Biking Winberry

Peggy got her new bike yesterday, and we biked up Winberry Mountain today. Winberry is not a prestigious peak, but after three miles of a continuous 20% grade, we found it adequate, and our bikes found it more than adequate. Bikes, we’ve discovered, dislike hills, and despise mountains. I cannot say why—although I have certainly wondered. If a bike were a car or even a motorcycle, I could understand a certain amount of antipathy, but their riders are their motors. My best guess is that they are afraid of heights, because the steeper the slope, the more frozen—as with fear—their pedals become, and the greater the determination of their handlebars to go in any direction but up. And if the road is tilted to the side—as was today’s road—their back tires evince an appalling determination to slide off the gravel and down the mountain, leaving the front tire and the rider to carry on as best they can.

We—Peggy and I—are weary tonight. Her thighs are cramping, and my knee hurts more than a little, but not so much that I am screaming and writhing, at least not noticeably. Upon returning home, we exchanged our new bikes for our old ones, and rode to the U of O to hear a presentation entitled Amphibians of the Northern Oregon Cascades. Peggy found this final cycling insult galling to her thighs, and the fact that she was nearly run down by a speeding woman at an intersection did not improve her outlook. The driver apologized profusely, cried, offered us money, apologized profusely again, hugged Peggy, apologized profusely a third and a fourth time, hugged Peggy a second time, and walked away trembling. Peggy was also upset, but the driver’s emotions were so intense that Peggy found it necessary to comfort the very person whose bumper had just brushed her fender. I was not sure at first but what the driver was going to leave the scene, so I wrote her tag number on my palm. She saw me do this, and it could explain her apologetic reaction.

The dogs accompanied us easily on the trip up Winberry, but the trip back being downhill, Bonnie (who is now nine) was especially fatigued despite numerous stops. I really don’t know how to reconcile the dogs’ needs with ours. The most isolated roads near Eugene are in the Willamette National Forest (a tract the size of New Jersey), and they are all mountainous. This means that finding roads and trails that are both isolated and doable is all but impossible. I study topo maps, not to find a lot of places we can all comfortably go, but simply to find a few places.

I was surprised by Peggy’s considerable speed coming down Winberry since she was so cautious on her old Raleigh. In places, the gravel was loose and the road a washboard. There were also curves, low-hanging limbs, winter storm debris, and potholes. I enjoy the challenge of such an environment, yet I lack the experience to know my limits. Peggy and I later spoke of numerous moments when our back wheels were no longer following our front, and they were not comforting moments. There were even times when I was bouncing so rapidly that I had trouble focusing upon what was in front of me.

My biggest fear of bicycling (in town or in the woods) is that I won’t see something coming. Just last night, I ran up onto a curb that I didn’t see. Luckily, it was rounded at the top so I was able to stay upright, but barely. When I consider how many close calls we have had on bicycles, I almost wonder if we should ride them. Since I can no longer hike, and Peggy’s knees aren’t holding up so well either, the answer is not difficult.