Posts Tagged With: Commute

Of Cars and Easter

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Brian’s car died last week with a slow whimper.  It won’t go faster than 40 mph, and that’s no good for commuting on the California freeways, even if it wasn’t making that horrible sound between a rumbling and a wheeze.  We bought Brian his car specifically because it’s big enough for him.  He’s 6’5, and has to fold himself into my little compact car.  He gets knee and ankle problems when he has to drive it too much.  This means that I’m the designated chauffeur for both directions of commute.

It’s been nice and it’s been annoying, both.  I like leaving the house with him, trying and always failing to be ready at the same time, and driving along the roads in the quiet morning with my hand on his knee.  I like watching him lean over the railing of the pass that goes over the train in his dark trilby and tie, and seeing his face light up, his hand waving, when he finds my spot in the car in the lot.  Sometimes there are impromptu adventures like the when he suggested we go to the graveyard you can see from the train.  There is a marble serpent in that graveyard, swimming in green grass, and a few mausoleums.  I kept looking for Bod and Silas inside.  But I think their graveyard was a New England graveyard, not a California one.

The drawbacks are that it’s a whole hour earlier than I would need to get up if I were only responsible for getting myself to the office on time.  And although it’s only a few more minutes to zip down the 215 at the end of the day to the Riverside train station, it is just long enough that I get that twinge in my shoulder, that crease between my eyes, and that little bud of impatience in my chest.

I used to tease Brian when we commuted down to Orange County every day together that it was 3 hours of “forced alone time” with his wife.  But I forgot how great that time with no distractions can be.  I missed it, and I’m glad to have it back.  Even at the cost of some of my patience.

We had a lovely Easter this week.  By some miracle, I didn’t over-commit to bringing a thousand things.  I had a very nice Saturday trapped at home while Brian took the car to do some overtime at work.  I made pies with crust from scratch and generally loafed around with the cats.  Sunday morning, we left the house at 9:00 am, visited all the families, and got home about 9:00 pm when we fell into bed.  I had a great excuse to wear my vintage pin of a bouquet of pink flowers and my peter-pan collar shirt.

Highlights of Easter:  Brian attempted to force everyone to play Love Letter with him until my sister’s fellow finally trounced him at it for good (I’m kidding about the “forced,” they had quite a rivalry going).  At my grandfather’s house, twelve grown adults roamed the bushes and fought over bright plastic eggs to find the gold one (which was filled with an extra-fancy scratcher.  My dad found it).    At my mother’s house, she cut the heads off hollow chocolate bunnies to put port inside them… fortunately, she spilled the reddish port all over the place and it looked like some horrible bunny massacre.  A tasty, tasty massacre.

I expect this week to be rather sleepy.  Brian and I are still working our way through the edits on my novel.  I’ve started to draft out the sequel.  Tomatomania is coming to the Botanic Gardens next weekend, so I will have to put some attention into compost, watering strategies, and planting.  A large amount of my time is probably going to be spent keeping cats out of Easter candy, because Jennyanydots is way more devious and crafty than the other two ever have been.   With all of that, and with my duties driving Brian around, let’s hope it all continues as quiet as it’s started.

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Rainy Day Bicycle

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I didn’t ride my bike to work at all last week. I looked at the 100-ish temperatures that were predicted and decided that my car looked luxurious with its AC.   I had been feeling so guilty about being a lump that I decided to ride first thing last Tuesday. It was supposed to be in the ‘70s and gorgeous out. In the morning, it was. I thought about wearing a jacket, but realized that I would get warm pumping the petals, and I zipped down the streets with the crisp air rushing across my shoulders and the sun peaking just above the treetops in the blue light of morning.

By afternoon, the patches of fluffy clouds had turned into a gray blanket across the sky. By 5:00, it was raining and gusts of wind whipped the treetops back and forth. I had at least a fifteen minute ride home, unprotected, without a jacket. Sometimes I’m too smart for my own good.

Cheryl and I left work together. “We can see if your bike fits in the back of my car,” she said. So I walked in the rain to unchain it from the bike rack. It was a warm rain, and it soaked me through as I clipped the chain back to my bike.   The smell of wet concrete rose sweet from the ground as the rain pattered on the leaves, and I realized that I didn’t really want a ride home. But I wheeled the bike over to her car anyway. Sane adults do not desire the discomfort that is riding in the rain. The bike is long and lean, and the crate I’ve zip tied to the back is enormous. I was glad when we took one look at her backseat and another at my bike and realized that it was useless even to try.

