commuterchroniclesdbh

Driving and Biking in the Big City

Posts Tagged ‘John Hensley

The time I went to the Super Bowl and paid $20 per ticket

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super-bowl

The Golden Couple of the ’70s at their big Super Bowl adventure.

It’s not unusual to exchange Super Bowl stories on this, Super Bowl Sunday. And, by now, many of us have had the opportunity to attend.  Although it’s in Houston this year, I’ve chosen to stay home and watch. Had either of our favorite teams made it in – Texans or Cowboys – I might have dug deep into my connections or pocketbook to find the cash.

Feels like I’ve seen plenty already, having driven in the Super Bowl traffic on Thursday and Friday with the potential of being extremely late to work in the Texas Medical Center tomorrow when everyone tries to get back out of town.  But then, I’ve been. Knocked it off my Bucket List and have “highlights” evidence to prove it.

My story of attending the Super Bowl is not quite as cool as the story of technology over the last three decades. After all, I attended the game in 1978 when we had no idea the advances that would take place in technology and that some historic moments would be memorialized forever – including this one.

It was Dallas vs. Denver, the Superdome in New Orleans, and I had a friend who had just gone to work for the wire service UPI in New Orleans. Joan Duffy, an outspoken journalist and mentor who had been with me on a news desk during Watergate and Richard Nixon’s resignation, had taken me under her wing for my impressionable early years at the Beaumont Enterprise. I was hot to maintain the relationship as well as score the best birthday present of all time for my new husband during our honeymoon days. These 35-yard-line tickets to the big game would never again be matched or surpassed in now 44 years of marriage.

Face value for a Superbowl ticket?  A mere $20 compared to $3,000 today.

Husband John was marking off a huge one on his life’s bucket list. Here he was, a guy who had played football through high school and college and who was now attending an actual Super Bowl game, watching some of his childhood heroes. Huge deal, huh? Could other big events like a World Series, Wimbledon or a presidential inauguration be far behind? We were young and cool and heading for rich and famous.

It was a momentous day even before the game.  Joan, John and I were walking Bourbon Street, of course, hobnobbing and pressing the flesh. That’s when I spotted my childhood hero, Walter Chronkite, whose calming voice and knowledgeable news reports were the highlight of every evening.  These were the days when journalists were among the smartest people walking, and he inspired me to more than writing – to knowledge, to objectivity, to honorable presence, to be the Fourth Estate. He was the real deal and there he was in real life.

I was the first to recognize him and, of course, stopped in my tracks — dropped-jawed and cotton-mouthed — while Joan and husband John kept walking. Uncle Walt was so self-effacing. He chatted easily with us fellow news reporters just like we were contemporaries. I still believe he would have gone into the bar behind us for an afternoon of drinking and story-telling, had I been able to stop stuttering.

The game itself was not that momentous and Dallas stayed ahead pretty easily. We even skipped out a bit early to see the King Tut exhibit, another fantasy come true for a kid who loved to read about Egypt.  It was the exhibit’s first tour to the United States and the long lines had caused huge headlines. We made it only moments before the exhibit closed for the season.

Now, flash forward through the years and into our current day living room and the real story.

With today’s technology, we now can tape the Super Bowl highlights no matter what time they come on. We had taped them all. They are only 30 minutes long but John loved to watch them all and relive the games like the true football beast he is.

So, one day, John says he thinks he recognizes the three girls who were sitting in front of us during the Super Bowl. What? No one else would ever have known we were frozen in time on camera were it not for John’s incredible memory of football plays and peoples’ faces. And now we have slo-mo.

It goes like this:

The Cowboys’ player Golden Richards catches a pass from Roger Staubach that seals his team’s victory. The Cowboys celebrate with Hollywood Henderson throwing his arms into the air. That’s the signal for us to start watching the recording closely.

The camera goes to Cowboy Ray riding his stick horse in the stands and then pans among the many revelers. The view begins to take in the crowd in the aisle beside Cowboy Ray. The fans are wild with celebration. Then, there are the three girls – arms thrown into the air in celebration – and . . . slow, slow, frame, frame.

Yes, there is John under one of the girl’s armpits. We stop action, focus and enlarge the picture on our home television as video-John turns his head, smiles and talks to . . . me, sitting beside him. With the magic of today’s technology, we can move the picture, frame-by-frame and close in on this young couple who had been hidden for years behind these same girls.

There we are, images preserved for national recognition during such a historic event as Superbowl XII.

