Driving and Biking in the Big City

Posts Tagged ‘biking

“Don’t it always seem to go, you don’t know what you’ve got ’til it’s gone”

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I was standing in the grocery store the other day when I noticed I was standing in the grocery store.

At a crowded meeting, I started looking for an empty chair and realized I didn’t need to sit.

I was looking for my kitchen step ladder when my brain told me I could climb up on a chair instead — like I always used to do before step ladders became a way of life.

When I walk my dog, Tucker, I actually am walking him the two miles or so. I used to say this but actually was biking while he ran along beside me.

Recently I jumped for witnesses in the hardware store, and they applauded. It was only about six inches off the ground and felt like I was lifting two bulldozers, but both of my feet were off the ground at the same time for a nano second.

hallwayMy office is down a long hallway that seemed, for many years, to be miles away. Today, it feels like only a few steps. I willingly go back to my car in the parking lot when I forget something. Unheard of for the last 10 years.

My first surgery to replace my right knee took place a year ago. Happy birthday, Righty.  My left knee surgery is four months behind it — so, by the end of the year, surely I will start writing about commuting again and stop giving you such an awestruck and amazed accounting of this journey to health.

One of the biggest surprises in this replacement of two knees in four months is the power of the brain and thought. My brain is such a partner to me in all my physical intentions. It is a miraculous machine, giving me sudden signals and changing realities every day.

My path appeared shorter when my walking skills were improved. My hobbled habit told me I  wanted a chair when my legs told me I was OK now and could stand awhile. Lately, my brain has been giving me signals on my walks to run a bit — something I honestly never did in the past. So I don’t know who my brain thinks I am but it certainly thinks I can run some.

Lately, I’ve tried standing in front of a mirror to kneel. My knees are still numb and I can’t really feel it when I kneel. It makes it hard to do and, honestly, the only residual pain left since before I got my bionic knees. So I’m trying to trick my brain into recovering feeling in my numb knees. My doctor and nurse tell me that this is a trick used to teach people with lost limbs. If your missing leg is itching, it sometimes helps to stand halfway in a full length mirror so that you appear to be whole again and scratch the remaining leg. Who knew? But, I’m thinking it’s helping me recover feeling in my artificial knees — both of which have remaining areas of numbness.

long_staircaseI get up from my desk job and walk several times a day now. I take the stairs instead of elevators and recently walked up 10 flights of stairs, according to my health app.  I walk to lunch spots that were drives for me in the past. I can keep up with even the most fast-walking of all my friends.

Oh and I’ve even taken a few tennis lessons lately. Tennis is one of the main reasons I had terrible knees in the first place, and I hadn’t played much for 10 years. I see other women on the courts with various forms of knee braces. That was me before. But now, these bionic knees won’t be helped by a wrap or a brace. They are the only thing on my body that doesn’t hurt after a tennis lesson. I’m not saying I’ll get back in the game entirely. I’m still wearing old lady tennis shorts and using  borrowed racket. But it could happen for fun.

Think I might could even travel and do some sightseeing. Last time I took my kids to Washington, D.C., they can tell you what a lug I’d become on a vacation. Who knew? It was the beginning of my realization that my lifestyle had changed because of chronic knee pain.

“Don’t it always go to show, you don’t know what you’ve got ’til it’s gone.” But you certainly know when you get it back, Joni Mitchell.





Written by commuterchroniclesdbh

September 13, 2016 at 11:11 am

My bionic life – the sequel

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Countdown begins for Mr. Lefty

Countdown begins for Mr. Lefty

The countdown has started.

One month from today, Dec. 29, I will do it all again – replace my left knee to go with my right knee replacement. I look back over my notes and posts from the Sept. 15 operation and can’t quite believe I’m going to do this – at all, much less already. But then, I go for a hound walk or easily stroll a few blocks for lunch or a meeting at work in the huge Texas Medical Center, and I know I’m ready. I go upstairs in my two-story home (something I avoided for at least a couple of years) or bend over to pick up something I dropped, and I know I’m ready. I can even get on my knees and look under the bed or couch for a dropped earring or, more likely, a missing remote.

