to go: 865.44
minutes into a
spectacularly unpleasant Saturday morning ride -- battling toxic
headwinds and treacherous industrial traffic along Doolittle Drive,
just beyond Oakland International Airport -- the little voice inside my
head chimes in with its weekly litany of misery and
hate this, it dourly announces.
and I are trying
something brand-new today: we're seeing how far we can ride on our own
steam, without using the car at all. Usually on Saturday mornings we
bikes into the trunk and drive to Contra Costa County to ride on the
bucolic multi-use trails running between Walnut Creek and Pleasanton.
Today we're leaving the Subaru behind, and we're riding our bikes from
our front door in Alameda -- literally -- to the San Mateo Bridge and
car. No support
services. No frosted blueberry scones at
Noah's Bagels along the way. David has spent days planning every inch
of this ride: consulting websites and maps, calculating distances,
figuring mileage. He is as excited as an eight-year-old on Science Fair
is going to be
great!" he enthuses.
little voice inside
my head isn't convinced.
hate this, it says, as we ride
past the Oakland City Dump, the air redolent with the smell of rotten
food and week-old Pampers. I
hate riding in heavy traffic! I hate sunscreen melting in my eyes! I
hate numb feet and shrieking thigh muscles and distended bladders! I
hate this, I hate this, I hate this!
knows it's not the
first time I've felt this way, regardless of where we're riding. Every
weekend morning when I crawl out of bed at 6 a.m. and squeeze into
Spandex ... I'm hating this. Every night when I come home from work,
numb with fatigue, and force myself to climb onto the bike ... I'm
hating this. Every time my tire goes flat or my hands go dead or I'm
run off the road by another show-offy imbecile with an Armstrong
complex ... I'm hating this. Lately, it seems I spend almost
time hating my bike as I do loving it.
at ignoring the little voice. Normally when it sneaks up on me like
this, I'm able to ride it out until the momentary
passes -- until the winds calm down, or the traffic subsides, or the
latest killer hill is safely behind us -- and after a while the ride
goes back to being fun again.
this time is
different. This time the little voice is more persistent than usual,
ping-ponging around in my head like the "Facts of Life" theme song.
Plus it is soon voicing a second, even more blasphemous thought.
to do this, you know, it says.
true. Nobody is
paying me to ride two thousand miles this year. It's not like I've got
a gold medal or a book contract or a Wheaties box waiting for me at the
finish line. Basically the only reason I'm out here punishing myself,
day after day, weekend after weekend, is because this is something
David and I agreed to do, together ... and because it seemed like a
good idea at the time. How could I have known it would be this tough?
This painful? This disgusting, occasionally? (Was that a used
just ran over? Or a severed finger?) How could I have known how
seriously it would compromise everything else -- and I do mean EVERYTHING
else -- that we like to do during our precious non-working hours? The
answer of course is that I had no way of knowing. I've never attempted
anything like this before. I'm surprised by how difficult it is,
sometimes, and by how much sacrifice it requires ...
... and by how much I
hate it, every once in a while.
is the precise
moment that the little voice chimes in, once again ... this time
whispering that the simplest solution is also the most obvious.
don't you just quit? it says.
when I know I'm
Over the years,
become something of an expert in the art of quittage.
Quitting Pep Club. Quitting the Columbia Record & Tape Club
before I've purchased all six membership agreement selections. Quitting
college. Quitting jobs ... usually before they could get around to
quitting ME. Quitting diets and exercise plans and "lifestyle changes."
I once quit a
sixteen-year marriage by moving to Oregon on my lunch hour.
You don't get to be my
age without acquiring a fair amount of quittage along the way. Of
course, not all
of the quitting I've done has been of the sad/stoopid/dysfunctional
variety. Some of it actually did me some good. Quitting drinking, for
instance: that was definitely a lifestyle improvement. So was quitting
smoking. So was quitting extra-marital affairs with "separated" chat
room Testosterone Units.
This is all the sort
of quittage I probably
should have done lots MORE of during my extended
Still, when I hear
somebody 'quitting' something, the connotation is generally not a
positive one. It means throwing in the towel, usually before the Tame
Creme Rinse has finished congealing properly. It denotes an appalling
lack of sticktoitiveness. It makes you look like a great big
inconsistent doofus, usually in front of people you're trying to
Club President: "I knew
she was gonna quit."
Pep Club Vice
President: "If she doesn't turn
in her uniform, can we beat her up?"
Plus -- and this is
where it gets especially dangerous for somebody like me -- quitting one
thing invariably leads to further quittage. It's like a gateway drug.
For example, if I decide to quit the whole "2,002 in 2002" idea -- if I
tell David that I'm sick of getting up early and doing hideously
painful things to my body and sacrificing all of my precious
non-working hours, just to climb aboard a Butt-D-Luxe and rack up more mileagemileagemileage
-- I know what will happen.
David won't be happy
about it. He'll do everything he can to try and talk me out of it.
