My phone alarm was set for 5am but our radio goes off at 4:30am everyday. Sometimes I sleep right through it as background noise, but this morning I was listening to the memorials to B.B. King. I turned the phone reminder off and looked out the window to check the weather--I always have an idea beforehand depending on whether the birds are singing. Today they are, but the alley is damp from the overnight rain. I'm weighing in my head if I should try to ride or not. There aren't any huge flood puddles, but certainly not the ideal conditions due to dark clouds overhead. The radar is mostly clear and it's only a 20% chance of showers. So I get my bike shorts and jacket on.
We often have conversations in our house about our mutual enjoyment of worn items. A fray, a scuff, a scratch, a slight dent. It means something has been loved, played with, enjoyed. We're not the kind of people who have nice things that go on shelves. Dirt from being out in the world is better than dust from lack of use. We don't really do "keepsakes" other than a few key possessions. We tend to focus on memories of experience rather than material souvenirs. It's partly from living in a tiny 2 bedroom condo with 4 people. It's partly from having 2 preschoolers and a greyhound previous to that. The Mama remembers when she used to clean once a week and have a tidy home for a few days until it was time to briefly pick up again. It was quiet and orderly, but that life ended when she decided to have kids. And me. Which isn't to say that I'm a slob. But I'll be the first to admit that cleaning is not on my list of favorite activities. Most of my daily chores involve simply getting the household back to a livable condition from the day's activity. Vacuum, straighten, pickup toys, do the dishes. It's a battle against chaos more than being a strict attempt at being fastidious.
As I walked out the door this morning, I noticed that my bike gloves have a few places where the detailing is coming off or a few threads are unraveling from where they hold the velcro on. My bike shoes have chips off the plastic on the cleats and the bottom has a layer of dirt caked on. I stopped to consider this while putting my shoes on...it means I've been riding. Enough to wear my bike gloves and have dirty shoes.
I'd originally planned to do about 25 miles heading to a local trail. But, once I was actually on the road, I started thinking about the cleanup my bike would require. And that I am out of coffee to brew at home so I needed to go to the coffee shop for my morning cup. Plus time to shower before Mama had to get to work. And--sure enough--when I pulled in the gate to go put my bike away in the basement, I had to go inside and get some old t-shirts to wipe it down. (If I were a better person and doing it right, I should have turned the hose on and rinsed it...especially the crevices around moving parts.) If you're a cyclist, you'll know what I mean. It's a very particular type of coating that cannot be called mud. It's wet. But gritty. It's like someone has made an art project of your bicycle and thrown pieces of leaf and sand and weird, small debris you can't even name onto key pieces of the frame. Mostly underneath, but the water gets thrown up, too, so you have to make sure you get the saddle, your bag, the tail light. My light usually requires I take it off the frame, take the batteries out, and let it dry inside before it will work again. Bike lights don't like rain. I wiped down the pedals and crankshafts, the water bottle cages, and did my best in the notches of the brakes and bottom bracket.
In the home stretch down my street I was reminded of the saying that you'll always regret a workout you don't do more than a workout you do. As far as life philosophies go, it's not a bad one to live by: "dirt is better than dust." Much better that something is used, loved and loved than sitting on a shelf or on a hook in the garage rusting. No matter how beautiful and expensive your bike is, it was meant to be pedaled not looked at.