Friday, October 12, 2007

A ride in Autumn: no brakes and posing with things you stomp on

To say that my week got worse (and surreal) would be an understatement, particularly when you are sitting in a clinic for homeless and street-workers and your "last resort" GP doctor suddenly reveals that he has a “personal conflict” with people who take birth control. Okay....you are at an inner city clinic, you treat sex workers but you won’t give birth control or treat people who take it?

At times like this I like to focus on the good things, which was Monday’s ride through the autumn foliage. It was Canadian thanksgiving weekend and I was determined to have a) a bike ride b) sex and c) not at the same time. While rain came all Saturday and Sunday, Monday was overcast, but not liquid, which was close enough.

Linda was trying to find “nice rides” which meant short rides where I didn’t end up screaming later from pain. Bah! I told her I wanted a “real ride” and we choose The Goose, which is a bike trail that follows a green corridor through and behind the city. We had to bike through downtown first to get there (I did of course, later end up screaming in pain at night, but hey, that's what home care workers are paid for, right?).

Having a handcycle or wheelchair bicycle, particularly an upright one definitely makes you stand out, as you have to pump your arms like loony tunes to get going. And when you have to take your hand off the bike arms to shift, there is a lot of momentum lost. Do not fool yourself; legs are way more efficient than arms. If you don’t believe me, just trying walking around on your arms for an hour or so.

The good news was the sun came out, the leaves were turning the colors of death, I mean picturesquely turning orange, yellow and red. Linda says that my idea that this is a leaf’s cry for help, a desperate flashing of color to scream; “I’m dying! Save me!” is the product of an overactive imagination. The Goose crosses wooden bridges, goes along streams and generally makes you think that you are not in the city at all. Not to mention, the sides not in fall colors are filled with the end of summer blackberries. Linda picked some and we ate them.

In some of the overpasses a few people were tented out. Victoria recently was part of multi-city survey in which cities are rated 5 in areas for "awesome" and 1 for “do something!” Our city didn’t get a single 5 rating but the paper patted itself on the back for the things we scored well in; things which only demonstrate the ever increasing have/have not divide in the city. We spend more on concerts and volunteer a lot (at like...art gallery openings), the median household earning was 67K. I said to Linda, “I didn’t realize we were “poor” until that came out." Geez, when “average” is 67K......what kind of city is this? Anyway, there were six areas the city got a 1.5 (which is supposed to be a kick up the butt – only the paper didn’t really cover them as they had headlines like “We go to more concerts!”). Victoria as a city has the LEAST percentage visible ethnic minorities of cities in Canada. White to the core! I guessed that the one time we went to church last month and they met afterward in a tea room which had a wall long display of Golliwogs (caricature dolls which were originally taken from blackface in the 1930's). We also have the highest rate of child abuse; we have the highest rate of teens who don’t finish high school (over 30%!), we have a lack of affordable housing and wait lists for subsidized housing for people with income shortage and disabilities dating back to 2004. We also have over 10,000 women who could work, if there was affordable daycare…but there isn’t. And we have a huge (over 1,000 downtown) homeless population of which the only thing the city has done is recently pass a law making “loitering” a $115 fine. Ironically, someone giving me a ride in my wheelchair was charged because their car was parked over the time limit (essentially vehicle “loitering”) and paid: $20. So, if you are going to be homeless here, please bring a LOT of money, so you can pay the fines. Yes, Victoria, BC is a city of rich, mean, white, smug assholes. Sorry.

Yesterday, a Victorian who rents apartment was telling me about a friend of his who was very distraught about what is happening in what used to be Burma. This Victorian pointed out that life was pretty tough for the homeless right here. His friend said, “I don’t believe the homeless issue.” He and I both sort of repeated that line, “I don’t believe the homeless issue?” I assume you need to cover your eyes and do “la la la la la la” while saying it. So, yes, even on the green belt we saw people, mostly guys, with tents or bags. One of them offered to take our picture together by a row of trees planted by the river. We have hardly any pictures of us together because we are always taking pics of each other. So while the idea was welcome we admitted to each other later that our first thought was “Is this the last time I see our camera?” Instead he got a nice pic, wished us a happy day and we all went back to enjoying the sunshine.

