Birthday. The word strikes joy in a child’s heart but apathy or fear in adults. As we age, it seems more and more people care less and less about celebrating birthdays, either theirs or others’. Presents, gifts and cards dwindle. After just ending a very tiring job earlier in the week, and with rain and wind arriving as part of a cold front the morning of my special day, I had not made many plans.
But I still wanted to set out on my now fourth annual quest to bike my age in miles while collecting freebies. While I didn’t hit my goal, I did manage to complete my longest day in the saddle since August 15th (about when the job really kicked off) and my longest ride since June 30th. What follows are some images and info about my day.
Weather Wasn’t Wonderful
Thursday it hit 95 degrees here in Austin, Texas. Overnight, the front dropped the temperature by 50 to 45 degrees including wind chill. Some rain was forecast to end by 9 am — but it didn’t. That and my night owl ways made for slow going. I didn’t get out on a warm-up ride on Wednesday as planned, either, it being my first full day after the job. I had at least taken the bike to Sun & Ski Sports for a few small repairs, new gloves, tube and tool bag, to get my pump reattached and tire and tubes squared away. Mike in the Bike Shop got me road-worthy again.
But Friday morning, October 11, I was not feeling it. Long-time pal Rhodney was still game to join me for a second year, though. He arrived bundled up in the White Elephant (a cool VW camper van; it’s not really called that, but I like the sound). He brought his new bike, a Ghost Square from REI. We went to the nearby Denny’s where I got my free Grand Slam breakfast. I chose the oatmeal, grits, eggs and sausage, hot water and lemon.
We languished over breakfast, awaiting the clearing of the clouds. I was happy to treat for Rhodney’s meal since he’d helped me out with his van several times and was doing so again. The calm after the storm still wasn’t happening, but we went back to my place. I got myself and Sophie the Fairdale Weekender Archer ready anyway. Although I’d retrieved some warmer clothes from storage, I couldn’t find my long tights, so I went with rain pants. They would do the trick to keep me warm and dry, but just barely. Setting out for the Southern Walnut Creek Trail, we finally got the ride underway at 12:54 pm. I was resigned to doing what I could and just enjoy the day. Any day off work and on a bike is a good day, regardless of miles, speed or accomplishments in Strava.
Stubbornly mounting up, we soon found that the wind and rain had scared off most riders and runners, i.e., the sensible people. The nice effect was that hardly anyone was on the trail. Those we did see exchanged a tight smile or wave of respect. After about 7 miles we stopped at the tennis center, which miraculously always seems to be open and stocked with a cooler of ice and ice water. I shared my snacks and we chilled (literally) for a bit before heading back. After 14 miles, Rhodney had had enough while I was just getting warmed up.
Curious Call Leads to Lunch
Unfortunately, I was running too late to meet two friends for lunch, so we rescheduled for another day. My father and my brother each called to wish me a happy birthday, which was nice. During the ride I had received a bunch of notifications of people wishing me happy birthday and an unexpected voicemail. It was from a young woman I had met only once at a workshop, singing me the birthday song. That was nice and unexpected. Calling an audible, since I normally ended the day with a free margarita at Trudy’s, I replied by text letting her know I was biking around and going to get free stuff. I asked if she’d like to join me, and she said yes. She had just had a meeting cancel and was 30 minutes away. Maps told me I was 31 out, so I said let’s do it.
Meeting up and chatting a bit, we decided to share an order of fajitas. I had the margarita swirl of strawberry and lime frozen. I wasn’t really in picture-taking mode, so don’t have any. But it was yummy and the conversation nice, about her work, interests, family and so on. She had done a mini-marathon or two but wasn’t really a cyclist. She just really likes meeting new people and celebrating birthdays and generously bought my lunch. She had another meeting and I had to go back to my office, aka, the streets of ATX, so we each went on our merry way. I guess sometimes there is such a thing as a free lunch. Thanks to her for the yummy Tex-Mex!
Flat Tire at Night Really Blows
Soon after that I found myself downtown, and shortly thereafter, with no air in my back tire. I didn’t even bother to try to fix it because it has a reinforced steel cord and is very hard to remove. It was right at 7 pm and all the shops were closing. So I turned off my Garmin watch, found a bus, and made my way to Sun & Ski again. The only shop in town that stays open until 9 pm, they’ve been taking care of most of my bike needs for a good while now. Along with The Peddler and the soon to be departed Bicycle Sport Shop Guadalupe location (the others will remain open).
