Posted tagged ‘bike riding’

“I dont hate it he thought, panting in the cold air, the iron New England dark; I dont. I dont! I dont hate it! I dont hate it!”

January 10, 2017

Last night was bitterly cold. It was 7˚. Everything which had melted froze again. My front step was so icy I was afraid to walk on it. I thought it was an accident waiting to happen, but it didn’t. I got in and out of the house without incident. Gracie slides on the last couple of deck steps. They have been de-iced several times as have the front steps. Today is currently 36˚, the predicted low. The high temperature will be 40˚. Tomorrow could hit 50˚. My whole world will melt.

My outside Christmas lights are still connected and glow every night. They are beautiful under the layer of snow. The star on the fence is my favorite. It doesn’t matter if there are clouds, a bright star always shines. When I went out last night early in the evening, I saw many houses still had their nights lit. They looked beautiful.

We have added over 20 minutes of light since the Winter Solstice. Red Sox pitchers and catchers report to spring training on February 12th; the rest of the team reports February 16th. Despite snow and cold, the signs are evident. We will have a spring!!

When I was a kid, I never really took notice of the seasons as much as the events of each season. This stretch from New Year’s Day to February vacation seemed to take forever. Nothing happened. It was as close to a rut as any kid gets. If we wanted to play outside after school, we’d have maybe an hour, maybe less, before it got dark. Putting on layers, boots, hats and mittens seemed far too much work for such a short time. If there was no snow, I’d haul my bike out of the cellar then put it back when I had to go inside the house. That was a lot of work for a short time as it took some wrangling to get the bike out of the cellar because of the concrete wall right across from the cellar door. I had to put the bike on end to get it out of the cellar. In summer I’d leave the bike in the yard, but in winter it went back inside.

My mother used to have to reach up into the arms of our winter coats to pull down our shirtsleeves by the cuffs. She was thrilled when we finally learned to hold on to our cuffs when she’d put on our coats. I was watching TV the other day, and I saw a character hold on to his cuffs when he put on his topcoat. I had to chuckle. His mother must have been thrilled.

It is sad. Tonight President Obama is making his farewell address. I will miss him.

“She who succeeds in gaining the mastery of the bicycle will gain the mastery of life.”

May 10, 2016

Today is a gift. I’m thinking Mother Nature has decided to stop teasing us with winter and has embraced spring. Not a branch moves in the stillness of the morning. The sun is bright and is framed by a blue sky. The birds are singing, and I hear several different songs. My feeders are getting a lot of traffic. It is in the mid 50’s but will get warmer as the day grows older. Tonight will be in the mid 40’s. It is a Cape Cod spring day.

This is the time of year when I’d ride my bike to school. I remember speeding down the hills and feeling chilly from the wind. My jacket would fill with air. The ride was short, probably about ten minutes, all downhill going and uphill returning. It should have been the opposite.

The bike rack was old and wooden. It was under branches from the tree in a yard next to the school fence. It was painted a dark green and had layers of paint. You could see them all when the paint chipped. I never had a lock for my bike. I don’t think anyone did. The bikes weren’t fancy. They had the back pedal brakes. Most had wire baskets. The best part of riding my bike was getting home fast and having more time to play in the afternoon.

The streets all had sand from winter when the sand trucks would come by and spew their sand on the snow to give cars better traction, but this time of year it was the street cleaning trucks which would come by. They had brushes low to the ground and would sweep the sand to the  curbside. A couple of times I skidded in the sand. Sometimes we did what came to be called wheelies. Our bikes would leave circular skid marks. Braking at the right time and place was the key.

The day hasn’t started well. I had an early morning meeting and nearly fell out of bed when the alarm went off. On the way to the bathroom I stepped in cat throw up. I have to go out but not for anything fun. I have to some x-rays done of my back. I’ve decided I deserve a good lunch, my favorite sandwich and a whoopie pie for dessert. I definitely earned it this morning.

“The seasons are what a symphony ought to be: four perfect movements in harmony with each other.”

April 11, 2016

The world is finally waking up from its winter’s sleep. The forsythia are starting to bloom so pockets of bright yellow are sitting along the roadside. The hyacinths have bloomed and are scattered in the gardens in a variety of colors. Mine are pink, purple and white. In the front garden I see small shoots getting taller every day. I don’t know what they are. I think maybe I just have to be patient to see what they’ll become.