I was pretty nauseous and Linda eventually convinced me that it might be good to try and save some energy for going back. Actually it was the fourth time she suggested it but the other times I was still strong enough to get a wild look around the eyes and mutter; “Never give up; never surrender!” So we had our hot chocolate and junior mints (it was a very 7th grade sort of picnic) and then came back, again, loving the downhills and the scrunching sound of all the fat dried brown leaves. It almost made me feel like jumping into puddles, if that were possible; that childhood autumn experience where suddenly everything makes noise....when you stomp on it.

I had almost made it to the wooden slat bridge when I looked around and Linda was GONE. So I waited and finally she rode up holding some fallen leaves. She thrust them toward me saying, “It’s Thanksgiving!” (Canadian Thanksgiving). I just stared at the leaves. “If you hold them,” she told me, “and we take a picture, people will know it is Thanksgiving.” I wasn’t exactly following the logic but since a) Linda loves taking pictures of stuff and b) I love Linda; I ended up posing by the water holding the ‘thanksgiving’ leaves in what I would consider an “artful” pose (would have been a lot more “artful” if she had let me pose nude like I wanted – that’s what says “thanksgiving” to me; dried leaves AND nudity).

I bounce along the wooden bridge, up the platform and down the other side when I realize something rather important. I don’t have brakes anymore. Eventually I find an uphill, inform Linda and we check out the bike. There is now a cable which connects to....nothing. We think this and the ‘no brakes’ are more than coincidence. Linda goes back to look for a bolt. I try to figure out possibilities. The bike still has an autolock when it rolls backward. Linda returns having found nothing. We forgot the cell phone at home. While Linda has been away I have been trying to figure out a route to get back home which involves going slightly uphill the entire way. This is because we have to go through the downtown to get back home.

We route a path that has minimal lights and is mostly slightly uphill. And we start back. It is pretty terrifying to realize that anyone who steps in front of me or a car who pulls out or ANYTHING and I will hit it, and probably break both ankles and a few other bones. Plus, due to the nature of the bike (three wheeler) if I try to make a sharp turn, it will do a flip which will plant my face right on the cement before skidding it along awhile.

Of course, long weekend, us having to go through the most populated streets (as they are slightly uphill) and with the tourists I am the central attraction of every street. Literally, hundreds of people staring at me. I have been using my all leather gloves on the off-road tires, using hand friction to slow the bike down (see pic), alternating my hands to keep the tire from burning my hand. A city tour-bus slows besides me so everyone can get a look. Inside I am screaming; “I HAVE NO BRAKES IDIOTS! Not a tourist attraction!” (although in this town…who knows). Linda was riding ahead and then waiting at each intersection to literally catch me if I couldn’t stop. Another tour bus decides to pace me sitting parallel to me in the car lane, I pump arms like mad to leave them behind, they speed up, I slow, they slow. I am sure there is a Monty Python skit in this somewhere.

We make it home. I say to Linda, “I know my motto is, ‘Nothing is Impossible’ but.....let’s not keep pushing that motto EVERY time." She agrees. Still, it was a great ride through the sun, trees, water, nature and of course, crazy tourist buses. So for those who have had it and those who are looking forward to it, Happy Thanksgiving.

17 comments:

Jeannette said...

Except for the loss of breaks, that sounds like a nice ride. Wish I'd done it :D

Question, though. Is the crossing of the feet the way it's supposed to be done, or did you do that just becaues you have really long legs and the cycle is kind of short?

Elizabeth McClung said...

Well, the cycle must be made for someone with REALLY short legs - I needed a cycle that was small enough to fit on the handydart, and in my bike room and the upright fit the bill. As I don't have nerve function in my feet and ankles, having them twisted all up in funky positions doesn't really bother me at all.

kathz said...

That's a lovely picture of you and Linda together - happy couple, beautiful scenery, etc.

Your account of the GP and comments of Victoria are worrying, however - and even more worrying is the refusal of residents to recognize the division between rich and poor. (It's getting sharper all the time in the U.K. too.)

The handcycle looks great, both in the traffic and on the trail - I expect I'd have been looking at you with the handcycle too because I love the way vehicles without engines weave in and out of dangerous traffic. (My cycling has been known to be a bit dangerous - when I was in London I used to cross three lanes of traffic at the Marble Arch roundabout, gambling on the theory that drivers would be shocked enough to stop and let me through - I'm still alive because it worked every time - but they have traffic lights now, which is harder because they're phased for cars. Car drivers used to shout things at me - encouragement, perhaps. I'm a little bit more cautious now, I think.)

Casdok said...

Lovely pictures. You must be so fit!!

Sara said...

