St. Louis Central Gyrotonic

Yesterday, we embarked upon a new fitness regime. It is called gyrotonics and it involves the use of these pictured machines. We had our initial meet and greet, with Anne the proprietor. We’ve known Anne for years. We’ve ridden together on Team Kaldi’s, our Bike-MS charity team. She and her husband Chris are now co-captains of that team. In this first session we were evaluated and taught a few exercises. What is gyrotonics? After only one brief session, I don’t feel qualified to answer that question. It is the season for new year’s resolutions and this one is ours. Today though, I am feeling even that abbreviated workout.

In conjunction with gyrotonics, we plan on renewing our joint love affair with bicycling. We are planning two tours this year. The first is Cycle Zydeco. This four-day ride through rural Louisiana boasts bicycling by day and dancing at night. The ride coincides with a local Cajun festival. Other Team Kaldi’s friends talked us into this event and will join us. The other tour that we are planning is the MUP. This is a week-long tour. We’ve done this Yooper ride in the past and have seen it many more times as the riders annually pass the Cabin, but this year will be different. This year the ride shifts west and will loop through the center part of the UP. Weather permitting, we will also do the Bike-MS ride here in St. Louis. Last year’s ride was blown away by the remnants of a passing hurricane.

This all sounds like rather a lot to bite off and as we all know, most new year’s resolutions usually don’t go very far. But we’ve already put money down and most of it is something that we have done before. Today, taking advantage of the ever more frequent mid-winter thaws, we both got out on the bikes. It was only for a brief turn around the park, but it is a start. It is a new year after all!

Cycling Santa

Cycling Santa

I got back on the bike again, after a longer hiatus than I care to admit. It wasn’t much of a ride, just an errand. I had promised Anne that I would pickup some books that she had reserved. She got a job and took the car, leaving me with one of two alternatives: break my promise or ride over to the store. After some hemming and hawing, I chose the later. I pumped up the tires. Yeah, it had been that long. Threw a leg over the bar and off I went. There was some immediate discomfort down below, as I sat on the seat, but it soon passed. I had chosen the right level of dress for the weather, which is always hard to do, not too hot and not too cold. Well really a combination of the two, but it balanced out.

My destination was Left Bank Books. Still thriving, but a relic from the pre-Amazon era, it is arguably the best bookstore in town. On the way over I began doing my sanity check. It was a pleasant enough day that I had no concern that I would make quota. Back when I was still working and riding in the pre-dawn hours before work, I played a little game with myself. If I could count six other cyclist also out riding at that obscene hour, then I wasn’t crazy or at least I had company. I don’t recall how I settle upon six as the magic number. I think that it was the most that I could count, without too much risk of counting someone twice. Anyway, even in winter, on most days I made quota. On those that I didn’t make, made me ask what the heck I was doing out in such weather.

On summer days, especially on the weekend, I hope to make quota even before I get to the park. On this day, which really was quite nice for December, I counted one. I picked up two more in the park, but I was beginning to grow concerned. I got one more in the CWE, where I spied and snapped cycling Santa, outside of Mike’s Bikes. On the way back home, I was getting desperate. There were quite a few electric scooters motoring along and I toyed with the idea of counting them. In the past, I might have included an in-line skater or two. Just as I was preparing to leave the park, two new bikers appeared, giving me my magic number, six. I wasn’t insane! I didn’t have to count scooters. I was left with a question though. Where were the other riders? December days like these are to be cherished and not wasted on other things, like work.

Busking a Rube

British Busker and Rube at Covent Garden Market

I’m almost famous, because that’s what it’s all about, fame and fortune, people, fame and fortune and women too. Let’s not forget the women. For example, I was riding in the park today. At mid-morning, I almost had the place to myself. As the bike path crossed Pine, I encountered another cyclist though. He was eastbound on Pine. He was tall and fit and riding an all white bicycle, while wearing a team all white bodysuit with white helmet. He made quite the cycling fashion statement. Because it looked like we were going to intersect, we both slowed. He eventually nodded for me to proceed. I acknowledged with a profunctionary, “How’s it going?” He responded with, “Fine, Mark.”

