The Last Mile
countdown to jaymi & joel: they're here!
miles to go: zero
Here in *FootNotes Land,* we like to do everything with just a skosh more drama than the Average Joe (or Josephina).
Why choose your own wedding invitations, for example, when you can post your choices on the Internet and have your readers vote on them?
Why discreetly recover from summer bronchitis, when you can proudly inform the cyber universe that you're peeing your pants every time you cough?
Why merely talk about how porky you were last Christmas, when you can proudly post the most hideously unflattering photo ever taken in the history of hideously unflattering photos and call it your "Before" picture?
Why finish knocking off all eight miles on Monday night -- while you've got the time/the energy/the opportunity -- when you can save that last critical mile for the very last minute? Just for fun?
(And just for dramatic effect?)
That's exactly what we did. We rode precisely seven miles on Monday night after work -- a couple of leisurely turns around the Navy Base -- deliberately saving that last significant mile, the mile that will put me over the magic *200 Miles In August* mark, for Wednesday night. We did this, mind you, knowing full well that Wednesday would be our only possible riding night for the rest of the month. (Tuesday was a Family Obligation Night ... Thursday and Friday will be spent ushering Daughter #1 and her OA/OA around the Bay Area. Then August is over, and so is our window of opportunity.)
So it was Wednesday night or bust, as they say.
As soon as David got home from work last night -- I stayed home yesterday, nursing a cold and feverishly vacuuming The Castle, in anticipation of out-of-town guests -- we hopped onto the bikes and headed out to conquer that final mile. "This is going to be a breeze," David said, as we strapped into helmets and slipped into gloves. We were so confident that we'd be returning to the apartment in mere minutes, in fact, that we tossed a couple of dinner potatoes into the oven (at a devil-may-care 500º) and started multiple loads of laundry (effectively commandeering the entire laundry room). We knew we would be back long before the potatoes -- or our fellow tenants -- exploded in protest.
And we headed out.
It was colder than I'd expected: a chill, dreary Alameda evening, misty with coastal fog. I shivered in my shirtsleeves as we headed directly into the sea breeze towards the Navy Base. "Well, this is miserable," David said flatly. And it was miserable ... and I sort of wished I'd brought a jacket with me, because my nose was already starting to drip, thirty seconds into the ride ... but I didn't want to turn around.
"It's only one mile," I said to David. "We can handle it for a mile." And I hunkered down and pedalled.
Another three or four minutes into the ride, and the second unpleasant surprise of the evening: a phlmph phlmph phlmph phlmph noise, coming from the front of my Schwinn.
It was the unmistakeable sound of flaccid rubber slapping against pavement.
"You're not going to believe this," I shouted ahead to David, "but I've got a flat tire." And I brought my bike to a halt. He doubled back to meet me, and we both stood there in the middle of the road, gazing at my front tire in dismay. It was flatter than Calista Flockhart.
"That's a flat tire alright," David said, kicking it a little with his foot.
I wasn't even surprised. OF COURSE I've got a flat tire! This is *FootNotes Land,* isn't it?? Here in *FootNotes Land,* we not only anticipate trouble ... we actually LIKE it when things go hideously awry! We LIKE it when our friends get bumped off The Totem Pole! We LIKE it when we accidentally bring the wrong shoes to our wedding! We LIKE it when constipated DMV Robots refuse to issue our new I.D.! And we ESPECIALLY like it when we get a flat tire half a mile from achieving the biggest bike-riding goal of our bike-riding *career* ... because things like this just makes life seem ever so much more exciting and dramatic and interesting!
(And because it gives us stuff to write about!)
"I think you can probably ride it home safely," David said, after he'd taken a couple of minutes to poke and prod and investigate the source of this newest leak. "We'll replace the tube when we get back to the apartment." We've repaired this particular tube three times already. I nodded in assent and clambered back onto the Schwinn. Pedalling it back up the hill was like bicycling through a vat of partially-set Jell-O: I had to work four times as hard for half as much result. Plus I was freezing my adorable ass off, and my nose was now running like a Delta e-Flow. But we were almost home, so once again I just sucked it up and rode like my life -- and my monthly goal -- depended on it.
"Oh, and by the way," David said offhandedly, riding beside me. "You just broke two hundred miles."
The moment might have seemed anticlimactic, under different circumstances -- here I've struggled and suffered and sweat all month long, just to meet this stoopid goal -- and then when the magic moment finally arrives, all David says is "You just broke two hundred." But the truth is that all I wanted, right at that particular moment, was to get home, get off my bike and get warm ... pretty much in that order.
The *celebration* could wait.
A couple of minutes later I was locking up the Schwinn in front of our building, savoring a pleasing sense of accomplishment. I am proud of this achievement, no doubt about it. This is a pretty big deal for someone of my age/my ability/my non-history of athletic achievement. And I think I'm even prouder of it than I would have been otherwise, simply because I managed that last mile under less-than-optimally-groovy conditions. I tugged off the bike helmet, pulled off the gloves and walked through the apartment door ...
... just in time to hear the sound of two potatoes, joyously exploding in the oven.