Autumn on the Bike Path*

[This post was originally published on my other blog, Limping in the Light, ten years ago. It’s every bit as relevant today as it was then. Timeless writing is the best writing.]

Fall is a two-edged sword.  Yes, there is the the spectacular foliage.  Yes, the dreaded three H’s – hazy, hot, and humid – succumb to the three C’s – clear, cool, and crisp. But it also means the end of vacations, beach days, and a carefree attitude that summer always seems to beget.  If spring is the season of new life, then autumn, like George Harrison, reminds us that all things must pass.

The local bike path captures all the highs and lows of the autumnal equinox.  For example, there is no better place to appreciate the colorful pageantry of deciduous trees. They’re right there, at hand.  No need to fight the tolls or endless line of leaf-seeking SUV’s crawling up route 3.

On the other hand, the very same leaves that are a joy to behold can be a nightmare to navigate.  With the path’s edges obscured by decaying flora, if I’m not attentive to the track of my tires, there’s a fair chance that I could end up in a ditch.  Stopping and turning on wet leaves is a hazard every bit as well known to four-wheeled vehicles as it is to the two-wheeled variety.  The leaves also cover the mile markers painted on the path.

The air is indeed less humid and more crisp; the memory of the humidity that is the bane of some folks is as hazy as a sultry summer sky.  But that also translates to cold on my unprotected ears and nose… and fingers and toes.  A moving bike brings its own “wind chill factor” along for the ride.  I confess that I don’t like the cold.

Whereas in summer the path was carpeted with sunlight, the lower angle of the sun casts visually arresting zebra stripes of light across the path.  Luminous to be sure, but dangerous in that it camouflages obstacles in the path.  Speaking of which…

There are plenty of obstacles in the fall, some inducing falls.  For some reason, with the leaves come small branches whose radius seems to be magnified when I feel the thump on my posterior.

The most interesting bit of natural detritus is the lowly acorn.  Out of tiny acorns come mighty oaks, yes, but hit at the right tire angle, a tiny acorn becomes a mighty projectile.  They don’t endanger the rider, but woe to the one who stands nearby as one of these bullets shoots sideways from my bike.  I’m sure I’ve taken out one or two squirrels or other wildlife in my travels.

Those selfsame animals can prove another nuisance.  While they’re out gathering their winter store, I’m riding along simply trying to stay erect in this virtual minefield.  Watching out for them is more than I can deal with while self-preservation is foremost in my mind.

Reflecting on it all, there are a lot of similarities between spring and fall: increased animal activity, more debris to deal with, cooler temperatures.  But where spring means a new biking season is imminent, autumn augurs its end.  Soon, the path will be better suited for cross-country skiing, an activity for which I am ill-suited.

See you in the spring!**

*I was going to call this post “Fall on the bike path” but that would invite a catastrophe that I’m not interested in tempting… or repeating.

** Truth be told, my cycling season has no limits. I’ll see you on the bike path(s) all winter, too.

Look closely

Whenever the subject of book tours is brought up in the company of writers, they all talk about how much they dread them. The travel, the repetitive questions, the crowds or the absence of them. I can’t imagine why they don’t enjoy the experience. If I had a book tour, believe me, I’d make the most of it. Easy to say since the prospect is slim for me. I can always dream.

If it’s any consolation to those jaded scribes, I enjoy hearing author presentations of any kind. The standard format is to have the authors read excerpts from their work then endure a line of dozens, perhaps hundreds, of autograph hounds. Serious RSI potential.

One of my favorite writers, Mark Helprin, did the signing thing but declined to read from his book, claiming that there were only a few great actors in the world and there was no way he could do his prose justice with his weak performance skills. There’s a lot of truth in what he said. What’s the point in hearing him read his own stuff anyway? Usually, I’ve already read it. If I’m there, I’m probably a fan so he doesn’t have to sell me on the book.

Instead of reading, Helprin described fascinating, often bizarre experiences he’d had. Not surprising, since his books are filled with such occurrences. He concluded his talk by urging his readers to follow his example by keeping our eyes open to the amazing things that happen around us all the time. (That’s heavily paraphrased. My addled memory can’t recall his exact words and my comparatively pathetic prose can’t come anywhere near his lofty standard.)

In the spirit of his admonition, and my unwillingness to devote too much time to this post in the face of deadlines and exhaustion, I present some photos of things I’ve observed in recent months. Since each is worth 1,000 words, this could be my longest post of all.

Enjoy, but then go out and have your own experiences.

I saw these two buses drive off a ferry recently. Which one would you prefer to ride, “Elite” or “Lamers”?

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This is what’s called a “no-brainer”. Who’s the marketing wizard who came up with “Lamers” for a name? It’s almost certainly a person’s name – a person who put his (or her) ego before the company’s best interests.

This guy was giving away ice cream in downtown Boston. I love this town!

This guy was giving away ice cream in downtown Boston. I love this town!

A visitor on the bike path. Is it any wonder I spend as much time on it as possible?

A visitor on the bike path. Is it any wonder I spend as much time there as possible?

What's cooler than the front porch of a general store?

What’s cooler than hanging out on the front porch of a general store? Especially Alley’s. (Martha’s Vineyard)

There’s something inspiring about these two trees seeming to grow out of nothing but rock. (Acadia National Park)