It wasn’t until we had passed that I realized what he had said. For the life of me, I did not recognize him. This is not all that unusual. I’ve been living in this town for over thirty years and have been cycling in it for more than half of that. I’ve made quite a few biking buddies and have even more acquaintances in the cycling community. For a while, when I was doing the oh-dark-thirty dawn launches to ride in the park before work, I would routinely pass the Clayton Crew. John, a former neighbor, was a regular member of this 40+ boys club. I would call out, “Passing on your left,” and John would answer back, “Hey, Mark.” It didn’t take many repetitions before the entire crew knew my name and then by proxy, very soon after, almost everyone in the park. I felt like the mayor of Forest Park, fame and fortune, folks, fame and fortune. 

Madonna of the Prairie

Madonna of the Prairie, W.H.D. Koerner, 1921, Center of the West

In the western novel “Covered Wagon”, the heroine Molly Wingate traveled the Oregon Trail in a wagon train of settlers. Encountering prairie fires and Indian arrows, the beautiful maiden eventually reached Oregon, where in the conventions of popular fiction, she found true love. In this illustration for the novel’s book jacket, W.H.D. Koerner used the covered wagon to form a halo around the pioneer woman’s head to symbolized her purity. This romanticized view of womanhood is emblematic of dime westerns that idealize the feminine, often forsaking reality.

On Wednesday, I was cycling through the park. I was on my way to view the exhibit “Making a Monster”, which was on display in the Bernard Becker Medical Library, at Barnes. I looked at this outing as preparatory research for the evening’s Science on Tap lecture, which also involved “Frankenstein.”

On the way there, I witnessed an accident on the bike trail. It involved a woman cyclist, who was heading in my direction and two black men, both of whom were on electric scooters and heading in the opposite direction. I was following the woman and saw that as she passed a walker that was also heading in her direction, she nearly collided with the first scooter, before hitting the second. She and the second man fell, but fortunately on the grass. I stopped to ask if everyone was OK. She said she was and although neither of the men spoke, both seemed OK too. So, I headed on my way to the hospital.

It all happened so fast that I still cannot say whose fault the accident was and I had the best of all possible eyewitness views. The two men were both hugging the centerline and the first seemed to momentarily cross it just before his near miss. She actually passed him on his opposite side, which seemed to cause her to lose control of her bicycle, before colliding with the second man and ending up sprawled in the grass on the opposite side of the path.

About an hour later, I was heading home. As I approached the accident site, I had a premonition to look for something. Maybe in the rush of events that was the accident my subconscious noticed something flying out of someone’s bag. It was there in the grass, a Power Juice battery phone charger ($23.49 Amazon). There was no one else around, save for two city workers, both on rider mowers.

Over the years, I have collected my fair share of swag and more rarely donated swag back to the park community, but in all of the previous instances, I never had an inkling to the original owner. I would have taken it anyway, even without the impending mowers. I promise to keep a lookout for the individuals involved in the accident and return the charger to its owner. I don’t really need it, because I already have a Power Monkey charger and I don’t need another one. If it was the woman’s that could be quite likely, since her route and mine coincided for several miles that day. If it was one of the men’s I would judge it less likely, primarily because they were riding rented scooters, but I’ll keep an eye out. 

Tour de Lafayette

Tour de Lafayette

Anne and I dined last night with Don and DJ. We tried a new place, at least to us, called Polite Society. The food there was quite nice and the company was even better. The occasion was the kickoff for the Gateway Cup, a Labor Day weekend of crits. A crit or more formally a criterium is a one-day bicycle race on a closed course. Last night’s races circled Lafayette Square. This residential neighborhood was first laid out in the 1840s. Located a good two miles from where the Arch now stands, it was part of the Saint Louis suburbs of its day. A few miles further west Henry Shaw had purchased undeveloped land around then that would eventually become his gardens.

Once a year, this quaint middle 19th-century neighborhood is invaded by hordes of bicyclists and their groupies. My crowd is firmly ensconced now in the latter category. We like to watch. However, someone somewhat tongue-in-cheek asked Anne while she was crossing the course, if she had finished fourth in the last race. She was wearing street clothes and not bike duds at the time. His question and the fact that you have to watch out for speeding cyclists caught her a little off-guard. Never mind that the last race was a men’s race. 

Later, we moved down the block to Tom and Audrey’s place with its curbside view of the races. It was you typical late August evening, both hot and humid, but every two minutes, when the peloton passed by at 30 MPH, there was a cooling breeze. We met up with a few of our other cycling chums, before bidding everyone adieu. It was a nice way to kickoff the holiday weekend.