On May 1, the city of Whitehorse unveils its Wheel 2 Work program as an incentive to get folks peddling.
The way I understand it, you keep track of your mileage to and from work and measure that against the mileage checkpoints on the Kluane Chilkat International Bike Relay. If you win, you win good stuff. DO it.
I think about this as I ride out on the Haines Road and begin to distance myself from the Junction.
Since its invention in 1817 as a no-pedal walking device through to its aerodynamic stealth styling of today, the bicycle may be a perfect machine.
For me its perfection has less to do with mechanics — which I know little about — and more to do with the language of velocipede.
First of all, bicycles open us to another verb: ride.
In so doing it replaces its nasty counterpart: drive. Like in drive one to distraction. Drive one mad. Or using its most contemporaneous form, drive to work.
It also serves us well as a noun: a bicycle can move us from bad health to better health, and from better health to great shape.
Bicycle often enough and we develop great legs, firm abs, big lungs, strong heart, whiter teeth and fresher breath.
But for us bicycle lovers who naturally gravitate to res publica, cycling is best suited to making a statement: I ride because I care!
Now that is a cause for which one can smartly straddle a seat. Even worth a bit of chaffing I should think.
I ride because I care!
And I do.
Our insensitive and senseless addiction to the automobile is putting Dame Nature at risk. And I, with or without wheels, am one of her children.
Today, heading full tilt for Dezadeash, Wheel 2 Work in mind, I spin a mantra: I will drive less, ride more.
I valiantly pull up the Gun Range hill and with the added benefit of blood to the brain, I all of a sudden get it: We cannot drill ourselves out of our fuel effeteness, but we can ride our way out of it.
This tidbit is important: I immediately become a solution.
Now I am pumped. I glance down at my legs. A slightly raised area on the calf appears on the down stroke — a muscle. It’s still there when I lift the leg.
With a click I grab a higher gear. More blood. Wind now becomes a factor.
Quill Creek. I glance over — still covered in ice — press on.
Snow buntings scatter like bugs. Whoosh.
Two Ravens slide overhead one on top the other — nearly touching. How kinky.
World Heritage overlook, 19 clicks out and feeling good. Strong.
Then out of nowhere, something I read this morning: New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd got right to the bottom of the tank on the fuel conspiracy.
“Price manipulation,” she wrote, “could explain the marginal — why gas went from, say, $2.70 to $2.90 a gallon — but not why gas went from $1.40 to $2.70.
“That’s more about fundamental forces: Chinese and Indian demand, markets spooked by Iran’s threats, Nigeria’s unrest, Venezuela’s talk of nationalizing its oil industry, and the Pentagon’s bungling of the restoration of Iraq’s infrastructure.”
Price manipulation, fundamental forces, right on.
Sore butt. Stand in the pedals. Weave in the wind.
Northern Harrier — round undercarriage, wings curved and tipped in black like a fighter jet. Where did that image come from? Too much Dowd.
Breathing more regular now I fall into a rhythm. Mind shuts down and I just ride. An engine connected to pedals, to wheels, to earth.
I grab a higher gear still. Wind like a wall and I slice it open, feel it pushing past me equally on both sides.
All of a sudden, I become unsullied motion and nostalgic: Dad is gone; Mom is hanging on, still fighting the good fight, both wanted to die in good weather; Polar bears drowning in an iceless sea; Marriage, separation, divorce.
A gentle curve in the road and I lean into it, then a frost heave.
I press on to Dezadeash Campground and squat beside the bike to stretch tight thigh muscles.
It is so quiet here now. In here.
My eyes well up and I have trouble swallowing.
I ride home without a thought. Time hovers like a ghost. Just past the Auriol trailhead I see the lights of Haines Junction.
I am tired, cold and dehydrated.
I ride because I care.
How good it all feels.