Once there, the clerk and new manager immediately began busting my balls, until I let them know it was my birthday and they should be nice. Excusing myself, I went back to the shop where another worker found a huge clothes pin in my tire. He fixed me up and I got on my way. But not before the new boss (not the same as the old boss) J J kindly offered to comp my new tube and the labor and pose for a photo.
I Scream, You Scream
Leaving the shop, I rode up Shoal Creek Boulevard, which has its new bike lanes installed. Spacious and wide, like the time Kramer painted over a line on the highway, on Seinfeld, I made the u-turn and made my way south. I had a few more freebies on my list: I Luv Video, Toy Joy, and Amy’s Ice Cream to top off the night, so to speak. First up was Amy’s. The lovely and aptly named Grace provided some samples but I went with the seasonal pumpkin, fresh frozen strawberries and pecan. Amy’s mashes in the toppings, and if you know to ask, they will give it to you free on your birthday.
But there’s a catch — literally. You have to catch the ice cream thrown from behind the counter into a bowl. I was two for three. The first year I caught it, but banged my knees. The second was a miss, resulting in my heart-wrecnching plea to “not make me eat your floor ice cream.” (They didn’t, and gave me a new batch.) Last year was caught on film. So I was feeling pretty cocky but a little nervous too.
The moment of idle chit-chat was over. It was go-time. Grace wound up the throw. I stopped her and said she needed to give me a count down. “Say 1-2-3 then go.” Like in Lethal Weapon when Mel Gibson’s character Riggs pulls Danny Glover’s character Murtaugh off a toilet rigged with a bomb, I made sure Grace would count 1-2-3 THEN go — NOT go on 3. That settled, I got into my ready crouch position. There were no cameras, just one co-worker watching.
And then it was happening. Like in slow motion, but not really. My heart pounded. The glob of ice cream was flying through the air, and I wanted it. Bad. It was a good arc, the speed not too fast, and we had a good trajectory for a successful docking. But suddenly, I lost sight of it! There was a light bulb that obscured my well-earned freebie. I was in danger of my delectable delightful delicious dairy dessert descending and dropping dejectedly down onto the dirty floor. But just as quickly it exited the orbit of the blinding sun, and…
… I got my bowl under it. Touchdown! We have touchdown! I had caught the ice cream like a champ! Three of four. “How do you like me now?!” I said to no one. The surge of adrenaline-addled anxiety turned to calm and collected cortisol coursing through my cardiac system as I realized that the re-entry was real. I let out a hoot, as did Grace. I thanked her profusely and found a table. On the way out I reminded a guy with the same birthday he could get free ice cream. He said he had, and that she had just handed it to him. The betrayal! But I didn’t care.
Moving on to the toy and the video stores, I scored these two items: a rental DVD of the M. Night Shyamalan superhero movie Glass I was dying to see then missed it in the theaters, and a squeeze Bozo the clown. The former is the long-awaited resolution to Unbreakable and Split and is to remind myself that we all have superpowers. The latter is to relive stress every time I read something stupid said by our national clown-in-chief.
Making my way home, I still had to do my walk, yoga and writing. While I did not meet my goal of 54 miles, I did a pretty good ride of 57 kilometers. For me, the purpose of the ride is to test my limits and physical fitness. Clearly it’s down due to the job, heat and general malaise. That’s ok. I’m a year older after all. The body slows down and no one gets out of life alive, as my brother reminded me.
The day was nice but it did kinda suck in some ways. Save for two cards, I received notice no gifts or a cake. I know that’s a bit childish but it’s good to stay a kid at heart. However, I gave up processed grains 1/1/18, so I don’t really care. One of my new roommates made some almond flour cookies, though, so alternative pastries are possible. Anyway, I didn’t promote it much at all, and most people I did tell were at work and had other plans after. I’m horrible with remembering most friends’ birthdays, so don’t really think they should have to remember mine. And it turns out I have a small number of friends I can trust, but we don’t get together as a group. I might have to work on that.
As for the free stuff, I’ll collect more as time goes: a comedy show for three friends and me, a movie at the Alamo Drafthouse, dinner with former hosts Quaker F/friends tonight, another dinner Sunday, those rescheduled lunches and maybe a few other things. It’s not really about the freebies, while it of course they’re nice. It’s really about attracting abundance, and one can never have too much of that.
Here’s my ride map and stats in Strava. The straight line was not counted and shows when I was on the bus. Til next time, enjoy the rest of my birthday month!
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