Friday, July 29, 2011

Radio Silence

At night I dream of rain, but when I wake, there is only dust and heat. On the road between Lubbock and San Angelo, where I have been driving these past two weeks to visit my mother, there are brown fields, empty of everything but dust devils. Sometimes I have counted as many as six at a time, rising lazily from the earth. They are remarkably long-lasting, taking their time as they roam across the fields, moving here and there, but always, strangely, as if they have purpose and direction.

My mother put a name to dust devils for me when I was a child. She pointed them out one day, as we were driving across the deserts of New Mexico. Later I stood in the stinging swirl of one in a vacant lot in our neighborhood, and knew it for what it was because she had named it.

She gave me the name for mirages, too, and I see these also as I drive the roads these hot summer days. When she told me that they were only the image of water and not the thing itself, I didn't believe her at first. But true to her word, the shimmer always stayed ahead of us, just out of reach. Men had died, she said to me, chasing mirages in the desert. And then she laughed, to show me that it was not a thing to worry too much about. She knew I was a worrier.

And in this way, by putting names to things, a mother helps a child unlock the puzzle that is the world.

Frances Williams Tomlinson
June 17, 1924-July 29, 2011

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Seen on the ride: Tuesday, July 26

"How fast was I going?" I yelled.

"19," he said. "But you were slowing down there at the end."

I think he was being generous.

Plus, it was downhill.

Also seen on the splendid morning ride:

Thursday, July 21, 2011

The difference between Walu and me

Walu's handlebar tape, which I replaced on Monday as a pre-birthday present:

My handlebar tape, which is not only intact, I clean it on a semi-regular basis with Simple Green:

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Seen on the Sunday ride

I'll be honest with you, my garden looks like crap right now. I've suspended nearly all watering, only applying it to new plantings. The buffalo grass and blue grama in the front yard still look pretty good, but the Bermuda grass lawn in the back is on its last legs. Shrubs and flowering plants are surviving, but they don't look at all happy about it. In truth, it disheartens me so much to see how bad everything looks that it is difficult for me to go out into the garden for more than the most basic chores.

So instead of showing you my garden, I thought I'd show you other gardens that are fairing better than mine. On Sunday my ride took me through Greek Circle, a neighborhood where all the sororities and fraternities have their houses. Most of the front yards looked, if anything, even worse off than mine (probably owing more to lack of interest than to the drought and heat) but there were three bright spots, shown here:

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Goodbye, Ruby Slippers

A couple of weeks ago I got off my bike mid-ride to adjust a cleat on one of my cycling shoes and stripped out the screw hole. Since I was already down to two screws on that particular shoe, it meant I had to pedal home with the cleat attached by only one screw. The problem with this arrangement, as I quickly discovered, is that a cleat attached with only one screw will allow the shoe to rotate when you want to clip out from the pedal, instead of remaining fixed. And thus it is that foot is more or less permanently attached to the pedal unless you unbuckle and leave the shoe behind...

So it was new Sidis for me, this time in plain Jane, old-school black. The Rubys, those stylish, comfortable old friends, have now officially retired.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Seen on the ride

San Angelo is an interesting town. A few years ago, I noticed that many of the front yards I was seeing--far more than here in LBB--were xeric landscapes. Indeed, San Angelo, which has the same climate and water challenges as LBB, is probably at least a decade ahead of LBB in response to the dwindling water supply in the southwest. For one thing, they actually talk about it openly--and with alarm--in their local newspaper. Their columnists, in fact, actually call for real, meaningful action from the citizens on the matter. Imagine that happening here in LBB.

Yeah, I can't either.

Anyway, while I was riding around my sister's neighborhood, I noticed that, unlike my neighborhood, nobody was watering their lawns and that all of them had gone dormant. When everyone's lawn is dormant, it looks quite natural. Some of the neighbors are also taking this drought "opportunity" to let their yards go completely, but others have foregone the lawn altogether and have created some nice xeric landscapes which seem to be doing quite well in this challenging season. I don't normally like a yard that is covered in gravel, but I thought this one looked pretty good:

I think it could have been improved by varying the sizes of the gravel, or planting masses of prairie grasses in places, and the placement of the big boulders seemed a little "off" to me, but overall, I thought it looked quite nice.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Radio silence

Things are not going very well for my mother, so I've been down in San Angelo for the past several days to be with her. The days pass pretty quietly. I rise, eat some granola and yogurt, watch a few minutes of the Tour de France, and then set out on my bike to get a few miles in before heading out to the nursing home for the day. There I sit and read or doze, and watch re-runs of the Tour on television, since there isn't much else to do. Things are quietly winding down.

I've been staying with my sister, who lives in a neighborhood comprised mostly of hills. And thus it is that my rides are of a short but intense nature. I can feel a satisfying tightness in my quads that tells me I'm getting stronger. Having the Bike Challenge helps; it gives me something on which to focus. So though the ticker is moving in tiny increments these days, that it is moving at all is testament to the idea that life goes on.

It is already hot when I go out for my rides, though not unbearably so. Unbearable hits around noon and rises after that. Like it has been the whole summer, every day here is over 100 degrees, and it feels like the end of the world. But it isn't, of course. It's just one season among many.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Independence Day

I went for a ride and they threw a parade. The two things may not be related, but who's to say?

More importantly, it rained on me during the ride. Not a lot, but it was rain, you know?

I followed all this with a BLT made with a Cherokee Purple tomato, plucked from my own garden, eaten while watching a tape of this morning's stage of the Tour de France.

My life is an embarrasment of riches. Happy Independence Day, y'all.

Friday, July 1, 2011

On the other hand, I could be losing the war

I went outside this morning and this is what I saw posted on the shed:

Sure looks like a territorial claim to me...