If one knee replacement has made me feel 10 years younger, there’s a strong possibility that the second knee replacement will give me my old self back.

I also know I’m ready because of Thanksgiving. Earlier this week, I started a column about how Thanksgiving was my least favorite holiday. It was a lot about the cooking, which I’m not good at, and the martyrdom of mothers everywhere on this feast day. Matriarchs (yikes to that word but it’s the one I’m looking for) have a big job on Thanksgiving. We not only put on a good spread but we keep harmony and please everyone. Only then is it a good holiday. And basically – despite how much help we get from others – we are the center of activity for this eating event.

This year, as Thanksgiving Day was winding down for my family, about 11 p.m. or so, I realized I was still standing. I felt good. I had energy. I now like Thanksgiving again. I can’t write a column about it being my least favorite holiday because that’s no longer true.

I now think it was the insidious pain in my knees that made me dread Thanksgiving. Sometimes as early as Tuesday or Wednesday, if I’d been standing up at the kitchen island after work and doing pre-Thanksgiving chopping, I’d start to get exhausted. Before noon on Thursday, I could hardly stand. And, as someone who always has been healthy and active, I didn’t know what was wrong with me. Actually, I didn’t think anything was wrong with me. I supposed I was overdoing it. And I always overdo it. I totally pushed through without much of a complaint. I blamed Thanksgiving and not my knees.

Mr. Right Knee, one week after surgery

Mr. Right Knee, one week after surgery

I also now realize a lot more about chronic pain. In my case, it had gotten so gradually worse that it had become part of my routine. I ignored it when I could and lived with it when I couldn’t. It typically wasn’t a huge problem in my day to day. I became a biker and a swimmer instead of a tennis player and a distance walker.

I knew I couldn’t walk around so much on vacations and I’d plan my touring accordingly. The last couple of conferences I went on for work, I rented bicycles to get from my hotel to the conference hall. I didn’t really think that much about it. I must have inherently known that I couldn’t walk the couple of three blocks as easily as I could bike them. It worked out; I had great fun. In Madison, Wisconsin, I biked around the lakes after hours. In San Francisco, I biked over the Golden Gate Bridge. It wasn’t my endurance that was a problem; it was my knees.

The last big touring vacation I took was when my children were young adults. My youngest had just graduated college, and he wanted to visit Washington, D.C. Now, that’s a lot of walking! Our routine was to take a cab to wherever we were going to start our tour – Washington Monument, the specific Smithsonian we would visit, etc. Then, we’d visit as much as possible, eventually walking our way to our nearby hotel. It worked great until the fifth and final day when I was done by about noon. Of course, my daughter and son were not remotely ready. I’m going to have to offer that trip to them again in the next year or so. This time it will be six of us, but we’ll do D.C. up right with new knees.

So, the countdown begins. I know what to expect. I’m ready. I’ve asked to get out of the hospital after two days this time instead of three. Last time, I was still in shock and confused by the amount of pain I was in around the clock. Now, I know that will come to an end after about three weeks. I’d just as soon suffer at home and be on the couch for New Year’s Eve.

My PT team -- coach and support

My PT team — coach and support

John will be my primary PT coach. He and my nurse want me to hit the rehab folks a couple of times and I may, but I can tell you John was the ticket to my good health right now.

And I’ll post. My Facebook friends will see more of me every day and this blog will be my outlet for longer thoughts of a non-commuting kind. I’ve promised no whining this time. I’m sure I’ll shout out at midnight or 3 a.m. on occasion but I’m ready.

Neighborhood rises from the dead (especially on Halloween)

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too long to find Waldo

Took too long to find Waldo

Kids coming

Cute kids coming and going at the front door

The life of a neighborhood ebbs and flows.  You know what I mean. “There goes the neighborhood,” you think when the yards get trashy and the houses need painted. (I’m guilty of both so no judgment meant.) Good friends come and go to more lush yards with bigger houses. Family activity becomes prank-ish as the kids grow into teenagers. Sometimes the pranks turn into vandalism. Cops are called and burglaries occur and you wonder if it’s time to find a new, more peaceful home.

