When I said “later,” I apparently meant it. Please excuse the delay: the demands of this week required all my attention, with little time/energy leftover to write. My middle daughter, Kaylee, turned 13; I attended a wedding; I drank too much at the reception and was sidelined with a hangover the following day. I was on baseball/softball practice duty one day, although the week is such a blur, I can’t even remember which one now. The usual cooking-cleaning-laundy-radio-newpaper obligations had to be fulfilled, as well, of course, and while I do feel like I lead, to a certain degee, a charmed life, one that despite its struggles continues to offer pleasant surprises and good luck on a regular basis, sometimes, as I’ve written about before, the work of keeping it – and everyone in it – afloat wears me right out. This week was one of those times.

(I always fear sounding like I’m complaining in these bouts of thinking aloud, probably because I’m so painfully aware of how much worse things could be that to say anything negative about my life or insinuate that it’s somehow “hard” seems unconscionable. But a friend assured me I don’t, and I’m going to have to go with that. Besides, how boring would it be to write/read everythign from a Pollyanna perspective? So, onward…)

Monday: Bus to Fernbridge, rode 4 miles to the station; rode 11 miles to CR, caught the bus, home by 4 p.m. Smooth and uneventful. Of note: CR is back in session, which makes for a much more crowded bus ride.

Tuesday: Kaylee’s birthday. I decide to drive in order to have time to make birthday things happen. I also take the kids to practice in Eureka. Plenty of driving this day: home to Arcata and back for school; home to Ferndale for work; to Arcata to pick up Nick a few minutes early at school; to the Plaza so he could buy K a watch for her birthday; back to school to pick up K; to Eureka to drop first Nick, then Kaylee, at practice; to the bank in Old Town to deposit my paychecks; to the Co-op for tamales, cake mix and ice cream; back to the fields to pick up kids; home. I didn’t track it on the tripmeter, but I figure I accumulated at least 80, maybe nearly 100 miles – but all of it necessary if I list the pros of each activity against the con of driving.

Wednesday: I considered the options, but decided the only way I could make a 3 p.m. wedding in Arcata was to drive to KSLG: I couldn’t carpool because MD leaves too early for me on Wednesdays; I couldn’t leave the station before 1 p.m. because of the lunch feature, which meant I couldn’t do a bike-bus combo in time. So, I drove. And I made the wedding, which was lovely, and the reception, which was also lovely and further, intoxicating. I should write a whole nother post on the party, how touched I was to be at this milestone, how overwhelmed with fondness for my small community I became, how irresponsible I am at times, how complex the emotions a wedding draws out are, but I must press on with the travel adventure at the moment.

Thursday: Paying the price for drinking more wine than water last night, but I take the bus anyway. I try to read, but the combination of hangover and crowded, swaying bus provokes such nausea that I have to put my book away. I want to drop my head into my lap, but I maintain some dignity. When I’m finally released in Fernbridge, the fresh air tastes so very good for a moment – until the cow smell hits. Still, better than the confines of the bus and so my equilibrium is somewhat restored with a good pedal to the station. Even hungover, my time improves by a couple minutes. When the time for departure arrives, JM offers a ride. He’s going to Eureka anyway, right now. I debate for a moment: feeling like a loser for not biking vs. avoiding what is sure to be an agonizing ride. The wind gusts outside, tipping the scales to loser-feeling quickly replaced by relief. We have to pop the front tire of the bike off to make it fit in the car, a maneuver I will realize later disconnected the little computer which tracks my mileage and speed.

Friday: Feeling good and quite guilty over the day before. I catch the bus as usual – I can almost get away with saying “as usual” now – read my book without bus-sickness, watch a flock (herd? gaggle?) of quails skitter across the road and shave another minute off the four miles to the station. This is when I realize the computer’s disconnected, though, which saddens me. Watching the miles accumulate on the odometer pleases me, provides tangible proof of my accomplishment; I miss it immediately. Because I’m supposed to be at the Eye at 3 p.m., I have to record the last hour of my show and duck out at 1 p.m. to make the 2:15 p.m. bus at CR, which will get me to Arcata at 2:57 p.m. The recording takes a bit longer, though, and then I have to gather my things, say goodbye, scrounge up some change for the bus fare… by the time I’m pedalling away from KSLG, the clock on my bike (which still works, yay!) reads 1:25 p.m. I’m concerned, but then again, my last ride to CR only took 50 minutes, so I’m still optimistic.

Except that ride, on Monday, was without wind. Today’s headwind feels like the worst so far. No matter the slight shifts in direction, the wind forces more effort, slows me down far too much to make the bus. I come close – 2:18 – but close does no good at all. Do I wait around an hour for the next bus? I toss that idea aside. The hell with it, I decide, my original plan was to ride all the way home each day this week – a plan that did not coincide with reality at all, I should point out – I feel good, I will ride all the way to Eureka at least. I pedal on, cursing the wind, but grateful that the inclines remain mild. I manage brief moments of appreciation for the bay, the hills, the always-present Humboldt beauty, but the taste of exhaust, the constant sight of litter, the tension of biking alongside cars and trucks roaring by at 70 mph detracts noticeably from any pleasure I attempt to experience.

As bad as the highway is, Broadway is far worse. No bike lane in most stretches, parked cars blocking what room I have, red lights and turning cars – every inch of my body feels vulnerable and all the natural beauty has been replaced by squat buildings, parking lots and billboards. At 3:11 p.m., I find a payphone (left my cell at the house today, duh) and use my bus fare to call home (no luck) and T, who is gracious when I confess to missing the bus and only being at the south end of Eureka with a bike, instead of in the office where I belong. I tell him I will persevere and see him soon, then continue my unhappy trek down Broadway. At Washington, I gratefully cross the street toward a quieter route along Waterfront Drive. “This is nice,” flashes as I pedal past the boats, the harbor, the old railroad cars, through the edge of Old Town. I reach the library and must decide: home or work? If I go home, I can get the car and drive into town, but that way means crossing the bridges, again facing inclines and speeding cars. If I go straight to Arcata, I’ll only have to deal with the Safety Corridor and will have the satisfaction of biking the entire distance. I opt for A-town. Unfortunately, I’ve turned the wrong way by the library and find myself facing traffic on one-way Fourth Street, so I have to turn around, backtrack and circle a block in order to get myself properly directed. So much for competence. I pedal on anyway.

The stretch between Eureka and Arcata is pleasant after the harrowing highway from Ferndale to Eureka and the sensory overload of Broadway. I have enough room to notice egrets in the slough, ducks nearby, to hear a chirping flock along the wire. As I pedal towards Jacob Avenue I watch a plane take off from the little airport, then see a familiar truck pull up to the intersection exactly as I arrive there myself. I stop to say hello to my husband’s boss, who, surprised, grins and says he’d give me ride, “but I have to make it to the bank in Eu
reka so I can pay the crew.” I laugh and assure him I don’t need a ride – I’m going to make it! Buoyed by the minute of rest and having something to prove, I ride ride ride past the Indianola cutoff, past the Bayside cutoff, giddy to see the exit, then stressed out about navigating it. One last car-dodging pedal uphill and I’m there! I arrive at the Eye office ready to share my triumph – I biked from Ferndale! – but the only people around are the gaggle of teens who hang out at the bench in front of our door. With nothing else to do, I park my bike inside and do what work I can (since I work mostly from home, what I can accomplish in the office is minimal) – some proofing, an e-mail check. Eventually Bobby comes to town, picks me up. The end.

Since my odometer didn’t record this trip, I have to guess my mileage, but 104 total has to be close. Less than I intended, but 104 more than I normally would have ridden – and I’ve driven 288 miles less.