For most of the year I've dutifully written a post per bike ride - per ride even when the ride was uneventful or lousy. What a gift I gave you all. All 5 of you.
I've been silent the last two months.
Not much has changed. I've been riding every other day more or less in London England ( as opposed to London Malaysia) trying to keep myself in decent enough shape to survive this 600 mile slog from San Fran to LA come June.
We raised just over 10 grand for AIDS research which is half what I wanted to raise but a decent sum nonetheless.
I think I've been silent simply as a matter of praise. As a way of acknowledging that spending 3-4 hours every other day on an moving exercise machine in a city I should be exploring by foot every day every hour notebook and camera in hand is if not a kind of madness at least a thing to be damn shamed of.
Ashamed I suppose but somehow shamed seemed to fit better. To scan.
London is, as a universe of writers have said, a universe unto itself a physical manifestation of the human condition of one's -and all of the ones combined- yours and their imaginations churning away. More than New York or even Tokyo all things seem possible in London. All things could possibly -you tell yourself- be happening, be being made manifest right now.
Even now. And now. To quote Rosencrantz. Or ..Guil...
I'm talking like an idiot because this is the last cycle blog I'll write till I'm on the 6 day ride. Glad I committed to it but Christ I'm excited to get back in a pool and get a great workout in a hour instead of gutting entire days on a 5000 dollar machine I should donate to an able young rider.
So if anyone out there knows a good charity that hooks up young talented poor cyclists with aging overpaid cyclists do call.
It's just hard to square getting used to blowing by Big Ben and Parliament and the Horse Guards parade, the Serpentine gallery and Battersea power plant and Chelsea gardens, each and every facade and corner park and ramble and square and museum and gallery ad infinitum - flying by head down fingers on the triggers of the brakes praying the auto maelstrom of London won't snag me once and for all and grind me into the macadam along with two millennia of human trade pumiced into the bedrock of this ancient town, hard to do all that instead of.....stopping and ....soaking it all in , this place that I simply don't have the days left to know.
Did I mention the theaters? The plays? The book stores? The libraries? The newspapers? The langauage sodden pubs and cafe houses where the language I was raised speaking leaps into overdrive and becomes a tool and a plaything the weapon of American rarely knows?
All that said - cruising along the Thames, along any river in any city, squeezing through rows of condensed housing banks and buses back to back and lorries and cabs and out into the air and trees clipping by is a joy untold, a thing forever.
Cycling as I've said is a brutal business in London. It's a hill free jungle of medeavil streets spreading in concentric circles for 20 miles. Your first hour if you try to escape into the country is completely wasted time. Which leaves....Richmond Park. 9 snappy miles up the Thames sits Henry the VIII's grand hunting ramble where he chased stag after stag and I'm sure maiden after maiden and where now hordes of Londons cyclists ravenous for open roads without a red light every kilometer now come to find freedom.
Two climbs you wouldn't even mention in a ride in LA, two descents with curves too tight for most folks to let go on, two packs of deer - yes Henry's stags have been shagging doe from his day Unto our own- wide and wonderful fields of green and trees that look like central Pennsylvania from the dreamy windows of the turnpike - this park has been my refuge and my saving grace. Honestly never had so much fun riding in a circle for three hours at a time in my life. Perspective is a blessing. This verdant hamster wheel in posh West London or the roundabout charnel house of the city proper.
I shall miss you windblown hillock of ancient kings. Unmown retreat of English urbanites. For in truth all the English love the country. Even born and bred Londoners - there's something about the education or the land itself or the language they're taught that pushes them towards green fields and dark green water. The most urban people from the first "urban" world - for where did today's cities spring if not from London and Manchester, Liverpool and Birmingham - even they, when you dig at their subconscious desires, long for a good wander in a grove of trees.
Way down deep I think they're all still backing up from the Channel, wary of it, ready to retreat toward the woods like they did when the Romans came or the Saxons or the Vikings or the Normans. Where they woulda beat Hitler had he dared to land.
Little body with a mighty heart.
That heart I think, love London as I do, lays out there somewhere in the West.
Someday I'll have the sense when I'm out in that country to know when to get off the bike and walk out into a field that tells me to.