He'll remind me that basically this was *my* idea in the first place.
(He came up with the original two thousand mile goal, but I'm the one
who added the extra two miles to make it 2,002 in 2002.) He'll appeal
to my vanity:"Think of the
photo opps when you cross that finish line!"
He'll try to bribe me with expensive bike shoes and cheap Chinese food.
But eventually he'll realize that I'm serious -- that I'm digging in my
toe clips and calling it quits, right here right now -- and he'll
We'll pull the mileage
charts off the
refrigerator. I'll remove all of the logos and counters from my
website. We'll go back to aimless, unadventurous rides around the
abandoned Navy Base, every couple of weekends or so.
Life will go back to
But that won't be the
end of it. Once I've quit the
2,002 in 2002, it will be as though I'm granting myself permission
to quit all of the other
stuff that isn't working out as well/as fast/as predictably as *I*
would like it to.
The "eating plan," for
instance. Why the hell am I
still eating soy protein cereal and nonfat milk for breakfast, when
there is an entire world of Eggs Benedict and Cocoa Puffs out
Or the new meds: if
they haven't made me feel noticeably better after
one whole month, why am I still taking them?
Why am I still
slathering glycolic acid on my face every night (at approximately
$3,456.99 per fluid ounce) when it actually seems to be making my skin
Why am I freaking out if I get less than eight hours of sleep each
night? Why am I wasting perfectly good *anxiety molecules* over a
website I don't always have time/energy/ambition enough to update? Why
am I typing field instrument calibration logs for eight fudking hours
every day, forcryingoutloud?
The next thing I know,
will have quit myself out of a lot of the sweat and hard work and
unpleasantness in my life.
But I will have also
quit myself out of a lot of the joy.
hour and forty
minutes into one of the most exhilarating bike-rides I've ever
been on in my life -- a long, bumpy rollercoaster ride through
pickleweed and salt grass, past tidal pools and crashing waves along
the Hayward Regional Shoreline -- the little voice is
uncharacteristically at a loss for words.
shidt, it says finally. This
cool, isn't it?"
says David happily ... and he snaps
picture of the bright orange salt marshes, spreading out before us in
all directions like some weird alien landscape. We're standing on the
deck of the Hayward Shoreline Interpretive Center, next to the San
Mateo Bridge. It's low-tide, and the mudflats are teeming with
wildlife: terns, egrets, marsh hawks, dragonflies. We haven't seen
another human being in over an hour, and the silence is like psychic
balm on our work-frazzled nerves. Doolittle Drive feels a bazillion
miles away at the moment.
is the reward for
me. This is the gold medal/the book contract/the Wheaties box, right
we did it: we
managed to get to this point 100% Subaru-free. It wasn't easy. The Bay
Trail website said that this portion of the Bay Trail is paved already,
but trust me when I tell you that it isn't. It's mostly something
called "hard-packed double-track." (Translated, this means "Bet
you wish you had a MOUNTAIN BIKE, dontchoo?") Fortunately, my
sturdy Trek hybrid did remarkably well on everything
except the loosest gravel and the muddiest mud. As a matter of fact,
I think I'm finally beginning to understand the appeal of mountain
biking. There aren't a lot of
*Good Morning People*
in the middle of mudflat country.
says this new, happier little voice. This
isn't so bad, is it?
the voice is right,
of course. This isn't bad at all. As a matter of fact this is all
pretty wonderful, and I love it, and I'm glad I'm here.
There is still a
teeny-tiny part of me, deep down inside, that wishes we could finish
the 2,002 in 2002 RIGHT NOW
and be done with it. I miss sleeping late. I miss writing *FootNotes.*
I miss pancakes and bookstores and Saturday morning errands and all of
the other stuff we used to do on the weekends. But I'm not going to
quit. I know how good I'll feel about myself if we finish. (Or at
least if we come as close to the finish line as possible before
crapping out.) I know how much this whole thing means to David.
know that finishing the 2,002 will make better journal copy than
quitting halfway there. (How interesting would Sagging
have been, after all, if I'd climbed aboard that relief wagon?)
Besides: next year -- when all of this frantic mileagemileagemileage
stuff is over with, once and for all -- this
is precisely what I'm looking forward to. Riding new places. Looking at
interesting stuff. Taking pictures. Taking picnic breaks.
the meantime, though,
we've still got 800+ miles left to go ... beginning with the ride home.
It's almost 10 a.m., and even here along the shoreline the sun is
starting to burn through the marine layer. It's going to be a long,
hot, icky ride back to Alameda, through the exact same industrial hell
we rode through earlier.
going to be out of water pretty soon,
says the cranky little voice of misery. And
you ate your last Power Bar an hour ago. Do you even know
where a bathroom is? What if ...
the new, non-cranky
voice interrupts the litany of misery in mid-complaint.
up and ride, it says. And after
that ... there are no little voices at all for a while.
when I know I'm
probably going to be OK.
throw a rock