Biking home from work in the hundred-degree heat yesterday afternoon, I couldn’t help noticing that the bike path was nearly deserted. There’s a trail that runs behind the office building where I work, and it t-bones the Capital City bike trail, which runs parallel to Willy Street and Atwood Avenue. It’s usually chockablock with bicycle riders in the hour immediately after quitting time, but yesterday I saw maybe a dozen cyclists as I tried to pedal home without breathing. That’s really hard to do, by the way. Not as hard as trying to breathe air hot enough to scald my throat, but almost.

I was puzzled at first by the lack of traffic. I checked the time when I stopped for the light at Willy Street, thinking it was just possible I’d left work too early. I got a pit in my stomach thinking I might have to turn around and go back to the office, but no, it was after four-thirty. I’d left at the same time I always do.

Riding up Atwood Avenue I saw one, maybe two bikers. That was when it got really weird. Bikers in Madison ride when the temps are below freezing. Surely, I thought, the hot weather wasn’t making them return to their cars? But, after riding as far as the Goodman Community Center and seeing maybe two or three more bicyclists, I had to stop calling myself Shirley and face the fact that Madison’s cyclists had met a heat wave that turned them into weather wusses. I was just about the only person out there yesterday.

I made it home in three breaths, by the way.


The three-day forecast on the National Weather Service’s web page had blazing orange suns for Thursday and Friday, so when I packed my saddle bags for the bike ride to work yesterday, I stuffed them with a pair of rolled-up shorts, a baggy shirt and a pair of flip-flops to change into for the ride home.

Then I stepped out the back door into the garage, which was already hot and stuffy as a microwave oven that’s just been used to heat up a dinner of broccoli and peas. Phwuah! Pushing the bike out into the driveway where there should have been cool morning air, I took a breath and was brought up short again. Double phwuah!

Leaving the bike in the driveway, I snatched the saddlebags off the back and took them with me into the house, where I stripped down to my skivvies and changed into the shorts and baggy shirt, then carefully rolled up my office clothes and stuffed them into the bags. Even in my shorts, I had a healthy glow by the time I got to work.


Not only did my bike disappear from the lobby of the building where I was in a class all day long, the cycling craziness started almost the minute I got on my bike this morning. Well, about ten minutes after, really. I decided to head into town on a route that I hadn’t taken since the beginning of summer, along a road through the neighborhood on the south shore of Lake Monona. A short bike path connects the road to my neighborhood, and as soon as I came to the end of the bike path I could see traffic cones and saw horses with the little orange blinky lights on top and thought, well, this is going to be an interesting commute. Little did I know.

A little further along, the road was blocked by a pair of barricades and the sign, “Road Closed to Through Traffic.” And I said to no one in particular, Screw that, I’m riding a bike, and rode between the barricades and on up the hill. Had to dodge a few holes dug in the blacktop by heavy machinery, no trouble on my trusty Trek off-road mountain bike with knobby tires.

And then I got to the top of the hill, where I could see that the road wasn’t just closed, it was gone! The blacktop had been completely dug out, leaving nothing but a bed of gravel in its place. Okay, I get it now. The road’s closed. I’ll go around.

I had to go a long way out of my way to a frontage road along the beltway, ride along that as far as I could, then double back into the neighborhood to get down to the end of the gravel road, because at the end the road joined up with the bike path I would have to get on to ride into town. There was no way to get on it from the frontage road so, gravel or not, I would have to get through the construction somehow. But where I joined up again it would only be a short ride and, even on gravel, not too bad. Or it wouldn’t have been, had there been a gravel road.

There wasn’t. The end of the road was the part where the construction crew was tearing it out right down to the roots that day. There was no blacktop, there was no gravel, there was just ungraded dirt. And at the very end of the road, right at the point where the road joined the bike path, an excavator was digging a hole to China. On this day. This very day. The one day I decided to take this road.

I ended up walking my bike across some guy’s lawn to get to the bike path. Rode into town thinking that, around the next corner, there’d be one of those man-eating worms from Tremors shooting up out of the ground or something, but I managed to get all the way to town, park my bike and lock it up before the other shoe dropped.


I’ve never had a bike stolen from me before, so my heart skipped a few beats when I stepped out of the training room at the Department of Administration for our class’s morning break and the first thing I noticed was that my bike was no longer parked in the corner of the lobby where I’d left it. There was no note and I’d taken the precaution of locking a cable through the front wheel and the frame, although there was nothing in the lobby to lock it to, so anybody could have picked it up and walked off with it.

I wandered through a couple of different offices until I found someone who helped me by trying to contact the office in charge of building maintenance to see if it had been just removed instead of stolen. She couldn’t get hold of anyone and I had to get back to class, but she said she would keep trying to call and I said I would check back with her at lunch time.

When I got back to the lobby I found a note taped to the wall right next to the door of the classroom, letting me know that my bike was in the bike rack in the parking garage, and giving me directions on how to find it. That was a huge relief. I’ve had that bike for more than ten years and I’ve ridden it in Colorado, Lincolnshire County in the United Kingdom, and through the countryside around Misawa, Japan before bringing it here, but I didn’t realize how much I’d miss it until this afternoon when I’d thought for at least ten or fifteen minutes that it might be stolen.


I am never again going to feel guilty about driving to work when the forecast calls for rain.

