Thursday, June 23, 2011

Lake Hefner

I've been meaning to take Pippi out for a ride.  Pippi is my bicycle, a white Schwinn with upright handles and a bell that goes "ding dong" when you hit it.  She's been in the garage for far too long.  So today was the day.  I had to find a new nut for a screw to hold one of her beautiful silver fenders in place and that involved a trip to Ace Hardware, a conversation with someone who did not work there, then someone who did, then me finding the replacement.  Good thing I remembered to take the screw with me.  It's metric. Pippi is metric, if you wondered.

I go to Lake Hefner a lot lately.  It's only a few miles from the house and the 9.5 miles is a great long walk, jog or easy bike ride.  You don't have to go the whole way around and when I take dogs, I don't.  Generally they go about a mile and a half on warm days, and they get to jump into the water and wallow in the red mud.  Makes my little suv look pretty and smell nice...

Anyway, today was a Pippi day.  I like this bike because it reminds me not to take things so seriously, to relax and have fun.  I'm pretty competitive, as we all are, and you just can't race on a Schwinn.  Pippi is more than a bike- she is a mindset of stopping to smell the roses and remembering to notice and smile at the little things.

There are four parts to Lake Hefner, in my estimation.  I park off of Britton Road, which is on the northeast side.  Then I head south.  This first part is the "Look at me" part of the trip.  There are always people at the restaurants on the side of the trail and those who wish to be seen exercising usually concentrate themselves in this area.  It's the guy running with his shirt off, stopping to do some push-ups by the outdoor seating area at Louie's, or the tall and willowy lady with make up, spandex and a sports bra jogging slowly past as though she were in a condom commercial.  There are the rest of us regular people, wearing baggy shorts and tee shirts, women with our ponytails at odd angles and bobby pins falling out and heavy-set men huffing past.  I don't think anyone can see us past the "look at me's" and that's probably a good thing. I generally sweat a lot when I'm at the lake and I don't want to be noticed.  I want to sweat.  I go past this area as quickly as possible and like to start out here first, in case I see anyone I know.    The landscape is very pretty here too- you can walk up to the fake lighthouse, watch the sunset and the windsurfers and para-gliders on a windy day.  The wind, if you're traveling south, is in your face and sometimes a challenge to keep going.

The next part is the lush and green part of the trail.  You'll find a lot more trees on the south side of the lake, with little inlets for fishing, boat ramps and the model airplane field.  In the evenings, you'll see the little skunk that lives there and during the day, when the sun is beating down, the trees offer some protection.  Once you get to the southwest corner, you'll see the Fire Station.  In the late afternoons and evenings, the firemen play basketball on the court outside of their building.  I like to time my run/walk/voyeurism/bike ride to coincide with this event as often as possible.  Who doesn't like firemen?

Part three is the golf course.  This may be the most annoying part of the voyage.  You have to run practically the whole length of the course to get around and you lose sight of the lake at the same time.  Usually you can see from one side to another, like the lake is a giant bathtub, but in this part, all you get is a view of people chasing a ball, only to hit it again.  It brings out the socialist in me, to be honest.  I pass the time by plotting what I could with all that land.  I'd build a huge homeless shelter where the residents live for free.  What isn't taken up with living space would be a garden and agricultural center, plus a small school... *Thunk*!  A golf ball hits smack down in front of me.  It misses me by less than a foot.  Some yutz has hit it clean off the course.  I give him and his ugly-pants wearing party the stink eye and try to continue on my way, but they want me to retrieve the ball for them.  Then they want me to join them for a drink.  I say unkind and hateful things, words that might kill a sensitive man.  Unrepeatable in polite society.  But these are golfers and it's a good bet that they are drunk anyway.  And they almost hit me.  I hear one whimper as I go by. Later, I feel guilty, but in the moment I am a sanctimonious asshole and they must pay for their capitalistic greed and gluttony.

The last part of my escapade is the north side.  The wind has returned.  On the east side of the lake the wind seems to blow north if you're going south.  On the west side, it seems to blow south if you're going north.  I have tried reversing my route, but it only makes the wind do the same.  If you go to Lake Hefner, you're going to be going against the wind no matter which direction you take.  This part of the lake is closest to the water and is about three miles of treelessness.  I refer to it as "gnat central".  No matter when you are there, keep your mouth closed- breathe through your nose- and wear sunglasses.  I don't care if it's 11 p.m.  It's the best way to keep the gnat clouds out of your mouth and eyes.  I once was riding and caught a gnat on an inhale.  Could feel him stuck in my lung, screaming for help, doing the backstroke and drowning in mucous.  It burned.  I felt bad for him.  That was in 2005 and I bet in a spelunking expedition you could find his corpse embedded in an alveoli or something.  The North side of the lake also has a different clientele than the other parts.  It's accessible easily by car and it's by the water so there are all sorts of fisherpeople out, sitting on the ripwrap, fishing for catfish or other thingies.  Others park and get high and Oklahoma City's finest make frequent drive-bys.  Last time I walked the lake I was picking up trash (all walks should involve this activity, btw) and declined to pick up the bent and burnt spoon.  Gnat Central is sort of a tough neighborhood.

Riding Pippi today was a new adventure.  I always had a mountain bike before, and tried for a certain time. I pushed myself.  Today I looked around a little more.  I was passed by a load of hammerheads.  A hammerhead is a cyclist whose bike costs more than my car.  They have those special shoes and spandex gear with a Camelbak.  The helmets are pointed in the back, making them look a little sharky.  And they do laps around me.  Sometimes I got the backwards glance from a hammerhead, like "what the hell are you doing here?", or maybe they were just jealous.  After all, I have the big butt seat on my bike and they have to wear padding on their trousers to make their seats comfortable.  My seat has all the padding I need.  Just for fun, I rang my bicycle bell at someone.  And I was passed by a hipster on a rickety-looking Huffy.  "Nice bike", she said.  "Thanks!"  I'm pretty sure I beamed.

No matter what I've been doing, the last thousand yards of my journey are the best.  I can see the car and my swollen hands and thirsty mouth don't matter anymore.  The salt from all that sweat drying on my neck has ceased to itch and the sunburn I inevitably suffer stops burning for a minute or two: I've made it. I'm not going to die from this.  I get to go home and drink all of the water in the world.  I pat Pippi on the handle bars.  Great job.  Let's do it again.

1 comment:

  1. What a great bike ride! I so love your description of the hammerheads, btw! :D