I've been slack this summer. After Memorial Day, things got busy, and then it got hot - boy howdy, did it get hot. A record number of days over 90 degrees this summer, and a few in the triple digits. With the humidity from the river, a heat index well over 100 wasn't uncommon.
I rode one Tuesday in June; the morning was balmy, but at 5:30 p.m. on the way over to Gilda's Club, the heat index was 108. Even my veteran cyclist friend Ben thought I'd lost my mind. Brother Bob allowed later as how I was apparently either suicidal or just plain stoopid.
So I've gained five pounds I didn't need, and my asthma is back - the symptoms had completely gone away when I was riding regularly, but I'm wheezing again now that allergy season has hit. I've been hitting the Zyrtec pretty hard just to keep breathing.
Yesterday, after going downstairs to get lunch, I decided to take the stairs back up - five floors. I had to stop on 3 for a minute, but I made it. I'm going to do it at least once a day this winter; by Christmas, I should be able to keep going and pick up some speed.
And this morning dawned chilly and clear, but turned into the most perfect day for riding. 60 degrees out at noon, with little wind and only a few high, wispy clouds - the kind that look like bits of Halloween spider-web fluff. So around 2 p.m., I took a break from cleaning the front closet and hitched up the panniers for a run to the grocery.
Unfortunately, my new gel seat has a loose nut and keeps sliding backward and forward. So instead of being set where I like it, with the gel part holding my weight, I rode uncomfortably with the metal seat frame under my bones... Gotta get that fixed.
And it makes a rhythmic thumping noise that makes me think one of the tires isn't quite right - the kind you'd expect to hear on a road with regularly spaced bumps, except it goes all the time. Need to look into that, too.
Nevertheless, it was a good ride. I went through the neighborhood out to Hounz Lane, then took Tiverton around to Aylesbury and Goose Creek. Had to cross Westport Road at the traffic light, which is no big deal - otherwise, it was smooth sailing on residential streets.
As I rode through the Kroger parking lot, I noticed another bike chained to a light post with a bubblegum pink cable lock. It made me smile.
Inside, I wound through Produce picking up ingredients for beef stew - celery, organic carrots. I knew I had plenty of onions. On the way to the potatoes, I spotted the kalanchoe display at the same time as another woman. She was tall, beautiful in a fresh-scrubbed, old-hippie way, maybe about my age. She was black, and she wore soft layers - a wide, long skirt, a big, loose sweater, a couple of bright scarves. And she was enchanted by the kalanchoe.
"What is it?" she asked. "I've never seen it before. Is it from some foreign country? Maybe China?"
I told her the name of the plant and what little I know about it: that it's easy-care, low maintenance, it's a succulent, and even when it's not blooming, the leaves are lovely. I didn't know where it was from. Central America, maybe. I need to research that.
She couldn't get over the colors. The display was a bank of reds, oranges, golds, yellows - all shades, many of the pots with two or even three small plants in mixed colors. It really was beautiful - it made me smile, too.
As we walked off in opposite directions, she called over her shoulder, conspiratorially, "We love that kind of thing, don't we?" Recognition of a kindred spirit.
"Yes, we do!" I called back.
I got the potatoes, the beef, and I found a new grater. (My old one has flown the coop.) I like grating by hand, using a four-sided stand-up grater, the kind my grandmother had. This one is like Grandmother's, only better; it's from OXO, so it has a comfortable rubber grip handle and a neat little box, about the size of a pack of cards, that fits on the bottom and has a tight lid. You can grate right into the box and then snap the lid on to store what you just grated; even better, when you're not using the set, the box fits top-down inside the bottom of the grater. I found a book of cryptograms - hard to locate these days - in the magazine section.
Then I checked out and went out to load the groceries into my panniers.
As I rolled back across the parking lot, I saw the owner of the bike with the pink lock coasting down the hill in my direction. It was the Kalanchoe Lady.
"Well, hi, there!" I called, and waved.
She responded, "Hello, precious one!"
I was passing through the intersection now, turning right to go back to Goose Creek; she was just coming up to the stop sign. "Enjoy your ride home!" I called back to her. And as I pedaled off, "Be safe!"
The world is full of little miracles - wispy Halloween-spiderweb clouds, bright kalanchoes, and kindred spirits in the most mundane places. And it's good to be back on the bike.