I had to run the picture back and forth a thousand times, frame by frame, to be sure this wasn’t some trick of the camera. How could I possible have gotten my hair that big? It looked like Marlo Thomas from “That Girl” days.

And then, there’s John. Here’s a guy who has been big enough to be shaving since Little League baseball, and, well, let’s face it: He’s wearing a powder blue suit with lapels wider than my hair. Is this John Hensley or John Travolta? Stayin’ alive, stayin’ alive. Ah. Ah. Ah.

The kids started yelling “leisure suit,” “leisure suit.”

John swears he never owned one. But there it is, preserved forever.

Written by commuterchroniclesdbh

February 5, 2017 at 2:14 pm

Here’s a shocker: Houstonians wasted more time in traffic in 2015

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Let’s start with me. Yes, I’ve wasted more time in traffic this year than last year and that is despite being off on medical leave and working from home for an unusual three months and two new knees of the year. I knew before this report that my commute has increased since I first started making a regular trek to the big city more than two decades ago.  Ask my suburban friends who are appalled at the two hours I spend to and fro work every day. I’ve been saying that my commute has increased a lot lately.

Praying that this truckload of Madonnas help me get there a little quicker

Praying that this truckload of Madonnas help me get there a little quicker

When I agreed to this gig, my commute was 45 minutes or less. Heck, when I used to teach at University of Houston at night, I gave myself 35 minutes to get to campus from my Livable Forest home, leaving my toddlers with their father who was home from his day job. But then, none of my UH students ever cared if I was on time or even absent. Such is the life of an adjunct professor.  And I had a silver convertible — also named Streak, like my current road bike. It was fun to drive home in the open air to find the kids asleep and the husband mellow. Today, it’s much different. As an empty-nester with a cool new swimming pool, great garden of flowers and a husband who is an inventive cook, I have a lot waiting for me at home.

I hated to see it counted in specifics and real-life metrics. This week, a new report from the Washington-based Inrix Inc. shows Houstonians wasted 12 more hours in traffic in 2015 than in years past. OMG! That’s a season of binge watching “House of Cards” or “Orange is the New Black.” It gives me several meaningful episodes of “Game of Thrones” that I will now have to sit in a chair and lose my life to. Luckily, I’ve already binge watched all of “Luther” or I’d be in trouble, perhaps trying to watch on my iPad in the car.

The average Houstonian wasted about 74 hours in his or her car last year sitting in gridlock traffic, the report says. Yikes!  Of course, true.

Looking over my shoulder for trouble in the train lane.

Looking over my shoulder for trouble in the train lane.

Just last week, a terrible story erupted about a woman in a three-car wreck in Houston who took off her clothes and danced wildly on an 18-wheeler, stopping traffic for hours. I could be that woman! I have wanted to make a statement many days as I sat in my Nissan Rogue Clarence, going nowhere. Luckily for my now-adult children, I’ve kept my clothes on  . . . so far. They are still worried about their mom being tossed against the hood of Clarence and handcuffed by “The Man” who has stopped me three times in the last six months in sneaky speed traps for breaking the traffic laws.  I’m certain I’m being profiled now that I’m no longer a cute young thing who can talk her way out of a traffic ticket. They think I’ll pay and not complain. So far they are correct.

This week’s findings make Houston the city with the fourth worst traffic in the country.  We fall  behind Los Angeles (No. 1 ), Washington, D.C., (No. 2), and San Francisco (No. 3). It was the only Texas city to make the top 10.

Houston can brag of being the road most traveled in five of the top 100 most congested stretches of roads in the country. The city’s most trafficked area was the portion of Interstate 610 from the Woodway Drive exit to Beechnut Street, near the Galleria. The less than 7-mile strip, which has received low ratings before, should take about six minutes to traverse, according to the report. At peak travel time, the strip takes about 26 minutes. I believe it takes longer.

Almost to work

Almost to work

Other highly trafficked roads in Houston within the top 100 in the country were:

  • S. Highway 59 from Lorraine Street to Texas 288 (been there; done that.)
  • Interstate 45 from Texas 5 Spur to Gulf Bank Road
  • Interstate 610 from Evergreen Street to W. 11th Street
  • S. Highway 290 from Antoine Drive to N. Eldridge Parkway

Now, here’s the even worse news:

The Texas Department of Transportation recently announced that it would invest $447 million toward relieving traffic on three of the city’s major highways. TxDOT has even proposed elevating lanes in some of the most congested areas of 610 to help alleviate traffic. However, construction on other roads is still expected to bring about closures and congestion.

