What Happened on your Sunday Bike Ride?

It was late Sunday afternoon, Susan had already left the house to join the Slow Bike Society on the Eastern Shore for a round trip ride from Mullet Point to the Grand Hotel for afternoon tea and cookies.

Later on, around 5pm, I grabbed my 1980s era Huffy Bay Pointe 3-speed and headed to book club, Drinkers with a Reading Problem. Bikes, books and beer are a few of my favorite things. It started out as a nice leisurely ride to the The Book Cellar, a space next to Page and Palette for adult beverages, book launches, and live music.

As I crested the hill near the tennis courts, I was riding on the shady sidewalk with the whir of distant lawnmower when I heard a Crack! I looked up and saw a dead limb snap away from a pecan tree and it was falling into my path. I quickly rode off the sidewalk and toward safety. It never made it to the ground. Turns out it had fought gravity and won, thanks to it being caught in a cocoon of kudzu. And that was that. I pedaled on to book club and didn’t think anything more about it…but perhaps it was a sign.

At book club, I was enjoying a Grayton Beach Salt of the Gulf and listening to my fellow book clubbers comment on In the Electric Mist with Confederate Dead, by  James Lee Burke. Just as I was about to spout my thoughts on the book, my cell phone rang. My bride, Susan. She never calls me at book club.

“I’m calling because I knew you’d be mad if I didn’t,” she says.

“What happened?” I’ve already assumed the worst with her intro.

“I fell off my bike, and scraped up my leg and elbow. I’m okay. I’m home. I’m going to take a shower and put some ice on it.”

“How bad is it? Do you want to go to the ER?”

“No, it looks bad, but it’s just below my knee, I’m just gonna rest.”

“Do you want me to come home?”

“No, stay at book club, I’ll see you soon.”

“Thanks for letting me know, and yes I would have been mad if you didn’t call and tell me.”

When I got back to the table at book club, they were still talking about the gratuitous violence, and that the book was well written.

“Irene, (her book pick) I thought with an amputee like John Bell Hood so prominent in this book I thought you picked it with me in mind.” I did enjoy the book, the writing, and yes, especially the confederate dead. I did feel like there were a few too many deaths, i.e. plot points, that made the book about 100 pages to long, but I’ll read more Burke.

When I got home I looked at Susan’s leg and did my best Dr. Samry. Her leg looked like a red raft floating over a sea of skin and she told me what happened.

“I was riding beside Valerie on our way back to Mullet point and I hit a trash barrel with my handlebar. I misjudged how close it was. When I hit the barrel I fell and knocked Valerie off her bike. I’m glad we were wearing helmets.” Valerie had a puncture in her ankle and was able to ride back later with some of the group and thankfully, it didn’t stop her from playing her Monday morning tennis match.

Of course, the slow bikers are all Eagle Scouts, nurses, teachers, and mothers. Not only do they have Band-Aids on board their bikes, they have alcohol swabs and all manner of first aid. I think one of them carries a defibrillator. Everyone, genuinely concerned, including Maureen, Rosalie, Patricia, Liz and others, helped clean and dress the wounds. For some reason I thought of Bill. He’s like MacGyver, I would trust him with a scalpel, needle and thread. Thankfully they didn’t need any of that, no broken bones, nor a trip to the ER. A good Samaritan, Linda an employee from the Grand Hotel who had just finished her shift, stopped to find out what all the commotion was about and gave Susan a ride back to her car. Dadgum, people are so nice here.

My wife, bless her heart, has a history with mayhem. When she was a kid, she ran into the corner of a house. Yes, A house! Can you imagine…”it was during a game of tag,” so her story goes, “another judgement gone wrong.” Anyway, she’s fallen off her bike before too, but when she was a kid, over the handlebars and all. She was even bit by a dog while riding. Yes, while riding, and then she fell off, not wanting to run over the second dog, a pocket dog from the grassy knoll. Honestly, she comes home more battered and bruised from her classroom, no, not physical abuse from her 330+ second graders over the last fourteen years, but from walking into desks, tables, and quite frankly anything stationary. Oddly enough, I think she’s been fine on the stationary bike at the recreation center. Thanks to her cadre of caring cyclists Susan will be back on her Raleigh M-20 bike in no time, but this week she’s back to school. Stepping gingerly around all those desks I hope.

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Are You Part of Your Community?