In winter I abide the weather. That’s just the way it is. But as winter finishes its cycle, I get impatient for spring. I want gardens bright with flowers. I want warm days. I want color. Summer is another season I abide. When it first arrives, I am so happy to feel the warmth, to sit on the deck and to have all the windows open to the sounds of the birds and the sweet smell of the season. By August, though, the summer is too hot and humid. It is time to be inside with the air conditioner. I want cooler days. I am ready for the end of summer and the first stirrings of fall, my favorite of all the seasons. Fall never seems to last long enough. All of a sudden we have our first frost, and I am reminded it will be winter’s turn again, but now we are as far away from winter as we’ll ever be. I am so happy for the coming of spring.

The air is a bit chilly, but we have sun so I’m not going to complain. This morning it rained a bit, and I expected a cloudy, damp day. What a nice surprise to see blue skies and the sun so rare of late.

When I was a kid, this would be bicycle weather. My bike stayed in the cellar all winter and it was quite an ordeal to get it out of the cellar and up the stairs. A concrete wall was a step or two across from the cellar door. It was one side of the set of stairs. The other side was the foundation of the house. My bike couldn’t come straight out of the cellar as there wasn’t enough room because of that wall. It had to be turned in creative ways so it faced the cellar steps. I used to lift it as I was going out the cellar door so only the back tire was on the ground. I’d hold the bike as best I could and pivot on the back tire so the whole bike faced the steps. I’d then squeeze to get in front of the bike so I could pull it up the stairs by the handlebars. That was slow going, step by step. When I was finished and was finally in the backyard, I’d mount my bike, ride it across the grass then ride down the forbidden hill in pure triumph with my arms raised, a sort of Tour de France gesture. I didn’t care that I left wheel marks. I deserved that hill.

“I bought a big bag of potatoes and it’s growing eyes like crazy. Other foods rot. Potatoes want to see.”

February 1, 2016

My neighbor is taking her citizenship test tomorrow. She is a bundle of nerves even though she knows all the book answers and speaks good English. Her only speaking problem is the agreement of subject and verb, especially has and have, which throws her off every time. Nicee had only one question for me today which was how to pronoun Eisenhower. After a couple of run throughs I told Nicee no more studying: take the day off today and enjoy yourself. I know she won’t.

February is usually our snowiest month so I’m in a wait and see holding pattern. Today’s 51˚ could be a smokescreen for a blizzard. I am skeptical of a warm winter’s day. Something has to be afoot.

February is a month of expectations. Valentine’s Day is close and February vacation is not long after. When I was a teacher, I just hung around the cape or took day trips over the bridge. The joy of the week was in not using an alarm clock, staying up late and having no papers to correct or plans to make. During vacation when I was a kid our daytime plans depended upon the weather. A day like today meant bike riding all over town which gave us such a sense of freedom. We could ride anywhere we wanted, and bulky clothes were gone for the day. I could freely move my arms and legs, and my clothes didn’t make a swishing noise. If we had snow, we sledded until our lips turned blue. The actual bed time was arbitrary but mostly later than usual. Lunch was catch as catch can. Mostly it was a sandwich grabbed on the run. The week always went quickly.

There are a slew of things I never saw my mother do. She cleaned and did washing when I was in school though I do remember her taking dry clothes off the outside lines. When I left for school, my bed was messy. When I came home, it was neatly made. I figure my mother must have taken a bath at some point but I never saw her take one. The only task I was around to see was my mother making dinner. She was always peeling potatoes, endless bags of potatoes, or so it seemed to to me.

“On a bike, being just slightly above pedestrian and car eye level, one gets a perfect view of the goings-on in one’s own town.”

June 27, 2015

The inside is cooler than outside. I went on the deck earlier and filled the bird feeders, all except the red spawn of Satan’s favorite one. Afterwards I sat outside for a while patting Miss Gracie. It is a lovely morning.

My back pain had me groaning loudly enough to wake myself up several times last night, just about every time I moved. My guess is Gracie and Fern never moved and slept through my pain. I’m tired today so I see a nap on the horizon.

June was exciting only because it meant the end of school. Now I could go wherever I wanted and stay as long as I liked. My mother never knew where we were. We left in the morning with our packed lunches and got home in time for supper. I remember going to the next town over, Wakefield, and riding the circumference of the lake. At the end of the lake, the end furthest away from us, was a teepee, the symbol of a gift shop selling Indian doodads. It never occurred to me how strange that was. There were very few Indians, exactly none, in suburban Boston yet I could buy a tom-tom or a hatchet decorated in beads and fringe. Sometimes we’d leave the lake at that end and ride our bikes to Reading. I remember signs announcing some sort of a military base. Once in a while we’d even see an army truck or jeep. We’d ride through Reading Square and sometimes take a detour to the train station and sit on the benches a while hoping for a train. I always thought it was a cheat that the towns on each side of mine had trains, and we didn’t. My town was stuck with buses. We’d leave Reading and ride the back roads home. We’d pass a golf course, a cemetery and a big corner store called Fortini’s. Sometimes we’d ride the swamp path through the woods, the quickest way home, while other times we’d stay on the road.

