light Rail Station. In fact dominating the scene was a giant bull dozer across the street looking like some tyrannosaurus rex gobbling up big mouthful of old concrete.
But it was beautiful. It was warm and sunny. I was perfectly comfortable in bike shorts. What more could I ask?

This morning my husband and I rode our tandem down around the Seward Park Peninsula and on up Lake Washington Boulevard. Everybody was out in force, sitting on grassy slopes, picnicking beside the Lake, walking the paths, riding their bikes. The Cascade Range lined its snowy peaks up along the horizon and Mt. Rainier floated in the haze above it all majestically surveying her realm. Paris has no beauty to rival this, our home.

We stopped in Leschi at Pert’s Deli, an old tradition of ours, and arguably the most popular bicycling destination in Seattle. We sat at one of the umbrella tables on the side walk pretending we were in Paris. Who would know the difference?
The tables were all full of cyclists, young and old from many walks of life. There were rich cyclists with those brightly colored helmets that have lots of air holes and are swept way back like duck’s butts. And there were poor cyclists making do with round dumpy helmets carried over from other sports. One guy wearing a construction hard hat leaned over to lovingly help his young wife or girl friend adjust the strap of her Mickey Mouse back pack. Rich or poor, young or old, everyone was happy. That was because they were alive and bicycling, and it was summer.
I just heard they’re calling off summer tomorrow. Clouds are moving in already. That’s okay. There’s still lots of life and bicycling miles to go before I sleep.


Char said...

Glad you're back to biking since breaking your hip. Life is good once again! :) No better place to be than your bike!! :)

Coldwind & slurppuppy said...

I was hoping you could give me some advice about getting a first bike. I am 53, in grad school and suddenly craving a bike. Being a student, money's always a factor. And used doesn't bother me as long as I know what I'm looking for., if you're of a mind to answer. :0)

alice said...

Hi Mona,

Well, I finally got around to checking out your site...delightful! You have such an engaging writing style! It must be great fun to get all the feedback!

Best wishes.
Alice Britt