February 6, 2013

Strangely familiar roads

Much remains the same, but things have changed.

I will be driving along, headed on a random errand, and I will turn a familiar corner and not recognize it. What was a low group of stores with one of the last remaining bagel shops, is now a three story mix of retail and condominium  A large garage has replaced the park and ride lot, hopefully implying more people are hopping on the bus these days. 

There are places with more meaningful connection that I haven't made time to visit yet, but I still stumble upon memories small and large just the same. I went out for another bike ride this past Sunday. We started along the Burke-Gilman path, a place I have biked and run a hundred times, but since we are training for the Chilly Hilly, we veered off and headed to the hills. We tackled Norway hill first, one of the eight hills on the S.O.B. ride from 2007. I am still several rides from good form, but my legs haven't entirely lost their muscle memory. 

Joe was in charge of the route, so after enjoying zipping down the other side of Norway, I wasn't sure where we were headed. We rode south toward Kirkland past a Juanita neighborhood more built-up than I remembered. We resisted the pull of the new coffee shop and made the right turn toward the next hill. 

I can't remember the last time I had been up this road, but I wasn't more than a few hundred feet before some random memories pushed forward. There was a parking lot where my car wouldn't start some 20 years ago. There was an apartment that I could completely visualize the interior, without remembering why I knew the place. A mile farther up the hill was a turn off to where a friend used to live, a place that seemed so remote when I visited it a single time 25 years ago. 

The hill was longer than I remembered. Of course that's no surprise with how random and suspect my memory seems to be. We rode past a wooded area with trees that looked like they hadn't seen full sunlight in those two decades. There wasn't much traffic out on Super Bowl Sunday, and the three of us climbed alone at our own pace, adding to the feeling I was farther away from civilization than I really was. 

As Hemingway said, “It is by riding a bicycle that you learn the contours of a country best, since you have to sweat up the hills and coast down them.” The physical effort tends to bring you into focus, and into the moment. The slower speed, and not being wrapped in steel and glass, also puts you into closer contact with your surroundings. And of course without the radio playing, you are left alone with your thoughts. 

And the random memories oddly tethered to the different, but strangely familiar landscape.

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