27 May 2008

Just try to Bike to work day

Well, I'm told May 15 was Bike to Work Day in the Bay Area. Son Chris frequently does so anyway, so he stayed the course and was joined by scores of people unused to his morning commute. They all were unused to the 99-degree day that surprised them.

I don't think it was Bike to Work Day as such in my town. But I had decided the night before that I would in fact again bike to work, but with a twist: I would turn my 3.5 mile, 20 minute casual commute into a 40+ circuit and give myself 3 hours to get to the office.

I was on my way at 6am, dressed for yet another cool morning ride, with my cycling tights over cycling shorts and under nylon shorts. All very stylishly black. Over this, a cool-max long shirt and a pullover cotton shirt on top. My touring bike is set up for commuting, with a rack to handle the rear pannier, and cage pedals so I don't have to change out of clip-in shoes.

At about 7 miles out I hit a bump and heard "something." I stopped, checked to be sure I hadn't lost anything, and then went on my way. I had some miles to cover and no time to lollygag. I hit other bumps along the way - the Illinois Prairie Path is a great resource, but it can be a challenging ride, especially when one is normally on the street/road. It was a fair morning, though a bit cool, and I made pretty good time. I even pulled into my office lot a few minutes before 9:00, noting that my ride time was just 2 hours 48 minutes, and my distance 41.some miles.

I also noted that my rear pannier was missing. Yikes! When and how had I lost that? And how could I not know it, not hear it, feel it, sense it? In the bag were my office clothes, my watch, some lunch, and my U-lock. OK, now what to do? The bike can be kept indoors, so that is OK. I look like a read jerk the farther I walk away from the bike, but at least I have an outer layer that does not scream "bike dork!" I'm not walking around on cleated shoes. Nothing in my bag is irreplaceable and I have my wallet on me.

Do I head back along the path, right away, in hopes of finding the bag? What are the chances? Do I cut my losses and just ride straight home at the end of the day? In the end, before calling my wife and whining to her, I decided to put in 5 hours at the office, then re-ride my route, scanning - almost certainly in vain - for a bag dropped anywhere from 5 to 8 hours earlier. A fool's errand, to be sure. And so it proved to be. No bag to be seen along that route. And it could have been anywhere, so what did I expect? It would probably be picked up and kept or tossed - nothing of any great value, and no ID. It might be in a ditch, and never seen again by humans.

So, in the end, I got an 83-mile day of cycling, but I think it was the least satisfying 83 miles I've ever had. I lost 3 hours of office time, and I still had to get back in the evening to conduct a choir rehearsal. So the day was a loss and a waste. After choir I had some lengthy and detailed errands to do at home. Karen and I left early the next day for a quick trip to Minnesota.

In the office Thursday, explaining why I was dressed so inappropriately, this became a dumb story to tell on myself. Friends in Minnesota always ask if I'm still cycling ... so I got to tell this fresh dumb story on myself. And really, you know, it wasn't that bad. Apart from my clipon sunglasses, the bag itself was the most valuable item I lost, and nothing was irreplaceable.

Imagine my amazement when, Saturday night, back home, checking email, I saw an email from an ABD club member. ABD is an awesome group of riders - serious or casual, they are a nice group of people. The email from Allison said she had been called by the DuPage Forest Preserve asking if she knew me. What?!? Well, it turns out that I had forgotten about a little piece of paper that was in my bag: Allison had responded to a club message board question by sending me a fax at the office, on another day I had ridden into work. That fax was in an inner pocket of my pannier. The Forest Preserve police had gone through my bag, found the fax, and used it to track me down. Amazing.

And here's the funny thing: the time Allison wrote, 3:15pm May 15. Or, in cycling terms, at about the time I was 1/3 of the way back on my search for this bag! About the time I was rolling from the Aurora Branch of the IPP on to the Batavia Spur. Later I learned from Allison that she actually had 2 calls from the FP police before she called them back ... it seems they were concerned that maybe I was a hiker that had gone missing. As I consider this story, it is filled with good people doing good things. I am humbled.

But I left town again Sunday for 4 days, so it was a full week later that I recovered my bag from a very kind officer at FP headquarters. Everything was there, even the now way-past-disgusting pizza I had so looked forward to on May 15.

The dumb story on myself turns out to be a great story about my cycling club. But it is an even better story about a kindly Providence, a God who is kind enough to even take care of little, inconsequential things. My life would be no worse, in any way, for losing this bag and all its contents. But it is so much richer for having regained them: it refreshes my amazement at God, and my love for people and what we are capable of.

That's an adventure worth living.

1 comment:

Zelda said...

Good for people to know.