Silent night

I rode my bike for the first time in a long time yesterday, down to the office to pick up mail and home again. I’ve been going to the office 2-3 times a week to get mail on foot. It’s a solid 12 to 15-mile slog depending on the route and takes a good five hours. There’s no doubt that the best way to not get fit for cycling is to not ride your bike. I don’t know how long it’s been since I last rode, but it has been over a month since I cycled.

Late at night I went out for a walk to clear my head and ended up on the hill atop Via La Cuesta that overlooks the city. The air had cleared up from the day’s traffic and it was very quiet. You could hear dogs barking from far away and the occasional car, as opposed to the nonstop hum-buzz-grind of traffic typically audible no matter how late you are up.

On my ride to the office I noticed so much traffic although everything is still shut down. There’s already an orange haze of smog over the city again. People are listening to music and driving aimlessly. Gas is almost free and the roads are crowded but not too much. Cars are quarantine capsules, and people can’t stand being indoors any longer.

The quarantine is going to end regardless of the coronavirus because without strict enforcement people cannot stand being imprisoned. No human will stay put without chains.

If the coronavirus isn’t an easily transmissible disease, then the impending reopening will have no effect on anything. If it is highly transmissible, infections will soar and there will be a second shutdown. Those are the only two options I see.

But, cycling …

What all of the aimless driving tells me, not to mention the armed rebellion breaking out at the incitement of the president, is that everyone who hasn’t been directly affected by the disease is overflowing with pent-up frustration at being locked indoors. You can see it in people who aren’t bothering with masks anymore.

You can see it in people who aren’t switching sides on the sidewalk when they pass.

You can see it in people gathering, having parties, congregating.

You can see it in people waving guns and flags …

So it’s also pent up among cyclists, those who’ve forsworn riding and those who’ve limited their riding to solo pedals and those who’ve refused to do anything differently at all. How chafing are cyclists at the quarantines that haven’t really been quarantines?

One South Bay legend currently residing in the snow-covered northern wastelands of the USA had a buddy box and ship him his entire Zwift cave even though he hasn’t ridden for, like ever. That’s how chafing.

Which brings me to the looming Everything Binge that is right around the corner. The “Okay, we were just kidding” decision about to lift the quarantine is going to result in an explosion of human activity unlike anything you or I have ever experienced. It will be intensified because of #socmed, but even more so because there will be comparatively fewer places for people to congregate, by which I mean restaurants, cafes, and bars. People are longing so mightily for a return to the normal that no longer exists you can almost taste it in the air.

The restaurants still standing will be packed. You don’t think lattes are an addiction? Wait til Day One of the lifted quarantine.

People will flood the roads, parks, cafes, and restaurants like the web worms that used to explode by the hundreds of thousands in the pecan tree canopies of our Houston backyard. People have already internalized the price of quarantine and weighed it against the risk of infection, and in this phase they’ve decided they DNGAF. “Bring it!” A handful of epidemiologists and public health experts believe that wish will be granted.

I sat there atop the hill and looked out over the city. My legs itched to saddle up and go for a ride, if only for a little test pedal, you know, a real ride in a real biker clown suit, pedaling for the real purpose of having no real purpose to pedal except to pedal.

I realized that I’ll never see Los Angeles this way again, with clean air and quiet night sounds, with the deep blue night sky overlain by the black heavens, with planets unblinking and glittery stars spraypainted across the firmament. I lay on my back and felt my heartbeat. Orion rotated as the hours ticked by. A great horned owl called.


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3 thoughts on “Silent night”

  1. Stanford antibody testing revealed that coronavirus is 50-85 times more widespread than previously known and thus far less dangerous than expected. I’m hoping that the local tyranny ends soon but I won’t hold my breath. I too will truly miss the cleaner air come summer. As a beach volleyball player I also realize that April is always the most windy month. I can cycle in the wind but trying to set a volleyball in April is next to impossible. I hope the beach patrol remembers where they stashed our nets. Come play with us.

    1. While that 50-85x number sounds impressive, it still only works out to 2-4% of the population. The major problem with that study (and why it has been criticized) is that the test is unvalidated and in the original study the authors admitted that if the sensitivity is less than 97.9% (which is lower end of what you want for a screening test) then the number of people with COVID would be no greater than 1% and “the lower certainty bound would include… zero.” So, there’s major problems with drawing any conclusions from this study.

  2. My little ‘hood is still playing by the rules. Walkers use the sidewalk, runners and families on bikes use the road, and we all move one way or another to keep distance. Most folks are wearing masks even though they really don’t need to outside in the open. The few times I’ve been to a store, everyone is wearing masks. Hard to understand people these days. Never realized how much I “hear” by watching people speak.

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