What a nice day (except for the hair-raising finish, complete with gawkers)! You do look beautiful together, and I love the story of how that picture came to be.

I am very surprised to learn so much about Victoria, which I only remember for the botanical gardens, high tea at the Empress Hotel, and Rogers Chocolates. I think of Victoria and I think prettiness, not bigotry or coldheartedness. What a sad waste.

Wheelchair Dancer said...

A 7th grade picnic like that, bikes, environment et al .... ??

Wow. My dream picnic.

WCD

Daniel, the Guy in the Desert said...

I know you may hate me forever for saying this, but you look cute on that three wheeler. Please don't kill me by thought murder.

Zephyr said...

I go crazy from boredom whenever I go to Victoria. It is so hopelessly whitebread and upper middle class that this poor white trash gets the heebie jeebies. But hey, next time I'm there, we can get together and raise Gimp Hell on the town!

Marla Fauchier Baltes said...

Your bike looks awesome. I am so glad you were able to ride on what looked like a very beautiful day! I am glad you take the safe route and not try to accomplish two things at once like bike riding and sex at the same time! My doctor recently told me not to vaccuum the house and have sex on the same day. I thought that was too funny! But advice I am trying to follow.

Elizabeth McClung said...

Kathz: yes, I am sure it was encouragement they were shouting, just as when people honk at my bike it is to celebrate riding on such a nice day.

Casdok: errr....no, but I can pretend fitness quite well.

Sara: Like many cities (or people), there is a public and a private face. I think a lot of good people live here but I also think a lot of people move here and think becuase they live somewhere so nice where they can do privilaged things, it makes them better people.

WCD: Yeah, I just needed some pixie sticks and cupcakes!

Daniel: I can handle being cute I think, so no thought murder for you....today!

Zephyr: Yes, let's start people fearing the gimps in this town - take over the mall food courts and be loud!

Marla: I thought I had some odd doctors but the no vacuuming and no sex restriction sounds...unique - are there others like no making smoothies and sex on the same day?

kathz said...

Well all those people should have been cheering you. (Do you mean that the car-drivers who shout and wave at me as I cut across them aren't cheering me on?)

Note: The drivers are polluting the environment - bikes rule, OK!

Sara said...

Hmmm...now you have me thinking. I have lived a lot of places where there were some people who appeared to feel as you have described (superior by privilege) -- including where I live now -- and even was one of those myself (you know, as a spoiled teenager, before reality came along and set me straight), but I am trying to see if I can think of anywhere I've ever lived where a majority of people seemed to feel this way.

Hmmm. Hmmm.

You know, I think I was raised to feel this way as an American, like I was not only lucky but actually superior. I wonder how many non-white Americans this is true for as well.

Cooper said...

Thanx for the tour of the countryside. I have trouble understanding how people think...charging homeless people....jeez. To me that's like charging me at the bank when I bounce a check - I obviously don't have the money, idiots! Hit me up after payday sometime.

Kewl action shots of the two of you.

Ms. Pet said...

Re: bike ride - OMG but you look like your having fun even if you had some trials with it! LOL

Re: Victoria, Privlege/Non Privlege and Supremacism. I've noticed that Supremacism: the belief that some people are inherently superior and therefor "destined," or should have "authority," to rule over the rest of us is making a comeback. *grin* And I'm only defining it, because I think people many times today associate it singly with racism and don't understand that Supremacism is a thousand times more ugly then racism and take in class and ability and intertwines all three of them so to speak. So I define it, to get people thinking about it again, because lets face it, PWDs, the poor, etc. Non of us do well in historical periods where belief in the superiority of some people over others is viewed as "acceptable." People who believe they are superior don't help the sick, the disabled, the poor and the marginalized because they believe that it's our fault, there's something inherently inferior about us, that put us where we are after all.

re: Zephyr and I should plan for a visit! *grin* I'm heading back east soon, maybe even as soon as January, if my SO gets this job she's applying for. I'd love to meet you in person before I go!*grin* and that's a SHORT post for Ms. Pet! *pats self on back* LOL

shiva said...

That's utterly out of order of your doctor. Can you sue him or something?

BTW, i just blogged about sexuality again, and you're one of the people whose opinions i'd welcome on it...

Sober @ Sundown said...

Happy Thanksgiving!

Nic pics - I miss the change in seasons.....

Kara said...

Thanks so much for participating in the blog carnival-your article was a hit! There are so many beautiful pictures that it's no surprise:-) Glad I found your blog and I hope we stay "linked"!