“I’m pretty wet already,” I told her. “It will be fine, it’s just water.” I mopped off the leather seat with the towel I keep in the basket, and I was ready to ride.

I was not the only one caught out on my bicycle. There was a soggy fraternity of us streaming water as we rolled down the streets. I nodded at them as we passed, and felt the warm contentment that comes with belonging to something larger than only me. I felt the cold drops sink through the fabric of my pants and drench my cardigan until the shirt underneath it was wet too. I breathed in the smell that only comes with spring rain. The drops rolled down my face beneath my glasses.

It started to rain harder when I was half way home, and I could hardly see the road for the rain dripping down my face and pelting me. I told myself that my helmet would probably protect me from the worst of it, but it didn’t. Still, I was happy. There is something glorious about getting soaked to the skin from water in the sky. I forgot that I used to do it when I was younger; put on a coat and galoshes and splash in the puddles until I was wet through. When it rained back then, my sister, my cousins, and I all became our own little musical. I enjoyed all fifteen minutes of it.

Tuesday night is date night, these days. I was on the hook to make dinner and there was nothing in the house. It was only fifteen minutes later, after I had changed into dry clothes and my grandmother’s rain coat, that I left the house again with car keys clutched in my hands. The storm had cleared to blue sky and golden sun again, and there was the crescent of a rainbow peaking from between the green leaves of the trees.  I smiled to myself as another warm feeling filled me. Like maybe I was living in a book, where rainbows Mean Something and a ride in the rain is some sort of plot device.

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The New Girl

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I started my new job on Monday.  It is a scant 1.6 miles from home, and I took my bike 3 days this week.  It’s all uphill in the morning, which is kicking my butt.  I’m SO SORE.  But the ride home in the evening is glorious, zipping downhill in the gold light of afternoon through the tree-lined village of Claremont.

It’s funny with this new job.  I knew the scope of my life would shrink to something local and quaint.  I knew I would love working with everyone there.  They have been so welcoming.   Still, I didn’t realize how much I would miss Brian now that we are not just a phone call away from each other.  I am spending so much more time alone.  My eccentricities abound.  I zip into work on my vintage-style beach cruiser with a crate on the back, and then proceed to take notes in all the meetings with my fountain pen.  I say “yay” in meetings.   I am more vintage than corporate.

But I’m head over heels in love with Scripps already, and it hasn’t even been a full week.   The orange blossomed lined campus, the vast rose garden kept for cutting, the stained glass windowed library, and the massively friendly staff all say I can ride out being the new girl.

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Last Days

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There is a stretch of about three miles on the 57 freeway where the city drops away and there is only a set of rolling hills straddling either side of the freeway that cuts through them.  Someone has decided to pasture cows on the west side of the rushing cars.  You can see them up there on the hills like a small train display; clumped in groups under the scraggly trees, chewing their cud.  They are there in all weathers, and they mostly look as though they like it.  But maybe that is my own projection.  I often think I’d rather be somewhere under a tree in a grassy field than stuck in the gridlock of my commute.

What is remarkable about this stretch is that it seems so incongruous with what comes before and after.  Coming out of the pass to the south is a grand display of concrete; urban suburbanism.  There is even a mall tucked beside the rushing lanes of freeway in an island of macadam parking lot.  To the north, above the beige retaining wall, is a row of housing tract roofs.  It is possible to go from being in the middle of everywhere to being in the middle of nowhere in just a curve of the road.  This stretch of the 57 is proof of that.  It is probably why I’m in love with those hills.

I’m used to tracking the seasons by this stretch of the road.  Right now it is spring and they are all vibrant with green grass.  In just a few months, they will turn golden in the summer scorch.  The gold deepens into brown in the fall.  In winter, when darkness comes early, they become a black silhouette on the inky sky.  And then we spring forward and they emerge from the darkness to become green from the winter rains.

A fire swept through the pass one of my first years at Disney.  I couldn’t get home the regular way that night, and that was before everyone had a smart phone.  I called Brian and had him bring up Google maps on the home computer and direct me back.  It was only mildly successful.  I got there eventually.  They allowed cars through the next morning.  The cow pasture had been saved, but the east side of the hills was black to the concrete barrier where the freeway began.  You can still see black soil under the new growth that is there if you are looking for it, but mostly it is grown over with ever longer blades of grass.