I’m surprised to learn of a neighborhood’s revival because I’ve never lived in one house for long. But, now I have. Last night’s Halloween in my neighborhood was the liveliest ever in my 20 years here and compared quite favorable to the days when I led the fun with my scary-but-friendly husband and my superhero, princess and pirate-costumed kids.

Most of my neighbors had open houses and block parties down every cul-de-sac — adults gathering in front yards about every five houses or so.  Parents pulled out lawn chairs and sat in driveways to welcome trick-or-treaters. One family served a never-ending casserole of pasta and salad to offset the sweets. I biked around and around with invitations shouted from everyone. A couple of dads had zombie movies going in one garage; another had some kind of not-so-scary spookhouse. I’d say I had as much fun as possible for an empty nester on Halloween.

don't say a word

Don’t say a word, but we’ll be keeping our eyes on these guys

It was just last year that we made the decision to stay put in this house and neighborhood  after looking for two years for a new home that never quite met the qualifications we were after — one story, cool swimming pool and closer to Texas 59 and my route as a commuter to the Texas Medical Center. It just didn’t happen for us.

We had lived through kids growing up, horrible hurricanes and personal disasters with the same neighbors on either side of us. Then, in a blink of an eye, one family moved. The market was turning over quickly so they were gone before we could say much of a goodby. We could go, too, if we could find home elsewhere.

Robin hound

Buster, the hound, as Robin, the sidekick.

We are fortunate in a cookie-cutter ‘burb to back up to an excellent, spacious natural gully. Not even a bigger yard could make up the difference, in our minds, so we were tough home-buying customers. We have plenty of space for two so that wasn’t it. But we needed open space and  tons of updates. So, after an unrequited search for new digs, we settled in, put in our own pool and began reconstruction of some important and failing upkeep.

Last night confirmed, once more, that we made the right decision for us. Although we don’t know most of our neighbors any more, the adults were making the same kind of effort we did when our kids were young. Everyone was out and about, supervising what had to be a hundred or so kids from all over. I gave out 300 pieces of candy so I know it was a big crowd, even if I doubled and tripled up treats for the especially cute or young kids.

The kids who came to my door were as polite as could be. Even the older, rambunctious boys eventually let down their cool to laugh at our “where’s Waldo” skeleton. We saw mostly princesses, superheroes and Army guys with a few dress-for-success doctors and nurses. Everyone had made a pretty big effort so no casually clad teenagers just popping by for a treat.

The only other time I lived so long in one house was my original neighborhood on 14th Street in Port Neches — many decades ago. I’ve carried those neighborhood kids and adventures around with me my entire life, teaching me rules of the road that were especially useful as a longtime cop reporter in some of the roughest cities in the nation.

My kids

My kids from a couple of decades ago


Superheroes who visited this Halloween

You learn a lot about survival and about being kind from your neighbors. I’m glad to see my current crew has positive lessons to impart. If they can keep me entertained so nicely for Halloween, I’m ready to knock on a few doors and introduce myself  . . . again.

Written by commuterchroniclesdbh

November 1, 2015 at 9:57 am

Kingwood looks so good in my rear-view mirror

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CCDBH morning 3Every work morning, when I leave my tree-shaded suburban neighborhood for the throbbing concrete of the Big City and a job I love, I have regrets. The streets of Kingwood never look so good as they do at 7 a.m. on a Monday, a Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday or Friday. It’s lush and green with smells and flowers that remind me of a childhood I spent in small town Texas, mostly outdoors.

I have always left my suburban neighborhood for my city job wherever I’ve lived and in a career that now spans 40 years. This may be because I’m a bit of a small town girl at heart but it’s also because of costs. In the ‘burbs, I have a bigger back yard and plenty of room for kids, dogs and biking. Lucky for me because I couldn’t afford that kind of space in the city.

