The Red Phoenix was chained to a tree. There was no bike rack near the main entrance of the building I visited. The securitrons said they'd keep an eye on it. "I'm not worried about theft. I worry that you may have the bike removed for parking violation." 420 pm. I left the battery of the superlight because I think I can travel 12 miles home before dark. I have a good hour to get home.
It was shorter to take the sidewalk rather than the loopy drive and parking lot. Two women are exactly at the wrong spot when I need to exit the walk on to the drive. I slow down. They probably have not seen a bicycle since childhood. After that a weave through the maze of parking to the street exit.
I need to cross. Since this is an avenue, the medium is lined with trees that create blind spots for cars on the other side. My Trek is not a bright yellow Hummer of a semi-truck so I assume that I am invisible. I can barely see the cars on the other side so I slowly creep into the center before hammering to the safety of the side path across the road.
The side path leads me to the bridge that crosses the freeway. A canopy effect is created by fencing both sides and above. I wonder if it is to prevent suicides or assholes from dropping pumpkins on traffic below. This thought is fleeting as I must make a decision. Traffic is thick just off my left shoulder. Judging by the volume, a bicyclist rare in these parts so I stay on the trail that soon ends.
Red light. I stop and push the button and look at the vehicle on my left to establish eye contact as I straddle the bike to the edge of the street. I am going forward when the light goes green but those on my left are turning right. Need to let the first one know my intention and pray that I don't get smashed. This is repeated about 4 more times.
I stay on the sidewalk after crossing. traffic is getting thick. People are on their way home after work and do not need to veer around me. I feel out of place, unaccustomed to the native cagers of these parts. Humor them. Stay out of the way. But then there are those trying to get on the street, sticking the nose of their vehicles into my line. Some back up. Others floor it and enter the traffic. Soon I reach a main artery.
I push the button and look around. Cars to my right are not moving but that does not stop the ancient Pontiac Transport and nondescript Mazda from entering the intersection in hopes that the congestion will end soon. they are probably used to this. What I consider an inconsiderate selfish asshole move is SOP here. Fortunately, traffic moves before my light turns green. No gridlock. I inch out a bit and look at the car on my left to let it know I am going straight.
A bit of ice on the beginning of the sidewalk so I stay to the left and go over a grass hump and around the light before returning to the sidewalk. Crashing because of ice would be a major no no today. A quick glance behind reveals that most of my tormentors have turned. Thinning traffic allows me to ditch the walk and ride on the street proper. I stay to the right as much as possible without riding on the filthy sand and debris that seems to accumulate during winter. Keep an eye out for broken bottles. Curve to the left and stop at the light.
Sometime ago in West Des Moines the Powers That Be decided to have all red lights set at maximum length. I wait for an eternity before seeing green. Boredom has me look around. How many people own a black Lexis and why are they all here? Finally their light goes yellow and I look at my competition. Just a Prius and another generic car. I stay on the road until the next intersection.
Another light. This time people are driving new Fords. I need to cross this street but the lanes are for right or left turns only. Press the button for the walk signal and once again communicate my intentions with the cagers around me. Yeah, you may knock me down but your pretty shiny box will suffer some scars. Green at last! Push off and pedal to the sidewalk across the street.
Downhill. Traffic on my right. Look for those turning left. Look for those blocking the walk. At the strip mall I turn left and cut through the parking lot. KEEP EYES OPEN! Swivel my head. Nobody is expecting me. More shiny black cars exiting the car wash. Aim for the back parking lot.
The steak house has been closed for years. No business seems to last in this spot. But ignore that and look for an opening in the grass at the end of the lot. I see a muddy and icy patch in one clearing but the next one is good. Use caution, check for hidden traps. Check for other trail users. Free at last!
A wave of relief hits me as my tires make contact with the trail. No time for celebration. there are icy stretches on this trail. A walker is coming toward me. He looks upset about something but we pass without incident. Not my trail but a trail nonetheless. The sound of traffic is still very loud but fading like distant artillery as I continue homeward.
ALL STOP!!! Here it is. The 20' stretch of ice. Thick and smooth. I dismount and walk around it. This hazard was created by the adjoining property. That business pushes all their snow to the edge of their lot and it melts and covers the trail and refreezes. It appears to be 4" thick in spots. This will remain until Spring. Luckily I saw it. Lucky still, it is the last trap. A mile later I emerge on "my trail."
Traffic noise diminishing with every pedal stroke. I begin to relax. Think about dinner. think about vacation. Think about fixing my brakes. Only a few brave souls out today in this 32F weather.
The chirp of my phone takes me away from my thoughts. Text or email, same noise. text from Craig. "Hope your ride was good."
My reply, "5 mo miles left. All trail to Mullets."
Yes, it is good.