                              Morning/Afternoon

Yesterday was a day off from work, but I was at the library for a monthly Southern Bloggers Jubilee meeting. We had Pat Smitherman, Crafty Hope’s husband and KPMG Web Developer, show us a few things about HTML and CSS. I learned quite a bit, but I’ll continue to use WordPress because it’s so user-friendly. (Want to learn more about blogging, take my class, Starting a Blog, on Monday September 15, at the library. It’s priceless, as in free, but you have to sign up.) Pat the code walker was patient with us, and it never hurts to pick up a few tips in another language, especially computer speak. Some of my fellow bloggers were really digging it. A few had their heads buried in their laptops writing code like they’d been trained by Anonymous.

After wrapping up our meeting and waiting out the rain, I chatted briefly with Tamara Dean, the library director, in her office. She handed me the DVD about the Mobile-Tensaw Delta, America’s Amazon. Tamara forwarded me the number of Mango users, which continues to soar. Mango is our online language learning program, which also has a popular app version.

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Evening

After an early dinner, I stopped by Fairhope Brewing for Mobile Bay Green Drinks, “a monthly happy hour for environmentally thoughtful folks.” It’s a “get involved/what’s happening” night for local organizations and businesses. It was the first time I attended, and there was lots of information, and free stickers too. Free samples from Sunflower Cafe awaited with additional items available for purchase. As I sipped my Fairhope 51 Pale Ale, a group of about 40 people listened to speakers who stepped up to the microphone, set up in the middle of the tap room.

The Slow Bicycle Society on the Eastern Shore was represented by Molly Peterson, who serves on our library board. I’m part of this group of riders that bike locally and take regional bike ride field trips. Several Slow Bikers were in attendance and Molly also spoke on behalf of Baldwin County Trailblazers, the group behind the Eastern Shore Trail.

Others speaking up were representatives from Alabama Coastal Birdfest, taking place the first weekend in October, Pro Cycle and Triathlon, which has slow bikes for sale and for rent now too. Katy of Pro Cycle was fond of the phrase “rip your legs off,” when describing her rides. Apparently, there are paces for everyone, including people like me. I just want to keep the leg and a half I’ve got left. Alabama Coastal Foundation clean-up, a fishing rodeo, and BARC Rib fundraising events were promoted during the open mic segment.

I enjoyed a delicious creamy coconut pop from Frios, a gourmet frozen treat stand set up inside the tap room. By the way it was delicious! Until I tasted blood. I bit the inside of my cheek chomping the sweet sugary goodness. No biggie, it’s frozen, I just kept eating on that side, and a couple bites later, the bleeding stopped.

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Night

With the tropics still dazzling my taste buds, I went to the Eastern Shore Metropolitan Planning Organization’s (MPO) public hearing on their Bicycle and Pedestrian Transportation Plan. Sounds rather somber, but as a reporter I’ve covered much worse. A sewer commission meeting comes to mind.

I thought I might be a sight to stare at, an amputee coming to a bike meeting with shorts on, flashing my prosthesis. Plus, the leg was making a popping sound as I walked in the room. If they stared, I didn’t notice. They were welcoming, and I suspect happy to see another resident at a public hearing. I even saw someone from my book club, “Drinkers with a Reading Problem,” at Green Drinks and at the MPO public hearing.

The MPO staff is eager to hear from the public on what they believe the future walkability and biking needs of the Eastern Shore should look like. Read the draft report, you have until September 22, to send comments. I’ll be advocating for a bike path/sidewalk from my neighborhood, River Station, to Wal-Mart, which is about a third of a mile away. There is no plan to build a sidewalk, even though it is very dangerous for walkers and riders to use County Road 48, the major east west corridor connecting the county with downtown Fairhope. The five other people at the meeting, including two staffers were very encouraging and positive, but realistic. All the goals require funding, not all of which has been secured.

If you want to look at the 92-page draft report, there is one available online and at the Fairhope Public Library. It rests on the ledge of an easel that has an MPO map on display near the public computers. The short term goals of what pathways to build, and staffer Matthew’s “30 days on a bicycle,” are must reads.

All of these organizations, government entities, and businesses have websites, Facebook pages, or both. Check ‘em out!

                                          Full Moon

When the meeting ended, I turned east to head home and was greeted by a harvest moon. It was rising up and looked like if I kept on driving I’d crash into it. It loomed so large, you couldn’t miss it. The moonlight reminded me to say thanks to those who are engaged in what’s going on around the Eastern Shore. We need people in the community to be the squeaky wheels. I’ll be sure and wear my popping prosthesis.