Ten Minutes

by SecraTerri

"I suggest we zip up," David says as we're leaving Subway ... and he tugs the zipper of his bike jacket all the way up to his chin.

He looks like a big, handsome, Buttercup-Yellow turtle.

But I'm way ahead of him on this one. I've already zipped and buttoned my windbreaker ... plus I've cinched the bottom, so it won't flap around in the breeze ... I've scrunched my helmet down to fit over the tips of my ears ... AND I've stretched the hem of my Spandex pedal pushers down to my ankles. If I had some Hello Kitty mittens and a pair of fuzzy earmuffs, I'd probably be slipping into them right about now: as it is, I'm going to have to make do with the groovy fingerless riding gloves.

"Ten minutes of misery," David reminds me. "Then it's over."

I nod -- I know, I know -- and climb aboard the Schwinn, shivering. This is a ride I know by heart ... and by hamstrings.

The amazing thing is that when we stopped at the mall for dinner, thirty minutes earlier, we were still in the middle of a lovely, balmy East Bay late-afternoon/early-evening. In the time it's taken us to wolf down a six-inch turkey/no cheese/no mayo [*her*] and a twelve-inch tuna/no jalapenos [*him*] ... the "afternoon" part of it has ended, and the "evening" part has begun in earnest. The sun is already starting to disappear across the bay. The bike path is all but deserted. And the pleasant sea breeze that propelled us forward, during the first half of the ride, will be working against us now for the next ten minutes as we ride along the shoreline ... ten degrees colder and ten miles tougher, as we're heading due west toward home.

I hunker down and push myself into the misery.

So far, this season, our evening rides have been distressingly brisk, businesslike ... and brief. By the time we get home from work -- on the two or three weeknights when we have no work committments/no family obligations/no *laundry emergencies* to keep us off our bikes -- it's generally too late to attempt anything more ambitious than a quick dash to Bay Farm Island and back ... with an occasional stop at Subway for dinner on the way home, if it's not too late. As the season progresses -- as the evenings continue to grow longer, and it stays light past 8 p.m. -- I hope we'll be able to extend our riding hours. That's when we can go for more adventurous, leisurely rides after work ... maybe stop for a picnic dinner at the stone boat once in a while, maybe wander around the snooty little Bay Farm shopping center, maybe just sit on the beach for a while and throw rocks at the geese.

But right now it's all about accumulating mileage. Those last 1,647.25 miles aren't going to ride themselves.

Still -- momentary cold and wind and misery aside -- I have to admit there are advantages to riding at this time of the evening. The bike path running along South Shore isn't particularly crowded at 7:55 p.m. on a chilly week night in early May, for instance. The dog-walkers and the baby-strollers have gone home to their nice warm houses for an evening of Hamburger Helper and My Wife & Kids. Obviously there are no "Good Morning People" to contend with when you're riding at night. [The few hardy souls out here on the path with us right now are too busy fending off windchill to bother saying "Good evening."]

Plus the view is unreal.

Tonight, for instance, I am watching the sun set behind the San Francisco skyline, just across the bay from where I'm riding. The sun is touching down on the top of the Coit Tower, even as we speak: the sky and the bay are ablaze with melted crayon colors, running together. People pay money to look at this stuff, I remind myself. They come here, from all over the world, to look at this exact view ... and all *I* have to do is walk out my front door and get on my bike. My thigh muscles are burning. My nose is running. David has shot ahead of me, up the bike path, and I'm straggling alone into the wind.

But Jesus. Look at that VIEW.

In fact, I'm so wrapped up in the sunset -- and in the pleasure of cruising along on a nearly-empty bike path, without a lot of pesky dogs and ground squirrels and pedestrians to swerve around -- that I don't even notice how quickly ten minutes have passed ...

... until David is saying "There. That wasn't so bad, was it?"

I coast to a stop, blinking in surprise. How did we get to the entrance to Crab Cove Park already?? And how come I'm not shivering or weeping or laying on the ground retching in agony? The tip of my nose is like a big lump of frozen strawberry -- I swipe at it with one of my bike gloves, and I wind up with snot all over my fingers -- but otherwise I feel perfectly warm, perfectly happy, perfectly not-terribly-sore anywhere.

"Are you OK?" David asks. He has interpreted my silent, blinking-in-surprise reaction as a distress call. We both remember when this same ten-minute ride into the wind used to make me cry.

"I guess I forgot about being miserable," I shrug.

Either those last ten minutes are getting easier ... or I'm getting tougher. I'm hoping that it's a little bit of both.

Copyright �2002 SecraTerri. All Rights Reserved.