When this road work creates even more traffic jams, I will certainly shed my clothes, dance in the grid-locked traffic and make a spectacle of myself. All I can say to the family is “Be prepared; I’m not quitting anytime soon.”

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.

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.

 

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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

Yard art and other decorative thoughts

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Bruce

Bruce

I just renewed my blog name “commuterchroniclesdbh.com” on Word Press and looked back to discover I haven’t written a new installment since January. A writer’s work is never done, of course, and it is not my intention to slack off this blog. I see more folks reading every day and that encourages me outside of my day-to-day writing life in the Texas Medical Center, not to mention the rewrite of a novel at the urging of my best agent yet.

My life has taken a twisty turn since “Proof of Life Sundays,” filed in January — the most huge change being that my  only daughter’s wedding is coming up this summer. Also surprisingly time consuming has been the construction of my first and only swimming pool. (Both subjects I hope to discuss in blogs later.)

I return today with some thoughts out of the commuting realm and into the yard-decorating arena. I recently acquired a contemplative frog for poolside (Bruce, at left) and it reminded me of my constant inner struggle with my country girl roots and my sophisticated city evolution. I always have been drawn to unusual — some, especially my husband, might call tasteless — forms of artistic expression, especially in the way of yard decorations. I don’t know if this stems from my humble beginnings, the influence of “The Beverly Hillbillies” or just my soul’s code. I can remember some of my first memories and longings as a Texas girl of having those spectacular lions adorn the sidewalk to my palatial home some day. I don’t even know who would have had such concrete lions in Port Neches outside of Beaumont, Texas, equally distanced from the ocean, Houston and the Cajun influence of Louisiana.

Lion

First purchase of yard art is traditional lion.

When my husband and I acquired our perfect paradise in the ‘burbs from where I would commute to Houston every day, I longed for a lion to decorate my lawn. John made this first purchase, coming home with a perfectly acceptable example of concrete artistry. However, by then, I’d spent some time covering the Vietnamese immigration to Port Arthur and Kemah after the fall of Saigon and also had become heavily influenced by Asian writers including Amy Tan who wrote of superstitions and traditions that remind me of my East Texas, cotton-picking pioneer mom on the other side of the world. My heart was set on Chinese lions, something unique and more a reflection of the cool souls who resided with me.

That’s when the honeymoon was over. At the same time John came home with a concrete lion, I fell totally in love with a green concrete gargoyle at a favorite gardening store and, despite him weighing more than 100 pounds, brought him home and placed him on the porch beside John’s lion. I promptly named him Verdecito, the little green one.

Verdecito -- the little green one.

Verdecito — the little green one.

My more conservative husband with Bible study at our home on Thursdays freaked. That’s putting it mildly, and, I must admit that Verdecito has a bit of a demonic appearance. I reject such superstitious nonsense and have tried hard to keep my mom’s many omens and traditions out of my kids’ psyche even while they torture me daily. Still. I loaded up Verdecito and took him to work with me where he resided for months in the backyard of my friend’s communications company on Quenby in the city.

It took a while before John could convince me that, on second thought, Verdecito was wanted. It felt like a kidnapping adventure for poor Verdecito who experienced many “proof of life/concrete” days before I brought him home.

Then, I, too, compromised. After buying a series of gargoyles, John suggested I should add variety. I bought a long skinny dog who reminded me of my German short-haired pointer, Andy; a beautiful huge snail who I named Paul and a happy relaxing frog, named Cecil.Andy

When my daughter started going to Texas Tech, I’d saddle up my old ride,  Vinny, and trek the eight to 10 hours west, stopping at garden shops with concrete art along the way. I acquired a huge green horned toad, among others. John was frustrated, and I must admit now that I may have had a yard art problem. He suggested it would be different if I had a theme.

“A theme?” I cried. “I had a theme. It was gargoyles. You said, ‘no more'”

I promptly and surprisingly ran into the exact same gargoyle as my original, only in gold. Orocito joined the family and John acquiesced somewhat. Clearly, I couldn’t be deterred.

Horned

Yikes! I’m thinking as I write this. He may be right. I hate when that happens.

I have ventured into other yard decor since the controversy over concrete art and none have really pleased my beloved mate’s sensibilities. When we added the backyard pool recently, he took the redesign to move all of my favorites into an area that he now calls my “English garden.” As we say in Texas, “that’s just putting lipstick on the pig.”

