No, not the Dow, though that has taken quite a tumble this past week.
I’m talking about me, on my bike.
Last weekend… and I was having such a great ride.
The bike path along the Charles River is a wonderful thing.
You can ride from here to somewhere else. You can get to the next town over, or even the one beyond that, while really seeing the scenery you travel through.
That’s how I felt as I pedaled out along the river pathway, weaving amidst runners and baby strollers and other bikers, heading west, away from the city crowds into the Charles River Reservation land.
The bike path is a shared use route, through city, suburb, country. At times it winds through parkland, pine trees, and open swards of grass dotted with hardy urban lilies. In places the path is barely a sidewalk, hemmed in by pedestrian railings along the riverbank, and congested with joggers, dog walkers and sightseers. Some towns along the route do a better job of maintaining the paving of the bike path than others.
As you leave the more urban stretches behind, looming trees over-arch the bike path and sunlight dapples the paving. The river flows by slowly, here muddied from the recent rains, there rendered almost bucolic by cattails and water lilies.
It is a Murphy’s Law of bike paths that when the trail curves sharply, or winds itself around a bridge footing, or enters a dense thicket where you cannot see any distance ahead of you, there will be someone coming the other way. A group of speeding bikers in lycra, making better time than you are, or a line of girlfriends out for a walk, side-by-side across the width of the path.
I rode for an hour or so, the breeze in my hair, the green of the riverbank rushing by. Slowing at times for crumbling cement, or stopping for pedestrians massed at a busy intersection, or at a turning signal for lanes of traffic.
Coming home, I threaded my way down the other side of the river, enjoying the distant views of the city skyline, as the river, and the bike path, twisted to reveal or disguise the vista.
In the shade of the overgrown riverbank a group of elderly residents enjoyed an outing. Four women played bridge at a picnic table, one’s metal walker behind her chair. Older gentlemen in plaid polyester pants and an assortment of caps sat on a pair of park benches, leaning on their canes, and commenting on passersby. An elderly couple walked slowly along the path, chins lowered, their hands clasped behind their backs.
I rode on by a playground. Children splashing in the fountain of a baby pool. A young family picnicking on a blanket on the lawn. Dogs tussling with a Frisbee.
Past several boathouses, rowers carrying the endless gear of oars and shells in and out of the bays.
Other bikers making loops around the river. I recognized riders I’d passed coming out.
I threaded a steep curb ramp, and stopped in the traffic island between oncoming streams of cars. Back onto my bike, and up onto the sidewalk between river railing and highway curb. The pavement was a combination of cement along the railing, and worn asphalt that slanted towards the street. A runner was coming the opposite direction, behind her a group of three bicyclists.
It occurred to me that I should yield. The cement here was narrow. I rode off the flat cement onto the slanted asphalt, noting the big drop off at the curb. The runner passed; up ahead came the metal footing of a streetlight pole. I headed back onto the cement. Wild blue cornflowers and grasses growing from the crack between the two areas of paving disguised how much of a difference there was in the height of the sections. The raised edge of the cement caught my tire, twisted it sideways. Suddenly ahead, the two green metal horizontal tubes of the river railing. I had the clearest thought, as the bike bucked, and I toppled sideways, wondering how much this was going to hurt. I caught at the horizontal railing to spare my face, and felt my ribcage strike the cement footing that held the uprights of the railing. The breath was knocked out of me, thunk, bone on cement.
I pulled the bike upright, over against the railing. That instinct you have when you’ve had an accident, to get up and get on your way. Flight. The first of the cyclists stopped, looked up at me from beneath his aerodynamic helmet, with its rear view mirror attachment.
“Are you okay?” he asked.
I wanted to say, “I don’t know yet,” but the breath didn’t come. He nodded. Maybe I nodded. I glanced down and realized that my knee was dripping blood, a dribble tracking around the clumps of grit embedded in the skin from the skid on concrete. Ribs. I wouldn’t think about that yet.
A second bicyclist stopped, “Are you okay?” he asked.
“I think so,” I was able to squeak out. Enough standing here in the middle of this narrow, cracked stretch of sidewalk. I was going to cause another accident.
I glanced around, to check for any more traffic. No one coming. I climbed back on the bicycle, and pushed off. Down the bike path again, upright, pedaling normally. The wind in my hair, alert for hazards.
Learning to breathe into the space between my ribs, before it hurt.