Monday, December 8, 2014

The first five minutes

Whether my ride to work (or wherever) is good or bad often hangs on the first five minutes. I get my bike on the road, I swing out onto the main street by my place, and the enjoyment level of my ride gets determined within a few blocks. If I get rattled, I might not get my good mood back. If I have a smooth first few blocks, I'm zooming along humming "The Bike Song."

Unfortunately, the main street by my place is Heron Road, which looks kind of like this: 

Four lanes, bus bays, and oh, right, one end of this road takes you right to the highway exit, so some of these drivers are fresh off a 120-kph drive from Montreal (and also there are transport trucks). There aren't any bike lanes or even sharrows. And the pavement's not great. 

But that's not always a problem. Sometimes, Heron Road is just fine, and in fact, the "zoom" factor of being on a big road can sometimes start my ride off right, when I'm feeling bold and taking up my space.

And there can also be that one encounter that sets the course of your ride. Take this morning. I worked at home a bit, so as to let rush hour clear, then got on the bike to head to my office downtown. It was down below -10, with a windchill bringing it to -22, sunny, dry, clear. I was actually really looking forward to the ride.

But I was also having a strangely anxious morning, so I didn't know: would the ride help to relax me, or would a couple of close passes or a car rolling through a stop toward me reduce me to a ball of jangling nerves? 

About a block in, I was feeling okay. But I heard the unmistakeable roar of a big truck behind me. Maybe a dump truck, maybe a transport. I was at a stoplight, so I twisted right around to look (and to show the driver my face). 

Transport. And in the outside lane - my lane. I tried to give it the old "I am here" eyebeams, then turned and started pedaling when the light turned green. The sound of a truck working its way up through the lower gears behind you is really unnerving, but I try to remind myself they're not doing it to be aggressive, they're not revving, they're just gearing up freaking enormous diesel engines.

And then I looked back and saw that the truck was hanging back - way back - and waiting for a line of cars to pass on the inside lane before changing lanes entirely to pass me. I grinned and waved as it went by, hoping the driver saw me. I thought I heard a little "toot" in answer, but then again, I don't think truck horns do "little," so it might have been something else. Whatever: at any rate, I felt a moment of friendly connection with that driver, whoever he or she was, just because they'd pulled over and given me a ton of space.

One courteous transport truck driver, and the rest of my ride was fun, confident. The cold air was invigorating, merging through traffic was easy, and I got to the office in a much better mood than the one I left the house with. Even with the taxi who crowded me for space on Bank and the pickup that crowded me at a red light by the highway underpass. None of that fazed me much, because of one friendly transport truck driver in the first five minutes. 

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