Sunday, May 24, 2009

Take The Challenge

Last week I challenged myself to try another Sunday route, but opted to go the usual path. So this week, I met the challenge.

Strapping on the black Bell helmet with visor, fingerless woven gloves and Foster Grants shades, even though it was overcast, I walked the big blue bike up the bunny less alley.

“Turn right,” my brain kept saying. So I focused and turned toward the stoplight.

But something was wrong. The gears were skipping as I adjusted my mirror. I stopped to let a jogger pass and examined the settings. The major gear, that’s the one, which keeps the hub in three settings, was out of sync. A quick adjustment on the left handlebar and all was right.

Waiting for the traffic to pass at the light I realized this was going to be a different trip. A white SUV coming south made me pause and then turn left.

I noticed the trees on this side of the street grown further out into the path and must be ducked when the mobile machines are close and there is no space to duck in between the immobile ones.

The ride was pretty steady as I got into a rhythm and rolled down to Willow Lawn drive. The intersection has always been bumpy and this morning was no exception.

Newly paved black pavement lay before. The incline up to Libbie was not as bad as usual, perhaps the sun was not blazing or the traffic was not pressing my space. I even went through the red light at “Kiss and Make-Up” which I can not normally due because the traffic from the fish store and post office.

Jumping over the bad repairs to the street in front of the vacant windows overhanging the street where high end women’s clothing used to be sold, but now sits a sign declaring the building was vacant.

A turn up Libbie I passed the “Super Stars” gourmet pizza. “What makes a ‘gourmet pizza’ I asked myself. It’s bread and tomatoes and cheese?”

Turning around at the Westhampton playground where I sang my first rock and roll performance and going away from the hospital I’d frequently too many times, I paused at the stoplight next to the purring hum of the metal monsters. The hardware store being constructed from an old grocery was still vacant.

Rising up Libbie to the Grove was not too bad for me, but it looked bad for the large man in black walking south panting next to what is now a Ukrops’ junior market. I did not have to lower gears. I figured I’d be back here for lunch but it did not happen.

Across Grove and a turn after the Clearwire car passed to right turn onto a down hill slide in front of the impatient white SUV and pass the new metal sign showing a silver telecaster on the roof of “Logos” guitar. It’s nice but very expensive. Just like everything in this area. A box of Cheerios cost a dollar more than at the other grocery stores. Why?

A smooth turn to the right and checking out the outlet to the neighborhoods that buffer the river. They are not the wealthiest houses, but want to appear to be. “That is why they pay a dollar more” I chuckled.

Steady ride pass the little market, which converted, to a high-end and expensive caterer to the seeming rich and not so famous. Even the phone booth is gone.

The “Lock Lane” condos are coming along nicely, even though they have not repaired the entrances and the potholes. This former barrack looking cinder block square buildings with casement windows have been transported to modern high tech living spaces for sale to any up and coming yuppie.

I wonder if this rage to change old apartments into condos is a way to unload bad properties to unsuspecting families who think they are getting great deals with newly polished floors and tin kitchens. What will they look like in three years?

A stop at the elementary school and catch my breath.

Then the slow grind up the hill to Malvern. It’s not a steep path, about a 5 to 6 degree rise, but try to do that on your treadmill. It’s 4 blocks of a climb to the Greek church and the last block rises higher, but Redline is holding her own.

Another stoplight I pause and view the Malvern apartments, which are being changed into condos. Do you see a pattern here? I’m surprised to see that they are building new buildings. Three story buildings with the exact pattern of the former establishments. This is quiet a new plan and seems to be continuing while other ventures in real estate have sputtered to a halt.

Drifting down the hill to the Powhite, I avoided the potholes while keeping an eye on the oncoming traffic. The new challenge is to survive up to where the road tightens from two lanes to one and I make it to the top of the hill without incident.

The ride to Boulevard was uneventful and quiet pleasant.

An entire block of ‘yard sale’ sitting in front of an old synagogue met me as I crossed the four-lane street. Pushing up the hill pass the apartment David and I almost got and the last place John remembered. I hope I don’t have a hospital as my last remembrance.

Past another stoplight and I realized I was on Grove. “This is the wrong street”, I thought.

A turn to the left past a yard full of green and a cool loft about a garage, I found the path.

“Hi!” said the man standing between cars awaiting traffic to pass. “Hi” I replied with a smile. You get that sort of conversation from the street when you ride face-to-face.

Fox school has a huge hole in the west side. A tractor sites in a dirty hole up to the side of the brick. A wooden shelf has been built over the former entrance way. “It was a busy week here” I thought. The rest of the facade was as expected.

Up ahead was a man turning toward me on a bike and a car on my left. I stopped at Strawberry Street to watch the vehicle turn toward the salad tub and the man dismount and place his bike in the back of a pickup truck.

Giving full range to the biker and a jogger, weaving between oncoming traffic I stopped at Lombardy. Looking at the old Bogart’s I noticed it had a new door and had been stripped of paint. “Maybe there will be a new restaurant there”, I wondered.

Around the triangle park to the cheers of gleeful children, I paused for the stoplight. A bearded man who looked one of the Fugs stood across the street with a satchel over his shoulder waiting for something. Maybe he was waiting for a bus? Several couples waited for tables outside of “Kuba Kuba”. As two cyclists passed and the bearded man walked toward me to stand a foot away in the crosswalk, I decided to move on avoiding an awkward conversation.

Where are the boys? I see girls walking their dogs and babies, but no men, except for the few entering the coffee shop.

Stopping at the church, I feel the bumps in old fan roads cracked at every 3-tire rotation, but it is better than the cobblestones underneath. After waiting for the traffic to spread in various directions, I start to climb the bumpy Park Avenue thin street.

Finally, several male types are awake and walking up and down the street in shorts and baggy t-shirts. As if an alarm had gone out, the other species had arrived to the sunshine.

Up to the Boulevard church and into the near west end. This section of town has it’s own road signs…. Blue! Not like the brown Fan street signs (except for one, but that’s another story). The “museum district” it is called now.

Pass the former funeral parlor and gas stations turned into new life, pass the 7-11 and the “CafĂ© Diem” which used to be the first delivery pizza.

A turn left and then right at the laundry mat, and up the familiar path. This street has always been flat and easy to peddle though the horizon was at my eyesight so I knew it had a height of a sloping 4 feet in 5 blocks.

Passing a train car size container of leftovers from a house, I thought I could use one of those, but it won’t happen.

Two couples quietly passed the day-glow balls over the net at the tennis courts across the street from the newly planted Ellwood Thompson gardens. I used to be good at tennis, and golf, but that was another time. I could have followed the corporate path, but gave it up.

Straight up the road and another view from what I normally see. A reverse view as it was. The other side of trees, lawns, houses and a close up view of scenes that are usually across the street.

Keep pushing though the feeling in the seat is telling me it’s been enough of a ride.

A turn to the right to the store and some relaxing and an afternoon of driving fast and turning left for the holiday.

Hope everyone enjoys the holiday as I do every day now.

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