I took my glasses off while I was waiting for Barry. At ten after seven am it is still dark and still cold enough that I have my next gator pulled over my mouth and nose. Portions of each breath escape out the gaps in the top and fog my glasses. The fix is easy. I just need to pull the gator down a bit, but my face is cold so I decide to take the glasses off instead. Taking special care to make sure my gloved hand drops them into my vest pocket, not to the ground. Barry’s cantis squeal him to a stop and after the standard pleasantries we start riding North to Edmonds.
I’ve worn corrective lenses since I was sixteen. I wanted them much earlier than that, around age eight I think. For reasons that had more to do with being like my best friend Jim Wacker, than needing my eyes fixed. Genetics however dictated that my eyes not change the location of focused light until after the onset of puberty. When I didn’t want them. Then Laura Casserta said I “looked cute” with them on. Specs have been a near constant companion to my since that day eighteen years ago.
With the exception of the last few years that is.
Barry couldn’t remark on the lack of frames across my nose because after eight months of weekly group rides this is how he knows me. At various points over the last few years of riding I’ve averaged near fifteen hours of riding a week, at some points that average has been as low as ten. All of them without wearing corrective lenses.
I first started riding without them during Cleveland’s humid, sunny summers when it was too hot to wear cap to shield my eyes. There I would ride the streets with client’s packages, a pair of sunnies parked on my face. Once in the building I would swap tinted lenses for corrective ones so I could read the suite numbers and deliver court briefs, bills, water plans, and posters to the right mailroom or front desk. I always reconned that truncated vision while keeping the sun out was better than near total blindness without the shades. That notion carried over when I returned to cycling after five years away.
On my ride with Barry I show him a new way up to Edmonds. Without being able to read street signs I had to learn this route by landmarks, mistakes and GPS. Make a left at the Freddies then a right at the small roundabout with the huge reflective dots at the curb, take the third right after you’ve passed the cemetery, left when that road comes to “T”, second right (180 degree off camber turn), make a left at the bottom of that descent. Stick to this road until you hit the intersection at the school. You get the idea. This is how I remember most of my routes, the names of streets coming after the route has been burned into my being.
My reading vision, depending on the font size, is less than ten feet without my glasses. That makes seeing flat inducing debris down the road a bit tricky and when I first started riding this way I often ran over objects, slammed into potholes, becoming quite adept at changing punctured inner tubes.
Slight variances in road quality could be seen in the fuzzy patch of world ten feet and beyond my front wheel, but sometimes mistakes were made. Once, while riding down Portland’s “Dirty-30” with a co-worker on my wheel I saw two objects lying parallel in the road. I pointed them out and Bennett laughed as we nearly avoided two painted lines in the bike lane.
And that sums up the problem.
The line separating my real life and my pedaling life are as blurred as far off text and I draw a near straight line between my ocular myopia and my near-sightedness in defining the direction of my life. At thirty-four I feel I have little more direction than I did at twenty-four. I have goals and I write them down, as we’re told to do, and see them down the road, fuzzy in the distance. What I nearly always fail to see are pieces of road debris, both miniscule and large, that may derail those goals. I fail to see clearly the way ahead of me. There are no perscription lenses for life goals, the heavy hand with which I apply my flawed form of self assessment prevents me from escaping the small strip of life just in front of me, otherwise known as the present. Hence I am often surprised by what would have been clear to those more practiced at getting where they want in life.
Barry and I were out riding on the first day of Rapha’s Festive 500. In years past I’ve skipped over this grab at winter base kilometers. The last year of riding, and the 2014 goal I set for myself of completing the Super Randonneur series in my first year Randonneuring demanded that I be able to cover that distance and more, so I staked my claim. What I failed to account for was how I would actually accomplish this goal, while still finding time to write when I work best, make it to my job on time and meet family holiday obligations.
Since moving to Seattle I have been lucky enough to surround myself with riding partners who are creative, driven successful people. I enjoy their company and our weekly Thursday ride was what kept me excited about staying in Seattle. I feel respected, both as a person, and a creative type. We have projects in the works that will stretch my writing and my riding that I am excited for.
Being a fixture on this scene is the reason I’ve had some of the creative opportunities I’ve had in the past year. I also have the secret hope that, not their success, but their work ethic and ability to get to where they want in life will rub off on me. That assumes one of my founding principle of my life is true: You become who you hang out with. In other words, you will raise or lower yourself to the level of those around you.
I failed to reach the 500 kilometer goal. But that first ride was the only one I did without my glasses. During that week between Christmas and New Years the Seattle area was blessed with good weather: dry, if a bit cold, and a winter sun low enough in the sky that only a hat was needed to provide light without getting in the eyes.
On the last day I left at a little after seven am for a solo ride to Alki point and back to work. I stomped on it out the gate, knowing that getting nearly forty miles in before starting work at 9:45 would be hard. I felt fast for the first time in months. The lethargy that cross had worked into my muscles was finally starting to break free. I am not given to flights of optimism, but as I sped along the sound I felt hopeful for all that lie ahead. I began to believe that I could start to see a bit further down life’s road. That maybe this year I will start find a job that will allow me maybe think seriously about starting a family. Maybe I’ve started to acquire the writing chops to get more freelance work that actually supplements my income.
I’m riding with my head up. Street signs and landmarks are clearly visible. This is a start, but there is more work to do. Some past sins to atone for. Things that need to be cleaned in order to move forward.
Seattle’s famous mist descends around Green Lake on my return trip. The mist slowly covers my glasses. I’m near running late, pedaling over twenty miles an hour. The glass is near useless, but I can see the holes in the road and skate past them without puncturing. Hopefully I can keep that up.