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14 April 2002

I didn't expect it to appear so soon. But suddenly there it was and I had to confront it sooner than I expected. I still wasn't sure I was up to it. It was the first big hurdle I'd been worrying about--could I really do it? But now there was no way around it. It was time to face it head on...

The Overpass.

After the debacle of the Walnut Creek overpass last week, when I had to get off and push the bike up the hill, after watching Haggie pedal her way to the top, I'd been thinking about this Davis overpass. It goes from the greenbelt, where Olivia and I rode last week, to the park where one starts the tour of "memorials to the dead Sykes kids." I'd been scoping it out for days. Looking at the slope from both sides, as I drove under it on the way to work. Which was steeper? Could I really make it up to the top? I even took careful note of the under-pass path, which involved stopping at the light and crossing the street and picking up the bike path on the other side. But the cool people just went across the overpass.

Haggie came to my house this morning for our weekly bike ride. I would be taking her on the same tour that I had gone with Olivia. Walt managed to get my odometer working, so I would finally be able to track the mileage, which I was eager to do.

We loaded up our food and water, donned our helmets, I put on my cool biking gloves, and off we went. It was a perfect day for biking. Warm, but not too warm. It was predicted to reach nearly 80 by mid-day, but in the mid-morning hours, it was just right.

I pointed out my Health Club on the way to the greenbelt and then we turned and headed for the greenbelt itself. I've somehow forgotten the route Olivia and I took. This was the second time I'd been on the greenbelt since our tour last week, and again this time I got lost. It's hard to get lost just a couple of blocks from your house. And technically speaking I wasn't exactly lost, but instead of finding myself looking at a vast expanse of lawn and playgrounds, I ended up back on the city street again.

Eventually we found a return place that did get us into the heart of the greenbelt. We rode around the duck pond which Olivia and I had photographed from a distance. I just kept taking turns, not knowing where they were leading. Oh, I recognized all the street names, but I still don't have a clear picture of the layout of the greenbelt in my head.

At one point we crossed a street and rode by a field of tall grass with poppies growing in it. I told Haggie about the time we had walked to this field for the wedding of some friends of the kids. The wedding was held on a little hillock and Jeri had gone on ahead of the group so that she could be standing there playing the flute when the wedding party arrived. It was a wedding right out of the 60s.

Haggie and I continued on our way and suddenly--there it was--the overpass. No turning back.  No chance to make last minute route changes to cross at the intersection. We were aimed right for the incline up the overpass.

I took a deep breath, downshifted, and headed up the hill....and made it to the top! I was so pleased with myself.  What was even more surprising was that when I asked for more power from my legs, the power was there.  All this exercise must be having some effect.  My reward for reaching the top was to be able to coast down the other side, the wind blowing in my face. It was the first mini-goal I had set for myself when I first got on the bike, and I'd achieved it.

Flushed with success, I headed for the next incline, from the park past the skateboard rink and over to the Art Center to start the Memorial Tour at the Memorial weather shelter. Then retracing the route back up the incline and down past the theatre to the Memorial Tree.  It involved some pretty careful maneuvering in and out among people gathered at a barbecue spot, but I was able to do that without killing anybody.  I remembered how nervous I had been encountering the first pedestrians I came across on our first outing to the Naval Air Base--and how much easier this was, with a few weeks of biking under my belt.

Last stop on the memorial tour was Paul Plaza, and that meant riding downtown in traffic. It would be my first time out on the bike in traffic, but after several outings, I was feeling much more confident and steady on the bike. Traffic? No prob.

We stopped at the Farmer's Market and visited with Ellen and Shelly, who were selling raffle tickets for June's upcoming Gay Pride Day. Then we picked up some fresh apple juice from one of the vendors, found a shady spot on the grass, and sat down to have our lunch.

This was another mini triumph. At the conclusion of lunch, I stood up. Now this may sound like a small thing not worthy of note, but three months ago, I could not have gotten down onto the grass, and I definitely could not have gotten up unaided. Nearly 40 lbs lighter, I was able to move like a normal person.

Back on the bikes and into the heart of downtown. This is not exactly like the financial district of San Francisco, but still a lot more activity than one finds on the bike path. But there was nary a missed heartbeat as we confidently maneuvered the bikes around cars and into the parking lot of "Paul Plaza." I showed Haggie all the engraved bricks and she made all the appropriate comments.

Next we were off to the University. In all the years I've lived here, even in the years when I actually had a bike, I never went biking for the fun of it, and never biked around campus. I found places I didn't know existed, down hills, under overpasses, up hills on the other side, past cow pastures, and eventually headed back the way we had come, and on to home.

By the time we pulled into the driveway, the odometer told me we'd gone 10 miles--a nice length ride. I'd conquered the overpass, tackled traffic, and sailed up and down hill­ettes at the university. It was a great day!

Before Haggie left to go home, we sat and looked through the biking books I'd bought about more  trails in No. California, trying to find some more nice flat ones for our next excursion. No outings for a couple of weeks now, since we both have other commitments, but we're all excited about the roads ahead of us and new hurdles to conquer.


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