A Saturday 200K brevet — Part 2

Part 2
Part 1 is here


A key to cue sheet notation:

R or L — Turn right, turn left
TR or TL — T-right, T-left (road ends at a perpendicular street; turn there)
BR or BL — Bear right, bear left
SO — Straight on

TRO — To remain on
SP — Signpost
SS — Stop sign


 

THERE’S WEAK, AND then there’s just not having legs.
I knew that they were down there, but the dregs
had swirled around and vanished down the drain.
So nothing bad, no weakness and no pain—
just couldn’t push them harder. It was weird.

I wasn’t going to quit, but it appeared
I’d go like snail while time leaked away,
and then the doubt would end: I’d have my day
at home, maybe run errands with the boys,
waste time on Facebook, work, play Wii, fix toys,
then bathtime, dinnertime, chesstime, and bed.
That sounded good. Let’s go do that instead.

I had the drivetrain more or less controlled;
if shifted gingerly, the chain would hold,
though just as when you shift while going uphill,
I had to break the groove: one must instill
into the cadence an
                      expectancy,
that one may then exploit, attentively,

so as to sneak a link, while nothing’s looking,
onto the next ring up, the next pin hooking
the next oncoming tooth, and then the next,
until enough is sturdily indexed
to keep its grip when you stand up and hammer;
neither shall it slip, nor strip, nor stammer,
but dig into itself, absorb the force
you drive down into it, transform the course
of energy, bend it behind the wheel,
and go. The one criterion that’s real
is does it go? The rest can be worked out.

Leg two’s just seven cues. I know this route.
OUT OF CONTROLE; R ON 9W.
BR where it becomes RT 202.
Then R ON WEST SHORE DRIVE; BR AT STOP,
At WELCOME TO BEAR MOUNTAIN SP, hop
across the highway, downshift, and begin
to stand and dance, or grind, or sit and spin,
up through the park, SO THRU ROTARY,
be careful then to FOLLOW the SP
where it shows you to RT 6W,
R ONTO & UP PERKINS DRIVE, going through
a gate that’s closed to cars part of the year.
NYC riders are known to revere
this Perkins as some do the Alpe-d’Huez,
which none of them can say, since it’s Francaise.

But anyway, before Bear Mountain, you’ll
burn off most of the last half-hour’s fuel:
the highway, as though feeling insecure
that you won’t think it something to endure,
slants skyward, and once you’ve surmounted that
to where it turns and you thought it was flat,
it laughs and hoists again, and up you go.

Something about this stretch that you should know
is all those guys who clog 9W
in summer in their matching pink and blue
aren’t up here. They stop merely 22
miles above great gray GW,
at nice cafés in Piermont or Nyack
and clack around in bike shoes, then ride back,
and drop the distance into conversation,
with pauses you may fill with admiration.

My legs are waaaay down there, speaking of distance.
They feel like pushing string when I need pistons,
which I have not got. I can name the parts
of my drivetrain—but of all mystic arts,
drivetrain repair is second only to
the praxis and grimoire of Cthulhu—

and, like those spells, cannot be overcome
by force of will or pricking of a thumb:
A chain that won’t remain in its driveline
is, if you’re not a dolt, the clearest sign
an apathetic universe can send
that what you thought was START is really END,

which lets me cheat my failure and go home.
I’ll get a blog post from it–or a poem,
which, though it’s not what I set out to do,
well, it is now! I’ll try to write what’s true
of each setback, make each impression clear.

Unfortunately, that could take all year:
Almost as bad as drivetrain work is rhyme,
which hasn’t been in fashion for some time,
and since it pays zip, writing time is scant;
I have a family, and therefore I can’t
give it the time it takes to get it right
(and I can only work on it at night).

So someone else’s bike poem will be faster,
with more expensive parts, like “alabaster,”
which I have always wanted in my verse,
but it cracks under load. And “limn” is worse,
being molded from an etymology
I can’t afford. Even if it were free,
I’d be afraid of trusting it at night
on mountain downhills. I have this dumb fright
of catastrophic failure of the verbs.
They might hit unseen potholes; this disturbs
my sense of my superiority.
To not attain perfection? This can’t be.

However, I can’t spend an hour or two
on polish. I have other things to do,
like help my family through this damn recession.
A verb that doesn’t pay is a possession
of value to no one but Author, and which
does nothing for a boy who wants a sandwich.

So goodbye lyricism, hello story:
beginning, middle, end, not verbal glory.
A paint job with no frame’s nothing but pride.
A frame without a paint job’s still a ride.

A downpour! Doesn’t bother me at all.
I like to ride in rain. My speed’s a crawl,
but that would still be true if it were clear.
I haven’t climbed this pass since late last year,
when I learned to accept its lying ways,
and be content to summit each new phase
of altitude before the whole thing drops
back down to river level and then stops
the nonsense, but by then you’re in the park.
So climb it—with an exclamation mark.

These seven cues—nine miles—take an hour.
INFO CONTROLE AT SUMMIT (ON THE TOWER),
the cue sheet says. That means a little quiz
that I will have to answer. It’s WHAT IS
THE FIFTEENTH WORD ON PLAQUE ABOVE THE DOOR?
I write it on my card, and spend two more
long minutes not quite really getting going.
But heading back downhill, my road speed growing,
(except I brake to take a single pic)

then standing so the wind will dry and wick
(the rain cleared up when I was at the top,
which I don’t take as meaning it will stop)
I know regardless of the whims of fates,
Bear Mountain in a downpour?

Yeah, that rates.

I’m certainly the lanterne rouge, but I’ve
done fine. TR SS SEVEN LAKES DRIVE
takes me to Tiorati Circle and
UP ARDEN VALLEY ROAD, a gorgeous strand
of grades much tougher than Bear Mountain’s worst.
I’m not afraid of it—I have now nursed
my creaky drivetrain up a real climb.
I’m not scared of the chain; I’m scared of time.

1 Comment

Filed under Bicycling, BikeNYC, Bikes, Poetry, Randonneuring, Senseless Acts

One response to “A Saturday 200K brevet — Part 2

  1. And no, that wasn’t really the info controle question. Like I’m going to give that away…

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