CCDBH morning 4

On my commute every day, I see nature — bunnies, birds, an occasional early morning raccoon and once a coyote. I used to see deer fairly frequently but haven’t seen any deer on my route in about three years. I see neighbors walking their dogs, others jogging. Folks sit outdoors at the coffee shop and are reading and lingering. On many occasions, I pick out a person or two who I know by name and sometimes honk or shout out.

“Must be nice,” I say if we make contact, and I can tell the other person is glad to be the one staying home and not in the car so early and so fully dressed for a work day.

I think I’m always alert to my neighbors, the trees and the flowers. Every morning and every evening. It’s when I get to the city that my blinders are more likely to go up.ccdbh mornng 3

I’m off all this upcoming week, leading into the August 1 wedding of my only daughter. I’m going to soak up every minute of my suburban town.

Kingwood. A place created by an oil company as one of the nation’s first “planned” communities. A place of mostly homes and chain restaurants. Where mom-and-pop businesses seldom survive for long. A place that always felt like a way-station. A not real city on my way to another place.

A place where my kids’ best friends were always moving away and they were having to make new friends. Same with me but less painful to watch for me. We even did the same for a period of about five years when we moved from Kingwood to Troy, Michigan, and back again.

CCDBH morning 2We will have Laura’s wedding at the church she grew up in, Kingwood United Methodist Church. This is where she first went to Sunday school, where she interned in the summers and worked with the education director during the school year. Her catering will be done by the Webbers at Tin Roof in Humble, a business owned by friends of ours for years and who go to church with us. Her cake is being made by another fellow church-member Ginger Robertson whose cakes I’ve eaten for a million years. We’ve known the pastor who will officiate, Chris Harrison,  since he was a much younger man with only a couple of kids.

We will have the reception in a hall where I’ve attended community theater with my best friends and down the street from the athletic club where I learned to play tennis, worked out every day and where Laura and Travis were both lifeguards.

In other words, this sojourner has found a home in a town of wayfaring strangers and transient friends. When did that happen? Must have been sometime before 7 a.m. and after 6:30 p.m. or on the weekend.



Credit for all of these cool illustrative photos goes to Big Johnny. John Hensley is just like working in the news room. I tell him the idea, and he gets the shots. Thank you, John.

CCDBH morning 6

She’s gone now

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Tucker in 2014

My good boy, Tucker, makes friends on the gully.

She’s gone now, of course. My old friend’s old dog. I’ve known it for a while but was unwilling to write about it or intentionally race out to the gully when I saw him walking his regular path. I didn’t choose to engage him until fate brought us back together anyway. My gully walks are not about plans but are about providence. Call it kismet, destiny, lady luck. Reality. You get what you get when you get it. I don’t often leave for a walk or a bike ride intentionally to see a bird, a deer or a neighbor. I leave when I leave. These days, I simply try to get home in time to beat the sunset.

Even before today, I’ve seen him walking his two surviving dogs, one named Virgil and the other’s name still unknown. I watch them through the slats in my fence while I sit on my porch after work and admire the birds and the sunset. First, I watched for him with hope after our last talk in June. His two healthy dogs lead the parade – one on a leash and the other running free. Then, this tall, lanky, methodical man. I’d hold my breath for seconds, then minutes until, finally, the sweet Cookie would trail several feet later. A blond lab with silvering hair who took longer and longer to keep up every time I saw them on their routine walks.

Today, the inevitable couldn’t be avoided. My lone hound Tucker and I were coming off the gully bridge when he came my way from the park. I stopped in the path and put down the kickstand on my bike — a sure sign that I wanted to talk a minute.

“I see you’ve lost your old girl,” I said when we came face to face at dusk.

“I have,” he answered. “A couple of months ago. She made it to 16.”

“A good long life,” I said, my standard response. Three extra years sounded sweet to me, having lost my Patsy girl at only 13 when she died a few months back. My friend remembers Patsy, so we compared girl dog stories. We both agreed they are unique and fun and miss them desperately.