I don’t ride my bike to work a lot. Okay, hardly ever. Almost never, really. So close to never as to make no difference. I mean to, and every spring as soon as the weather breaks I hop on my bike and ride to work at least two or three times a week for maybe, oh, two weeks, just until the novelty wears off. But after being cooped up all winter, those two weeks are sheer bliss.

And then I become monumentally lazy. Literally. When the monument to lazy is built, and it’ll be built when we’re damn good and ready, so don’t rush us, my lazy butt will feature prominently, you can be assured of that. I start out biking to work with the best of intentions: Oh, this’ll be so good for me and It’s really much better for everyone if I don’t clog up the streets and burn all that gas driving to work but really, driving is so much easier that I can’t help but feel a lot better about driving to work, until I realize I’m sitting on my butt from the time I get out of bed in the morning until the time I go to bed at night, not getting any exercise at all.

And just about the time I realize that, the sky bursts into flame. It happens about mid-July. You know those film clips showing giant clouds of exploding gas arching above the surface of the sun? Sometimes it feels like those huge burning gas clouds reach us here on the ground in the summer. When that happens, the only place to be is inside with the air conditioning going full blast. That usually lasts until the end of August. Nobody goes outside until then except mad dogs and joggers.

So by the last week in August or first week in September I’m feeling pretty cooped up again and that’s about the time I get on my bike and start riding to work for about another week. Unless the forecast calls for rain. When there’s about a forty percent chance of rain or better, I usually chicken out and drive to work. I’m a weenie when it comes to rain.

But not, for some reason, this morning. When I checked the National Weather Service’s web site as I was drinking my morning cuppa, they were calling for a sixty percent chance of rain and I thought, Well, sixty percent’s not really all that bad. I can’t figure out now why I thought that. Maybe I was temporarily insane. Whatever the reason, I packed up my bags, climbed on my bike and rode to work with no problem. I was perfectly dry when I got there. And it didn’t rain all day while I was at work. No. It waited until four thirty on the dot to start raining, and it rained on me all the way home.

Truthfully, it wasn’t all that bad, a very light, if steady, rain. I hardly got wet. But I am, as I said, a weenie about rain and will probably chicken out when there’s any chance at all from now on. Any sympathy for me on this one? Any at all? No? Oh, well.

Bike To Work

Gail rides her bike to work every day, even yesterday, a day that began at thirty-four degrees with sleet pelting down. I like to bike to work, but that’s the problem: I want to keep on liking it, and when the temperature’s less than forty degrees, or when freezing rain threatens to turn me into a glazed confection, and especially when both of those springtime disasters are happening at the same time, I give it a miss. Sort of a rule with me.

But not Gail. She loves to ride her bike to work even when the weather is freezing, the streets are ice-covered and slippery, and wimps like me are driving to work in the comfort of our well-heated Toyotas. “I just keep a change of clothes in my office,” she says, and while I give her points for foresight and perseverance, the part about bicycling through freezing rain frankly cancels out all the positives as far as I can tell.

She can even get excited about riding in the rain, something else I don’t like to do at all. She wandered into the break room while I was boiling water to make tea and gazing at the rain pouring down on the street scene outside. “Oh good, it’s raining!” she chirped. “That’ll melt all the snow and ice. I was a little worried it might be slippery on the way home.” But not worried, I guess, about being soaked through and contracting hypothermia.

I wish I had Gail’s attitude, or just her bullet-proof imperviousness to adverse conditions, but I don’t. I’ll start biking to work again when this apocalyptic weather lets up.


I ate my first bug today. That makes it officially summer, doesn’t it?

In point of fact I sucked it up my nose while I was riding my bike home from work and went right through a cloud of gnats. It was probably more than one. Couldn’t get it out with an air hankie so I had to pull off to the side, get my real hankie out of my pocket and blow, then dig a little bit, then blow some more, then wipe. Sniff in and out to test it. Blow some more, wipe again. Sniff. Sniff again. Seemed like I got it after a few tries. Made it all the way back home without snorfling up any more.


Slowly, tentatively, I’m adjusting to the warm(er) weather. Monday night, I peeled off the topmost quilt layer on my side of the bed. On the other half of the bed, My Darling B was sleeping with, I think, just a sheet, and laughing at me. She’s always been the warm one, and I’ve always been the one who has to bundle up.

Even though I rolled back the topmost quilt, that still left me with a quilt over a blanket, more than enough, I thought, to keep me warm all night. It was more than enough, all right. I woke up after about an hour because I was too hot and had to peel off another layer. Also because I had gas, but I don’t think that had anything to do with the quilt.

It was just a little cooler last night so I had to keep the blanket and the quilt on all night, and the morning commute is going to be a bit of a test to see just how badly I want to keep biking to work. At least I don’t have the chills all day in the office.

The ride to work is a lot easier thanks to the NEW! NEW! NEW! pavement that was laid along the first mile or so of Monona Drive. When they widened it, they were even good enough to mark off three feet from the curb for a bike lane so the SUVs, pickups and delivery trucks aren’t grazing me as they go past. Shooting the bottleneck between Buckeye Road and Cottage Grove Road still gets my heart going, but it’s a short distance, maybe two hundred yards long, and at seven in the morning the traffic isn’t all that thick yet. If it is, I ride on the sidewalk all the way to the bike trail. Might as well; there are no pedestrians.