on the feasibility of singlehandedly lowering the amount of carbon dioxide in the earth’s atmosphere by riding a big, dorky bicycle around Seattle with a couple zany boys on the back

This was a view toward the northern range of the Olympics, from Dungeness Spit last weekend. The second, bottom image is what I like to call The Famous Dungeness Spit Driftwood Pipe Organ– it has been there for over a year but sooner or later mother nature will rearrange the furniture. On the other side of this piled-up driftwood is wildlife refuge, no people or others of that ilk, allowed. In order for us to spend the entire day out on the spit, a pact was made with noisy gulls and considerable time invested on construction of a driftwood nap shelter that could withstand the strongest recorded winds along the Strait of Juan de Fuca, which connects Puget Sound with the Pacific Ocean. The boys’ mother crawled into the beach burrow alongside little brother and so I proceeded to further reinforce the napping chamber for security and solitude until egress became rather questionable, haha! Roughly seventy minutes later, Oliver Fern squirted (like a prairie dog pup does) out of a small opening of the chamber and that was my signal to skidaddle down the beach and unbuild as fast as possible or else I was probably going to be in trouble.

It was an interesting week that went out like a lion. Yesterday, half a million people around the Sound lost power because of blustery winds atypical of our summers. The boys and I marveled at the debris from the forty foot high pencil tree that grows alongside the house, and earlier, downed trolley wires in Montlake were sideswiped in dramatic fashion by a big maple. Late in the day the Diadora cedar in the alley behind us, featuring cones the size of cantaloupe, was swaying quite a lot for a hundred foot tree. We spent lunchtime at the bookstore and the lights flickered on and off. The clerks had to resort to good old-fashioned carbon copies for receipts.

Speaking of carbon, after several years of taxiing the boys around Capitol Hill, Madison Valley and the Central Area, I’ve had my fill of burping fossil fuel for last-minute loaves of bread, emergency deodorant, first bell and zoo camp. We’re a sadly inefficient family (blame me and my guyness). And so it was that on Wednesday, Oliver and I caught the 48 to Greenwood to take possession of the big bike, a cargo bicycle with room on the back for both of the boys. It’s our special experiment for the next couple years and the beginning of the study took place in second gear on Greenwood Avenue past Red Mill Burgers and Phinney Ridge. I know this sounds awfully corny, but the city felt like performance art from our bike. You’d agree if you’d been there and heard the howler monkeys as you glided past the zoo and then had a grouchy-looking tow truck driver who was eating lunch in his truck give you a cute thumbs-up sign while you waited for a signal to turn green. The long descent down Fremont Avenue North wasn’t as scary as I anticipated. While we waited for our turn to jog east at North 35th, I winced at my muppet nose in the funhouse rear windshield of the Dodge minivan in front of us.

It was a relief to get out of traffic and pick up the Burke Gilman Trail underneath the Aurora Bridge (we said hello to the troll). I was starting to get a little nervous I couldn’t possibly get us to Miller Park in time to pick Adam up from summer camp and commenced a debate with Oliver Fern about whether or not we should detour to the house for the car but he indicated supreme confidence in my pedaling abilities. I was buoyed by the straightaways above the Ship Canal in Wallingford and the brand new overhead pedestrian walkway at Husky Stadium (part of the yet-to-be-opened train station bling) gave us an enormous lift and sooner than you could say leg cramp I was huffing and puffing my way up Montlake’s long south rise and then the painfully steep east slopes (where you’ll find the steepest streets in Seattle) of Capitol Hill. We made it to Miller Park in the nick of time, I conquered every single mountain we met and despite feeling a bit like I’d been run over by a steam roller on the lower half of my body, I was tickled as all get out. Adam grinned like he was being picked up in a red Ferrari and we made it back down the hill to our house (hydraulic brakes) whereupon I let out a primal scream of relief in the driveway which momentarily stunned the boys before they realized I wasn’t mad and then they grinned and whooped it up, too.

Yesterday morning, Oliver Fern and I dropped Adam off at Miller Park for his last day of camp (made it up East Thomas below 23rd without stopping) and got all the way home before i realized I’d left my hearing aid in Adam’s backpack for safekeeping. After resignedly doubling back and retrieving my aid, we made a quick pit stop at home before riding back up the hill to Kay’s salon for a much overdue haircut. A couple hours later, we returned to Miller Park. The three of us look a tad ridiculous cruising around the streets on the big bike but people smile and beep with encouragement as I wheeze past. The boys love it, they think it’s the funniest and funnest thing. It is funny, big guys always look a little ridiculous riding bikes. Geography and aggressive drivers will be the major test for this experiment: We’re lucky to live in a thriving part of the city in an off-the-beaten path neighborhood convenient to all points of the compass but we’re severely challenged by the constraints of terrain. In a city full of hills left and right, we live smack dab in the middle of one of the steepest street grids in town. Fortunately, our neighborhood doesn’t have any of the breathtakingly long run-outs that characterize certain hillsides in places like Queen Anne Hill, West Seattle or the east and west slopes of Phinney Ridge. And so far, the only block that has given me the face-palm is the upper half of our own (I haven’t even attempted to pedal it). As for aggressive and careless drivers, they represent my most serious anxiety about riding with the boys around the neighborhood, it’s something that has been waking me up in the middle of the night with butterflies, on a regular basis.

Last night, Adam was looking for stationary so he could draft a letter of reply to a grade school pal who moved to Winthrop over the summer (they were safe from the fires) and as I stacked various cartons of paper sundries before Adam for the choosing, he and I studied reserve cards (a habit of the boy’s mom I’ve always found grating but very humorous) of birthday and graduation well wishes. A lump swelled in my throat when we came across a lone mother’s day card. The boys’ eldest grandmother died a couple early mornings ago. We talked with Adam about death on Friday night and then his mom flew out of town to make the various arrangements that must be made in these instances. So as you can imagine, it was a week of silly highs and serious lows. I was feeling really melancholy last night after the boys went to bed. Earlier in the evening was somewhere a little in between:  A trip on the big bike to the grocery store for butter. But ice cream, too. The scale tipped back to the serious side as we rode home in the kind of downpour where the raindrops are so big you can see them splash. I took East Aloha exceedingly slow on the way down to Madison Valley, with extra care over the rim-rattling cobblestones of Old World Seattle……

Postscript: I wrote this last weekend and even temporarily published it but then I put it back into the special folder where unreadable-babble goes into the trash compactor but then I decided it might be all right to sneak it back into the ether of the web where only best friends or curious distant cousins bother to look around.

2 thoughts on “on the feasibility of singlehandedly lowering the amount of carbon dioxide in the earth’s atmosphere by riding a big, dorky bicycle around Seattle with a couple zany boys on the back

  1. I do hope with all my heart, that I fit into the “best friend’s” category. I know I have no right to it, but it feels right anyway somehow. I hope you never stop writing. This one made me laugh and cry all at once. Raindrops and melancholy, ice cream and sighs. City as performance art, howler monkeys and big guys on bikes. It’s all funnier and funnest and I always find myself wishing it would never end. You remind me of all the small things that add up to a big life. I am grateful.

    • My ghostly muse returns! Roni, you’re such a lovely person. Thank you for encouraging me so much, always out of the blue but at the perfect time, it seems. I’m just another wandering soul looking self-consciously to the pen for a little personal salvation while keeping track of groceries, homework and the next walk in the woods. But you make me feel like so much more, and maybe I will be. You’re a best friend……

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