I suspect he’s 80 or so. Plenty old and slow moving. Tonight, he didn’t have on his straw bowler. Instead, he wore a bike helmet – a sure sign of recent brain surgery or a head injury. He fidgeted with it while we talk, and I decided not to ask. Finally, he volunteered, “I like to wear more protection when it gets dark like this. I’m more likely to fall in the dark. If I fall, I need to protect my head.” Of course, he does, I think. And I want to wrap him in a flak jacket and help him put on boots with thick socks. And gloves. Doesn’t he need gloves, too?

Can’t we protect him from the misadventures an old man might encounter on a walk of the gully? Protect him from nature as it comes his way. Protect him from life. Protect him from death. Keep him as my gully friend forever.

I take routine spills on my routine adventures. Just this week I almost steered my bike all the way down the 20-foot incline when I got distracted by Tucker. One more foot over to my left, and I’d have been swimming in the murk or worse.  I tend to lean into trouble when I see it coming. It’s like I determine it’s happening while it’s still coming, and I lean in, bracing myself for the worst-case scenario before it becomes inevitable. Slo-mo, and I’m in big trouble. I righted myself in time, this time. Made my heart race as my mind continued to visualize the worst.

My friend is quite decrepit and frail. His walk is slowed and measured. I’m sure I’m a sweet young thing in his eyes. They certainly light up and dance when we stop to talk. My friends and kids worry about me on the gully and I’m decades younger. The least I can do is worry about him, watch for his shadow to fall on my fence. Wait until he passes with now two dogs. And I can put down my kickstand, and we can talk a minute. It’s nice to remember our old girls together.

Here’s the original blog from June.








Written by commuterchroniclesdbh

October 20, 2014 at 6:17 pm

Bushwhacked by “Jackass” movie fans

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BruiseI took a tumble over a curb today on Streak, my really fast Trek street bike, and was reminded of my serious bike wrecks in recent years. I’m not talking about the many tumbles I took as an elastic-boned kid who ran the roads barefooted and kept scabs on my knees. Those days when I nimbly jumped back into the game, more interested in catching up to the neighbors than even considering a Band-Aid are long gone.

These are current times as I try to Baby Boom myself past my tennis days and into some serious bike riding to offset eight hours of desk-sitting. My middle-aged bones are more brittle and the extra padding is not at all helpful so a bike wreck feels a lot like a car wreck these days.

I’ve had two serious wrecks in the last five years, the first because I’d switched from a slow-moving mountain bike to a hybrid. I couldn’t control my speed when I dropped off newly concreted pavement and took a tumble completely over the handlebars. Skinned knees to match my younger self.Bruise again

But today, I was reminded of my most serious wreck ever and one that has my left side deteriorating faster than my right side. I know these things because of bone density tests, necessary at my age.

This bike wreck was caused by an intentional prank from the neighborhood urchins. I’ve concluded they’d been watching the movie “Jackass” and its subsequent iterations, getting ideas about how to pull off some serious mischief on unsuspecting folks. The good news about this story is that this prank had some serious comeuppance.

It was early evening after work in May 2012 when I took Streak for what I was expecting to be a 10-mile, hour-long ride. Of course, like any work-outer, I try to get in as much as possible as quickly as possible. Thus, I was determined to have my speed faster than 10 m.p.h. even though my greenbelt path would take me on winding paths where I’d have to slow at corners and try not to mow down dog-walkers.

I had just glanced down at my speedometer and noticed, satisfactorily, that my speed was 12 m.p.h. I was thinking good thoughts when I heard a shout of “No!” off in the bushes to my left.

Now is when the jumble in my mind starts. I looked up, of course, and saw directly in front of me a clear tape, the strong kind for sealing up moving boxes. It crossed, almost invisible, from one side of the greenbelt to the other, only feet away from me on the path ahead. I’m now convinced I was saved by the shout because I had time to brace myself, if not to stop.