I used to finish my shift at midnight when I worked the Electrical Parade, and I would drive home in that blackness feeling like the hills belonged to me.  Back then, the whole night belonged to me and I to it.  I pressed my foot on the drive pedal and sped home under the stars, alone on the broad concrete road except for the pinpoints of a few headlights far behind me.  My muscles ached from swinging around those heavy costumes, and I was a girl who had worked hard and was going home to her sleeping husband.  In that moment, I was a perfect thing.

Scripps College is within biking distance from my small apartment.  I’m so looking forward to speeding though the leafy streets of my New England-ish home town to work every morning.   Still, I will miss many things about my old life.  Those hills will be one of them.  I’ll come and visit.  But we won’t track the seasons side by side as we have for seven years now.  The cows will enjoy themselves without my supervision.

It feels like the end of an era.

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BIKES!

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I am very out of shape, and the reason I know this is because I rode my new vintage-style Schwinn downtown on Sunday and nearly killed myself.  I’m still sore from the effort.  It didn’t help that I had also forgotten to bring any water, a mistake I will not make again.  I am thrilled with the bike, though.  It is everything I wanted: a cruiser with seven speeds and a back tire rack.  It’s a man’s bike; a Schwinn Point Beach; navy blue and cream with white wall tires.  I bought a large wicker crate, which I strapped to the rack with zip ties, and a bell with a navy blue owl on it.  All I need now is a vintage headlight and the bike is perfect.  It’s pretty near to perfection already.  It’s my own physique that needs the work.

I am pretending that downtown is a very long and arduous distance.  Don’t burst my bubble.  Yes I know that it is really only about a mile of extraordinarily flat terrain, and that I’m a drama queen.  Brian and I walk the same route several times a week.  I also know that going to Scripps – up the steep incline that is Indian Hill Boulevard – will be a billion times worse.  I’m working up to that.  I have a few weeks in which I will ride around and hope that the throbbing in my thighs stops before I’m a regular commuter on the thing.  I may take it to my grandfather’s house next weekend, a similar incline on Towne Avenue (which runs parallel to Indian Hill).  I may also think better of it before I get there.  I know I’ll regret it if I decide to do it, but the thought of that zippy, downhill ride back home might win out.

I make fun, but really I’m thrilled about it.  We’ve parked it next to Brian’s car in the garage and every time we go anywhere I give it a little pat.  I’m trying to think of a name for it, as all beloved vehicles should have names.  I’m looking forward to getting in shape as I pedal around Claremont.  I’ve been trolling the web for fancy bike accessories.  The ukulele fits beautifully in the back crate.  There really isn’t a downside.

Except the sore legs.

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Rainy Day

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It’s such a dreary and drizzly day here.  And Californians freak out in the rain.  They turn from reasoned (if aggressive) commuters into slippery slidey old folks, creeping along at tiny speeds and following too close.  I spent the morning driving in this travesty, only to learn from the radio that a big-rig had overturned ahead and was blocking all but one lane of traffic.  The heavy traffic turned into stopped gridlock as the sky poured buckets on my little white car.  It took us almost fifteen minutes to move a mile down the road.  I clocked in with just seconds to spare before I was penalized for being late.  Brian had to drop me off first, which meant he had to also spend his lunch hour picking me up so I could get to job 2 on time.   He’s such a good guy sometimes.  Okay, oftentimes.

I had been looking forward to this rain.  I wasn’t factoring in the commute thing.  I pulled my grandmother’s old raincoat out of my closet and wore it to work today.  I never realized that it was reversible when she wore it, but it is.  Violent green on one side and navy on the other, with pocket flaps on each side of the coat.  It was the first real chance I’ve had since my grandfather handed it to me the day he cleaned out the coat closet.  I felt like all I really needed was a wide hat and a pair of tap shoes with bows on the ankles, and then I could be Debbie Reynolds.  Unfortunately, I’m no Debbie Reynolds.  After this morning, I won’t be singing nor will I be dancing in the rain.  We still have to drive home after work, still raining, in the deepening dark.

I’m still looking forward to tomorrow, though.  I worked Sunday, so I get to have Friday off as a consolation prize.  I’ll be able to sit in my warm, four poster bed and listen to the rain fall outside the window.  I’ll have time to make myself a pot of Imperial Earl Gray.  I won’t have to deal with a bevy of commuters in the rain.  That should be much better, right?

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