My goal is to let my spirit soar in the English garden. My humble roots and untraditional taste will out and prove to be so artistic it is kitschy. Meanwhile, John has allowed my one recent purchase, the meditative frog who I’ve named Bruce (after Lee as much as Springsteen) to remain poolside. Hoorah for small victories.

Weathered birdhouse

Weathered birdhouse

Butterflies from North Carolina

Butterflies from North Carolina

These three glow-in-the dark creatures have not aged well.

These three glow-in-the dark creatures have not aged well.

Written by commuterchroniclesdbh

June 28, 2015 at 2:31 pm

Proof of Life Sundays

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John in Oman Laura on a cold Sunday Marcus and Laura Trav and Laura Leigh Trav in Gold's Gym Trav on another sundayWithout even realizing it, my family has embarked on a new tradition that is catching on, quick enough to accomplish even in our busy lives and making it easier for everyone to live with me. The way to play is simple. My kids and husband are to send me a photo of themselves on Sundays, perhaps in action. No canned or previous photos. The players snap a photo, message it to me, I tell them how adorable they are and I leave them somewhat alone to be adults for the next few days. In fact, my husband doesn’t always have to play if he’s at home with me and I know, in fact, that he’s alive.

The title for this event, of course, comes from the many kidnapping movies we’ve seen when the kidnapper is required to show “proof of life” before the family of the poor victim coughs up the millions and millions of dollars. As an avid movie-lover, mystery reader and former longtime police reporter, it made surprising sense for this new tradition to evolve.

It couldn’t have come earlier in our lives together as a family because we didn’t have the technology we have today. But with smart phones and easy photo apps, we are now good to go for Proof of Life Sundays.

My kids will tell you it wasn’t much of a peaceful childhood when you are being raised by a mom who is/now was a police reporter.  I can track down anyone, anywhere, anytime. I know how to talk to cops, hospital personnel, ambulance drivers, teachers, friends, moms of friends, even funeral homes to get me one step closer to where you are at all times. And, if I don’t know how to do it, I know someone who can. It’s like the Kevin Bacon game. How many calls do I have to make to get the information I need. I’ve cultivated the art of persistence.

We need to call Oprah? I have a friend who went to school with her. Kevin Costner? The same. A government official; they are so easy. College officials, I know someone who went there and may even have a building or two named for a big gift. And, in fact, I still have a few powerful newspaper friends. Haven’t asked them for a favor in a long time, but I’m keeping the potential in my pocket.

My husband of 40 years probably knows my persistence better than anyone. I remember the time when I convinced the police at Houston Intercontinental Airport to search the inter-terminal trains. This is when we lived in Michigan, the kids were really young and my husband traveled relentlessly. He was pretty predictable about calling home to tell me he’d arrived safely and even stayed routinely at the same places, especially in Houston.

Well, on this particular night, he did not call home, he was not at the expected hotel and his loving and faithful wife worried that he’d croaked somewhere in transit. The cops searched, didn’t find him. Eventually, I called his assistant who made his travel arrangements (yes, we’re talking midnight) and she had put him at a new hotel because of a conference he was attending. Whew!! All was well and some even learned.

My beautiful sister-niece Pam and her Pepper who are fans of Proof of Life Sundays

Proof of Life of my beautiful sister-niece Pam and her Pepper. So adorable.

The rule of thumb for my kids was to call home at least before mom called the cops. They knew when I’d start getting edgy. They also knew that back in my daily newspaper days, I covered all the possible worst case scenarios.

  • The baby who choked on her coat when her mom didn’t take off her jacket because the infant was sleeping so peacefully.
  • The 4-year-old tossed from the back of a moving pickup truck.
  • The twins who were killed in the bathtub when their dad dropped the hairdryer in the water.
  • The elementary child killed crossing the street after his caregiver let go of his hand and turned away to go home.
  • The teen-ager who died in the dentist’s chair having his wisdom teeth removed.
  • The diamond salesman who was conked on the head and buried the very night he went missing.

I will stop there because I’m making us all depressed about the fragility of life. I’m a sure case of journalism “post traumatic syndrome.” All horrible and many more.

But my cop reporting is now in my DNA and will be passed on to my kids and probably their kids. The motto is worthy if the crazy is not:

I will be smart enough, strong enough and never too lazy to help.

Bring on Proof of Life Sunday or I’m there whether you needed me or not.

 

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