I went screaming headlong into the tape at top speed, the tape being too strong to break or even to stretch much as it took me for a total flip, my hands clinging to the handlebars. I was tossed like a rag doll into the bushes beside the path, bruised and mangled. I felt like the tape had cut through my arm and I may be bleeding so I yanked out my cell phone and called my son before I even assessed all damage to my body.

While my son came running to the rescue, the next few neighbors tried to help or to at least figure out what had happened to me. The very next folks to come up were a young woman on a bike with her baby behind her. They were lucky that this had happened to me. I guess everyone was pretty lucky because I am, in fact, pretty sturdy.

Now, this action thriller becomes a mystery. Who did this?

My son gets to my side, hears my story and goes looking for the hooligans who set up this terrible accident. He finds bikes abandoned in the bushes, about where I’d heard the shout of “no.” We are both now thinking these pranksters set up the accident and waited in the bushes to see its outcome. Then, when the victim turned out to be a middle-aged mom, they had second thoughts. Not at all how it turns out in the movies.

By this time, my husband joined the fray, deciding to confiscate the bicycles and look for their owners. I am beginning to draw a crowd of neighborhood kids, hearing my story and looking at my war wounds. They know these bicycles but know the owners would never, ever cause such havoc. Don’t you love neighborhood kids. I was one of these; I related; I knew everyone by their bike.

My husband is told where the bike owners live and heads that way in the truck while I take my bike on a shortcut, coming across three cherubic-faced 12-year-old boys, two still short and one already hitting a growth spurt. They eventually tell me they own the bikes but that the bikes were stolen and they would never, ever cause me such harm. By now I’m bleeding and bruising up nicely and am looking pretty matronly and no one’s idea of a good victim for a prank.

I’m concerned for the innocence of this threesome because I know my husband’s sense of justice and he just happens to be back from a day of prison ministry on death row, something he does for fun. An old college football player, he’s a big guy and pretty intimidating in his all black. I rush ahead to reach him first and to tell him these boys are innocent and that the real culprits are still out there somewhere.

Husband John jumps out of the truck, stands massively across the road and shouts, “You boys are lying!!”

“What?” I say, “Oh, no, no.”

“These are not the right boys. I just walked over here with them. They are innocent.”

And then, they confessed.  One look at John, and their bullshit skills disappeared. I was flabbergasted. Others in our entourage were equally shocked. None of us saw it coming.

Now for the comeuppance. John then went to each of the culprits’ houses, telling the boys’ parents before he released their bikes to the parents. I stood on neighborhood steps as “Exhibit A.” Most parents were unbelieving, of course, until they heard the confessions. One mom was so distraught, we cried together and hugged. My arm and face, by now, were excellent evidence of their angels’ wrongdoing.

Justice was done; lessons were learned. Streak and I were back in the saddle the next day, a bit more careful and certainly more leery of humankind.

Written by commuterchroniclesdbh

June 24, 2014 at 6:26 pm

A successful dog walk-bike ride combination

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Biking with TuckerThese days, I mostly saddle up on old Blue Streak and ride the gully with my lone hound, Tucker. Bike riding while dog walking is something I’ve tried frequently with varying degrees of success and in varying stages of my own nimbleness, theory being that I can get in both chores at once. This time is my most successful with this, my most obedient and loving hound and my best bike for the concept.

In the course of a mere month since I lost my much beloved senior hound Patsy to lung cancer, Tucker has become so well trained that my bike ride and hound walk are one in the same. Blue Streak is the perfect vehicle for my bike ride-slash dog walk. With a wide seat, big straw basket and easy balance, I can keep pace with Tucker or fall back while he sniffs. It’s his walk after all, not mine.

Today is a perfect day to take Tucker out on the gully. The gully itself has been mowed this week. It’s an almost perfect surface for Blue Streak, which is, after all, a mountain bike and perfect for a bit of uneven terrain. I fill a water bottle, grab one of my small white hand towels, toss Tucker’s leash and my phone in the basket and off we go.

