27 Feb 2003 jfleck   » (Master)

I woke up yesterday morning looking for an excuse not to ride. It was my weekly "Jaime ride", which is always the toughest day on the bike, and the weather was ugly. I'm glad I didn't believe the excuse I found. It was a great ride.

The forecast had been for snow overnight, and I'd told Jaime the night before - snow on the ground, no ride. But instead it had been raining. It was raining and wet when I got up, still dark, and I figured I'd found my excuse. But when I looked at the weather radar, it seemed as though it was clearing out. I looked west (storms flow from the west) and could see clearing skies. So I called Jaime and said I'd make it.

As I was driving to Jaime's house, I was sure I'd made a mistake. A big new pile of clouds was pushing over from the west, rolling down over the lip of the mesa and onto Jaime's house. But I was committed, so I unpacked the bike and we rolled. I made him find us a back way out of his neighborhood and down to the river, off the busy street we usually take, because it was wet and grey and I didn't want to mess with cars.

As we came off the hill and down to the river, it was spectacular. The rain had stopped, and banks of clouds and fog and snow showers were moving over the valley and the foothills beyond, hiding and revealing our city before us. The air was thick with moisture, which is a great pleasure in the desert. And down by the river it smelled so good as we rolled down the trail by ourselves, no other cyclists, only an occasional walker, one hardy roller blader and a lot of puddles to dodge. No drafting on a day like that (I tried for a bit, until I got a glob of mud in my mouth from Jaime's back wheel) and our bikes and clothes were a filthy, muddy mess by the time we got home. It was delightful.
My neighbor and friend Martin died Monday evening. It is sad, but not unexpected, and a relief. He has been sick for a very long time, and has been preparing for his own death with a grim mixture of dignity, humor, realism and fear. Two years ago at his annual Fourth of July party, he wandered the backyard with a long oxygen line trailing him everywhere, very much the life of his own party. Last year, he had to sit most of the afternoon and evening, clearly exhausted, still trailing oxygen line, but very much more tired. The last time I saw him, a couple of weeks ago, he looked me square in the eye and told me it was frightening.

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