Driving and Biking in the Big City

Archive for August 2013

Familiar paths — past and present

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Big Johnny

Big Johnny

When you’ve biked a path and a community for 15 years, you can lose time in the gravel beneath your tires. My mind wanders into the past as often as it flashes forward through the future. I see my kids as school children again, biking these same greenbelts to and from school, first with me along for the ride and then alone as they grew older.

Most bike rides I take these days are alone, on my own schedule and on a path of my own making. But second runner up are my rides with husband John who takes me on new and different paths, perhaps even on my mountain bike, Blue Streak, and into territory that surprises me, even as I consider myself a creature who knows these roads. If I plan a left, John chooses right every time.

It’s been awhile but I’ve experienced some of my longest rides with my niece Pam who is a marathon runner and sets quite a biking pace. When she and her family stayed with us after the damage Hurricane Rita did to her home in Bridge City, we’d take a ride every evening after work and after supper (wonderfully prepared by her.) She’d tell me stories as entertaining and distracting as any a download audibles of best sellers from Harris County Library. She’d pause at just the right spot to get me hurrying across a street to get back into earshot. My favorite was the adventure of their evacuation to Tyler, Texas, and the kindness of some really strange strangers before they made it home to us.

Sweet Pam who mostly runs but bikes with me

Sweet Pam who mostly runs but bikes with me

I show Pam and everyone of my biking buddies the spot where a copperhead was only feet from young Laura and her dad. Almost every time we pass this deadly crossroads we mention the fright and the near miss.

Here’s the bridge where I watched the rowdy boys from the neighborhood take a plastic swimming pool and paddle the hurricane-deepened waters of the gulley. Then, the next bridge reminds me of a family of nutria that basked like otters for families who would come and throw them treats. They frolicked day and night after another long rain caused mass confusion of creatures large and small.

By now, I know or knew friends on most streets in the neighborhoods where I ride. This house and its home next door are friends who’ve long lived in California after we once played tennis, bridge, bunco, raised kids and went to church together.

Here is the terrible story down this cul de sac of a scout leader who left quickly after leaving her seemingly ultra-conservative husband because he had a gambling problem and had lost their beautiful home on his downhill slide. It’s near another home where the neighbor was famous for this ornate and elaborate Christmas decoration that honored Scrooge with its black shadows and “bah humbug” signs.

Here’s where a friend lived from my racquetball days. Little did I know that the favorite sport in Dallas would turn into tennis in Kingwood. Then, there are houses of friends who came and went in my kids’ lives, depending on the sport or hobby. How surprisingly fleeting were those relationships in retrospect.

The old neighborhood of kids and friends

The old neighborhood of kids and friends

We almost bought a house on this street, and you could see an emu farm out the back window — always a strong selling point for me. We’ve lived in four different houses and neighborhoods in Kingwood and it’s strange how you move on and eventually forget this path for that one until one day you find yourself in front of a house you’ve known intimately and left behind.

In Kingwood, many of us made lifelong friends based on that original neighborhood of new mothers and a babysitting co-op of trusted friends to watch each others’ kids. These were the women who kept each other entertained during the otherwise exhausting baby years, comparing pediatricians and supper plans or scheduling couples game nights, New Year’s Eve parties, outings to Houston. The friend who watched Laura while I went to the hospital to have Trav, burning up the phone lines to tell the news. All far flung now but still available for a call or a visit and as comfortable as family.

They are the ones who knew our kids as babies and adore them as their own. The ones who considered it a privilege to be asked to watch your kid because they know how picky you are. The ones whose kids now have kids and those faces are so familiar as if today was 20 years ago.

And so I pedal and remember and dream and wake up at a curve in the road and have forgotten where I am, what time it is, how long I’ve been riding and if I took the wrong road and just kept going. But then I see something that reminds me of someone and somewhere else and I’m back on a familiar road and know exactly where home is.


Written by commuterchroniclesdbh

August 21, 2013 at 5:22 pm

A kid of the outdoor generation

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Happy trails 2This week, I’ve biked most evenings after work, and I’ve been doing this for the years since I stopped playing tennis four to six times a week. It’s my attempt at balancing the eight hours a day that I spend behind a desk and indoors. It is in my DNA, and I can’t really settle down to my evening at home until I’ve first spent some time outside — especially in the rain on hot summer days when the rain is a plus instead of a minus.

I’m a kid of the outdoor generation. We had nothing much on television, not any video games and very little parental guidance or even involvement. Our parents were too busy making a living to wonder much about the kids, especially when there was a neighborhood full of them to keep each other entertained.

I remember skating with my new pair of roller skates and my brand new key all around the “carport” beside my post World War II era home. We had canals around the margins of our streets in sea level Port Neches, Texas, and there was always something interesting about the water — even if we were discouraged from swimming in it. My girlhood friends and I would “walk the pipe” over the canals, proving our balance and our courage but occasionally falling in and causing hubbub because no one was supposed to “walk the pipe.”

We’d catch “mosquito hawks” or dragonflies as they landed on the clothes line. We’d get an empty mason jar and see how many honey bees we could catch before it got too full. We’d look for four-leaf clovers for hours and hours, until that became a skill I still have today and probably helped teach me to be an editor with an eagle eye and perseverance.dragonfly

We’d play softball and fly kites in the way back area between our backyards and the canals. My neighborhood full of boys had more than enough kids to make up teams of anything. I learned my competitive nature by being raised as the youngest kid in a neighborhood full of mostly athletic boys. I wasn’t even as good at playing board games so I got used to losing and trying harder at an early age.

We shot BB guns and bows and arrows and became good shots by nature. I remember asking for and receiving my first BB gun when I was a sixth grader, about to enter junior high and the world of cute boys. Little did I know that my tomboy ways would be distracted so soon and so thoroughly.

I remember when I got my first and only childhood bike. None of this buying bikes for different sizes and styles. It was one bike for life. It was blue, my favorite color, and it lasted until I was in high school and bought my own 10-speed, expensive enough on my $1.60 an hour salary and unassembled to save just a little. Who had heard of a 10-speed? And now folks are going back to our one-speed, easy breaking bikes of my childhood. They call it “fixed-gear” bikes, and it’s all the rage. Took me awhile to realize that I knew exactly what they meant and could ride a “fixed-gear” into oblivion. There are excellent tricks to it, and it was bred into me like the Texas heat and mosquitos.

I still can remember reading the instructions carefully and putting my 10-speed together in the backyard. That’s the same bike I brought into my marriage a few years later to bike my way to classes at Lamar University in Beaumont. It was sadly one of three bikes I had stolen as I learned the high crime rate of college campuses and the precious nature of a faster mode of transportation.

So, now when I get a day off of work, one of my favorite activities is to play outside like the kid I will always be. I want to look at a spider’s web really close up and personal. I want to watch an ant travel to its ultimate destination. I wonder what this plant is and why it looks so much like a map of the United States. I wait for something new and intriguing that I’ve never seen or seldom see these days — a bunny, a cool snake, a raccoon, a possum.

Then, I hop on my bike and take my observation skills on the greenbelt paths of Kingwood where there’s always something new to see on the same old traveled paths. If I’m lucky, I catch sight of a deer in the distance. If I time my ride home just right at dusk, I see fireflies along this very close patch of dense bushes. Flowers and friends and dogs of all varieties. All interesting and unique.

It’s just like riding a bike. You never forget.

Written by commuterchroniclesdbh

August 15, 2013 at 9:15 am