I have been dealing with a huge ball of stress that's been sitting in my belly for over two weeks now.
(It's my own damned fault, and it will take me awhile to climb out of the very deep hole I've dug for myself.)
Meanwhile, there's the bike. And I finally had time and energy to ride again this week.
I haven't ridden as much or as far over the past several months, because this summer I've been away more than I've been home with all the music and teaching stuff. I came home this past weekend from what I think will be my last outta-town gig for several months at least, and today I finally went for a bike ride. Nothing spectacular or ambitious, mind you; just a neighborhood spin that took me to a consignment shop (to sell, not buy) and then to Velo Cult for an hour or so before heading back home.
Velo Cult has become my bicycle hangout. When I need to be in a bike shop these days, I ride over to Velo Cult, buy fresh pour-over coffee or a pint of cider, and sit at the long table in the center of the cavernous room. The table was made from either a bowling alley or a shuffleboard corridor, I don't know which. It's huge, and from a seat facing north I can watch the mechanics working on bikes (the benches are fully visible, with only a short table/bench in front of each one). If I have lots of time and some cash, I might walk over to the local burger bar or the nearby pub for something to eat (I get it to go and bring back to Velo Cult, which the owner encourages; he keeps the pub's menu on the counter of his bar). If folks come in, I can chat, or not; if I don't feel like chatting I can read a magazine or check my messages (if I've brought something electronic with me).
There's usually a healthy stack of bike-related magazines in a rack near the front door. Today, I brought a good-sized pile of Car Busters magazines and a couple of old bicycle manuals I no longer need and gifted them to the shop. Reading material cycles through this place, and if a month from now someone has taken a few of the magazines away, that's fine by me.
While I could have my pick of some sixty (!) bicycle shops in the Portland area to choose from, and there are certainly a few shops that are closer to my house, Velo Cult has become, hands down, my go-to place. It's pretty simple really. I spent close to twenty years of my life working in a bicycle shop. I may have burned out on the politics and everything that went with them; but I enjoyed the work most of the time and I still love the elegant machinery.
So, when I need to touch base with a familiar part of myself in an undemanding environment, I go to Velo Cult, a place whose owner and staff have welcomed me with open arms, a friendly smile and almost no questions. Today, I was very glad to ride over there and hang out for a pretty blessed hour of respite from my stress. When I left the shop to go home a cool rain began to fall, forcing me at length to pull over and slip on my Rainlegs and jacket. I pedaled briskly, heard the pitter-plat! of big raindrops on my shoulders and arms, and felt the vibration of my tires over the asphalt; my ability to feel a bike roll is like some folks' ability to smell. I reveled in the feel of rolling, the raindrops gently hitting my face and shins (I was wearing knickers), pedaled easily all the way home.
My stress is still here with me, and will be for awhile (I've got a lot to sort out these days), but that bike ride was a balm for my weary soul. I think that, in between lesson-planning and practicing, I'll probably take another one tomorrow.