My mother would ask us what we’d done all day. Just riding around was always our answer.

“The flush toilet, more than any single invention, has ‘civilized’ us in a way that religion and law could never accomplish.”

June 20, 2015

Today has been an interesting day around the Ryan homestead. First I had to go toilet shopping. The one on this floor cracked and pieces of tank and lots of water ended up all over the bathroom floor. I, however, was in New Hampshire when this happened so my friend Clare kindly cleaned up the flood and made sure the water was off. I had to run to the upstairs bathroom the last couple of days and sort of had to plan for the extra time to get there. Last night I decided I’d had enough planning so today Skip and I went to three places shopping for a new toilet, though I hesitate to call it shopping, and we were unsuccessful. One didn’t have the toilet in stock and the other two were closed. It was in the fourth place we finally found my new toilet. Skip mumbled his way through the parts and instructions but it is now in and functional so I no longer have to run upstairs. Skip then went outside and dug a hole for my little free library, http://littlefreelibrary.org, attached it to a 4 x4 then filled in the hole. My friend Bill made the library, and it is beautiful and even has cedar shingles on the roof. Skip is now completing his final task: putting a new mailbox for me across the street.

I like to shop, no question about it. Mostly I like off-beat stores where you can find odd or vintage. This week I have shopped for toilet seats, a new toilet, a new mailbox and a 4×4 pole. That is just not shopping by any definition.

It is a gorgeous day with a bright sun and a cooling breeze. When I was outside with Skip, I was reminded of Saturdays when I was a kid. I could hear a lawnmower, people talking and kids yelling to one another as they rode their bikes up and down the street. This is a neighborhood where people greet each other, catch up on the news and wave while passing by in a car. We are on our second generation of kids. The first generation grew up and now have kids of their own. On my street are nine, soon to be ten, kids under 10. There are two more but one just graduated from high school and his sister will be a senior in the fall. Many of us on the street are now retired. Four homes have the original owners. I’m one of them. I guess in a way that makes me an historian of my street.

“How strange it is to view a town you grew up in, not in wonderment through the eyes of youth, but with the eyes of a historian on the way things were.”

June 19, 2015

Gracie is having her morning nap on the couch. She’s snoring. Maddie is under the lamp staying warm and Fern is sleeping on the couch cushion in the other room. Our routine is back.

I awoke to the sound of raindrops, but they lasted only a little while. The day, though, is still dark, overcast with light grey clouds. The weatherman says it will be warm, even hot.

The first few days of summer vacation when I was a kid were joyous days lacking routine, wide open days when I could do whatever I wanted. A long, wonderful summer stretched out in front of me. My bike never got put away. It stayed against the fence in the backyard. I used it to go to the library or to take a leisurely ride with no purpose or destination. I knew every corner of my town, every street. I knew all the places of interest. Some days I walked my bike on the sidewalk uptown while I looked in the store windows. Most times I hadn’t a cent, but I didn’t care. Looking was fun. In those days the square was filled with stores where you could watch the proprietors work. The shoe repair man always wore a leather apron. In the bakery you couldn’t watch the baking, just the wrapping and boxing of all the baked goods people bought. Meat hung in the window of one store and lobsters swam in a tank in the window of another. Cheese, huge round cheeses, filled the window of the buttery. The men’s store window had half mannequins wearing suit coats, shirts and ties. I always wondered why they didn’t have legs, but I guessed maybe the window was too small. The gas and electric appliance store had ranges in the windows. They were all white. People also went there to pay their electric bills. It was on the corner so half of the big door was really on two streets.

I’d get my fill of the square and bike home. I used different routes to vary the ride. I had a favorite house on one route which had a huge front porch and was painted red, my favorite color. On another route I went by the empty school. Sometimes I even rode on the dirt beside the railroad tracks as that was the shortest way home.

I never got tired of biking around town. When I go back, I drive on some of those same routes. The red house is still there, but the railroad tracks are gone. The square now has very few stores, and the remaining stores lack the character and individuality they had when I was young. I miss the lobsters the most though I do like the restaurant which has taken their place. When I go uptown now, I always think of what was and can name where all the stores once were. That restaurant was the Gloucester Fish Market.