We had just come from the Rainbow Coop which is always my first stop when I go up there. Betsy took the BART over from the East Bay with her bike and met me there. We putzed around the aisles of the store. I bought vegan apple pie and a new cookbook called Vegan Soul Kitchen by Bryant Terry. Terry is originally from TN, but now lives in Oakland. He calls himself an eco chef and a food justice activist, which wildly inspires me. He also has written a recipe for Jamaican Patties with Sweet Coconut-Ginger Creamed Corn, so forget it, I love him. So, Betsy and I wove through Rainbow laughing loudly, muted only when we peeped out some new thing on the shelves -- oh and once we fell silent when an anorexic woman passed us sporting a full chin beard. Tattoos covered her bone-arms. I think it was a woman. But definitely anorexic. With a chin beard for sure. "I love this town," I said. Our cashier was a tall man with pig tails, wearing an ornate black-beaded choker and a green-khaki skirt. I hardly noticed until I was paying. Then I was set on picking up something in his voice, in his mannerisms to give me more of his personality. I listened to him talk as I slid my ATM card through. He gave me nothing but warm welcomes and casual conversation. He was just a regular dude dressed not so regular.
Oh look, here we are again on the Embarcadero.I feel like a bike model! Get outta here. I love myself. After Rainbow, we went to eat at Cafe Gratitude. The day was sparkling through windows so we sat in the bay seat to watch everyone coming in. A woman in a flowing skirt and purple velvet hat sat at the bar of the restaurant next to a hand-written sign that read "Free Tarot Readings." No one had joined her and it didn't really cross our minds either. The waiter came to take our order. At Gratitude, all the food and drink are listed as affirmations. The shake I ordered was named the I Am Grace, and the waiter will say, "Yes, you are grace," and on. The waiter rattled off the specials: "Cream" of mushroom soup and the entree was an enchilada stuffed with nuts, carrots and cranberries. Betsy closed her menu and said, "Oh yea, that's for me." I said, "Yup, I Am the Specials," which the waiter didn't get so we awkwardly had to tell him to hook us up with the soup and the enchiladas, dang. He said, "Here's the question of the day: What inspires you about Nature?" I blushed at such a personal question thrown at us so unexpectedly. Defensively, I only thought of smart-ass things, but I kept my mouth shut. Betsy said, "Blues and greens," which was a good answer. I declined partly because Blues & Greens shouldn't be topped, but mainly I thought, "I am Nature. I am Nature." The menu had gone to my head.
Later that night, we went over to Hotel Utah to catch Bhi Bhiman, who is a fantastic singer from Oakland. I consider him a lyrical activist too, but I'm surprised nothing of the sort is mentioned on his website. His lyrics are heavy on comedy, but poignant too. His voice though, that's the thing; his voice is divine and quirky and special though he looks like any dude on the street who wouldn't catch your eye. I stared at him most of show, set on getting something from his mannerisms to get more of his personality, but I only felt it when I closed my eyes and listened.
What I learned about myself the next morning as we climbed Mt. Diablo on our bikes is that I have a lot to learn still about cycling. We all know this about ourselves, about many things, don't we? But we kind of really don't know this about ourselves, do we - that we usually don't know much. The good news is that I was fit enough to make it up the hill in ok form and I was nowhere near discouraged. But I was just unfit enough to realize I have only chipped the tip of this sport. I feel inspired to forge on. I have a feeling I have no idea what I'm getting myself into, but on we go!
Here we are 54 minutes up the hill at the Ranger Station, Betsy, me and Betsy's husband Jim. The thing about learning something about yourself in one day is that you'll probably forget all of that the next day. On Sunday morning, Betsy and I went on a 17 mile ride from Layfayette to Oakland to the top of Skyline and back. The views were spectacular. Most of the ride was on a two-lane road sandwiched by messy and fragrant pines and clear creeks.But the last 12 minutes to Skyline was hill. A hill steeper than Mt. Diablo for sure, and while I felt fast and good and confident and inspired after Saturday's ride and for a lot of Sunday's ride, that last bit of hill made me think I had even more work to do than yesterday's epiphany. Gasping the last 200 yards to the summit, determined not to stop, I didn't appreciate that Sunday's realization had to trump Saturday's. Betsy waited for me at the top, said I did just fine and then she flew back down the hill, clocking in at over 30mph while I cautiously made may way down squeezing the brakes so hard I was afraid to set the tires on fire. But once down the gnarliest part of the hill, I locked into a type of fast coast that made me feel deeply for my bike. I blazed through pine-tree shadows, skimming needles and dirt. I fast-nodded my good mornings to the cyclists making their way up. The sun flickered like an old film reel and the smell of buttery tree sap laced the rushing gust I cut through easily. My fragility on a seventeen-pound wisp of a vehicle disappeared, and Whitey and I were gonna be all right.
Nearing the end of the ride, we cruised leisurely on the path towards Betsy's house. Some parts of the path were too beautiful not to dismount and admire and photograph. We balanced the camera on a post and hit the timer. .” I wanted to stuff the huge feelings I had during the ride into a hefty bag and lug it over to Café Gratitude. I would dump it on the table and the floor – some would spill into the kitchen -- and I’d shake out the last bits of it by gripping the tips of the bag. I’d tell the waiter, “Is this what you mean? Is this the easy answer you were looking for? Here it is."
Thanks Betsy for such a great weekend.