I gamble a bit by opening the gate and letting Tucker out without looking for other dog-walkers, bikers or kids with their fishing poles. In the past, he’s been a bit of a barker but never a biter. Of course, other folks don’t know that. In our first walk, after losing Patsy, I had a traumatic experience when he barked at a jogger who was frightened by him before I could get him back on the leash. She shouted at me while I cried, apologizing for having him off leash. “You will do nothing,” she said over and over as I pleaded that I would. Then, as I continued to hang my head and cry, she shouted “fuck you” several times and for several more feet. Already devastated by the loss of my best friend, I couldn’t blame her and had nothing to say for myself.

A month later, Tucker has become so obedient that it’s a small gamble. We don’t have a problem today. I make a quick canvass and see neighbors working their garden a few houses down and kids in the gully, but that is all.

The gully comes up to a bank on both sides before it dips 15-feet to 20-feet down to the slow-moving water below. I come out of my wooden gate behind Tucker pumping at full speed, trying to get up the hill without stopping. I need to meet the rise at an angle and am getting better at this as I get stronger and more familiar with Blue Streak’s capabilities again.

I push hard up to the sandy path that is a high school track-like oval. It’s a mile and a half to go the loop, but I sometimes extend my ride down the gully to the park or in the other direction to a wooden bridge. In both cases, I have to be prepared to put Tucker on the leash to cross roads. My mind unconsciously chooses simply to make the loop with my loyal hound.

First up on the right is a formerly beautiful cactus that grew for years in front of a neighbor’s gate. The huge pink flowers were so enticing one year that I attempted to grab one for my own cultivation, picking needles out of my arm for days after my attempt. It’s been mowed down recently but continues to grow in patches along the fenceline. I hope to see the flowers again some day.

Almost immediately after the cactus is a sort of community garden that expands every year. I think three neighbors are involved these days. They have beautiful sunflowers this year, growing to eye level. Beans loop around trellises, and young tomatoes, okra, peppers, lettuce and typical vegetables grow in even, perfectly weeded rows. It’s become a pretty spectacular effort with compost, fallen logs, some flowers and a watering hose that’s permanently looped over the fence. I reap the rewards on occasion and without any effort on my part when the tomato or okra crop comes in successfully and a neighbor shows up at my door with a bag full.

Today, adults are walking beside the gully, which is not the norm. It’s usually the kids who traverse the steep incline to the water for fishing or turtle torture.

These folks have a small white houseshoe dog, and they grab it up when they see me and Tucker. It could also be because our neighborhood red-shouldered hawk is making its rounds, swooping close to them. He’s flown by my face once at such speed that I knew I wouldn’t survive a hit, and, similarly, heard the screams from a squirrel when he grabbed it off the neighbor’s rooftop.

Also nearby, is a huge turkey buzzard the size of a small child. I holler to Tucker, and he comes to the side of my bike, trotting parallel to me. “Good boy,” I say, and we keep a tight mass, even though I think Tucker is too big to entice Mr. Hawk. He’s so great and well trained these days.

As a former police reporter, teacher and general busy-body, I tell the neighbors to maintain their own tight circle to appear to be too big of a target. They seem to appreciate the advice, something that’s not always true when I choose to impart such wisdom.

Tucker and I cross the wooden bridge with ease this day. My speed is good enough to make the hills and the extraordinarily high bump up to from the concrete to the wood. We keep going past the turtles that I’ve watched grow from quarter-sized to a foot across.

On the other side of the gully is more shade, and Tucker starts to stall, sniffing and relaxing. I look over the fences at the pools until I’m halfway and at the neighbor’s house where folks typically have peaceful Zen music playing so loudly that I hear it on my side of the water.

Then it’s another bridge and we’re in the home stretch. Tucker has the most vocabulary than any of my hounds. He knows “bridge,” “left” and “right” or else he knows that I don’t want him to get near the road. As we approach a neighbor who has moved a lawn chair out to watch her kids fishing on the gully, I get him to trot beside me with my bike between him and the strangers.

He’s a great guy. It’s been a nice ride and he’s had a nice walk. We kick into gear and head for the open gate.

Written by commuterchroniclesdbh

May 18, 2014 at 3:02 pm