Thursday, November 17, 2011


It is with great apprehension that I begin this article – let alone consider it for publication in a huge (or whatever) cycling periodical. As most of my loyal readers are aware, I am seen at various cycling events around town, zipping along on my faithful Schwinn Cruiser Six – Sixty pounds of black beauty, chrome fenders, black and silver streamer mimicking the jet stream of my journeys…
I digress. Late on a Tuesday night last May, and being as eager as always to savor new cycling experiences, I climbed the fence at the Alkek Velodrome in west Houston and hoisted my cruiser over behind me.  I would have visited during regular hours when the track was open, but I was a little shy and nervous at this being my first attempt at track riding. I started slowly around the track on the level surface of the inner line. As I grew daring, I began to edge up onto the steep embankments of the track. I increased my speed. I went a little higher up on the sloped ends of the track. I started to get the feel of the place – feeling the spirit of a track racer entering my being. Yeah – I think I could really get into this!
I was just about to let my body slip completely into this cycling fantasy world when I was abruptly snapped into reality by a harsh, scraping sound. My Cruiser Six, not really appropriate for track racing, has a bottom bracket just a bit too low for the steep slopes of a velodrome surface. My pedal began gouging into the concrete – sparks flying with each revolution of the chainring as my bike encountered the steepest portions of the track. I continued to circle with my pedal scraping – transmitting an erratic Morris Code-type of noise and sparks into the blackness of the night. With no neighboring houses too close by, I really didn’t think that the sound would be creating too much of a nuisance to anyone but myself.
All at once, the sky lit up with a thousand lights – way more than the adequate lights that normally light this track at night. I tried to stop bike but no matter how hard I applied the brakes my bicycle continued to whirl me around the track. I was obviously out of control. Then the lights started descending further, closer and closer to the surface of the velodrome. I could see multicolored lights, spiraling lights, laser-type lights, flashing lights… Then I felt the heat of a gigantic spotlight searing its intensity right through to my soul. I felt my bicycle kick into another gear and increase its speed. The track was a blur beneath me. The spotlight was tracking my every move. As the speedometer on my bicycle was reading 120, I thought to myself, “Is this some kind of dream? A nightmare?” Then I felt my tires lift from the surface of the track. Rising above the track, I continued circling; I continued to pedal; I continued to feel the heat of the light; I started to wonder if Bill really wrote all those love letters to Monica. (Obviously, nothing was making much sense at that moment!)
Several hundred feet above the Alkek Velodrome, my bicycle was spinning me in a circle with a diameter of approximately six feet. Focusing on my speedometer, it appeared to be showing the number 375. I wasn’t sure if that was my speed or my cadence. I really could have cared less at that point in time. Finally my bike started slowing down and then came to a stop. I looked toward the light and saw a form. A human form. A human form with a huge head (or maybe it was a helmet). I passed out.
When I awoke, I was strapped to a table. My head was positioned in a remote-controlled device that forced me to look at a wall of videos across the room. In one of the screens I saw my bicycle. It was being dissected by a team of aliens. Another monitor showed aliens beaming into garages all over the United States and letting the air out of bicycle tires at night. Another showed aliens stealing shoes, ripping the soles off of them and actually dropping them into the batter at major energy bar factories. On one monitor I could see aliens carrying out morbid experiments with cyclists and animals - things like swapping the heads of dogs with those of the cyclists. Yet another monitor showed endless back-to-back episodes of All My Children. The bizarreness of the whole ordeal just went on and on.
There it was – right before my very eyes – all of life’s mysteries being explained to me one by one. Bicycles cables don’t stretch by themselves like we were all told they did. Yes, you really did remember to pack your cycling shoes. And there, right in front of me on one of the monitors – just as I had always expected… You know how sometimes you could swear that your pedaling has slowed – like maybe your brake shoes were rubbing or your tires were going flat or something, but when you check it out, they’re not? Well, there it was, an alien, invisible to human eyes, riding along and pressing the brake shoes together and then letting loose just before the rider glances down. That’s just not funny!
And there I was – in their master control room – hovering somewhere over the Alkek Velodrome. But why me? Why was I allowed to see all of this? Learn all of their secrets? Witness all of those things and still be apparently unharmed? As I pondered these things, I felt a presence enter the room. I tried to turn my eyes to see who or what had joined me, but the restraints held my head firmly. I listened. My senses tingled with anticipation. Then – the flash of light.
When I regained consciousness, I was back on my Cruiser Six – still circling the track, albeit it a little slower. I looked toward the sky – nothing but stars. The night was still, calm, peaceful. My bike continued to circle but was slowing to a stop. My instincts told me to keep pedaling but my senses weren’t relaying to my brain that my feet were even on the pedals. I glanced down. I screamed. I screamed again. There, dangling down on either side of the big, wide, cushy saddle of my cruiser – two little tiny, furry legs (looking like they once might have belonged to that fox terrier that chases me from time to time in my neighborhood) with paws hanging about twelve inches above the pedals. My very next thought: “Dang! Where is that fox terrier? I bet it can probably catch me now!”
Enjoy the Ride?

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