She was dancing on her pedals, headed for the top of the hill. Divine Fury. Chapter 19

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Chapter 19

LORRAINE CARR STOOD on the tips of her toes and used all of her strength to lift the bike off the Yakima rack and for the fifth time that day – it was only 7:00 in the morning – cursed the fact that she was only five-two-and-a-half.  Why couldn’t the genetics gods have granted her another two or three inches?

Carr was in the upscale Rockridge neighborhood in Oakland across the Bay Bridge from San Francisco.  She was having brunch with Cassandra, the food editor at the News, who lived there.  Carr had driven over early to get a morning ride somewhere different than her normal routes in the City.  Afterward, she would shower at Cassandra’s and they would dine at one of the great restaurants on College Avenue.

Carr had taken up biking and invested $3,000 in a titanium Motobecane road bike in part because she enjoyed being outdoors.  Just cruising through the countryside on a two or three-hour ride was as invigorating for her as the exercise itself.  Then, there was the fact that it was a sport where every extra pound of weight mattered.  At barely 115 lbs. on a bike that weighed less than 18 lbs., she knew almost everyone she encountered on the road was hauling more than she was.

Of course she couldn’t out climb everyone but she outpaced almost all the women she met on the road and could hold her own with the men enough to feel pretty accomplished on two wheels.

Carr warmed up slowly in the residential neighborhood for a few minutes until she reached Broadway.  It was still chilly so she was happy to have on the green florescent jacket.  The first hour of her route was almost all uphill so Carr knew in another 15 minutes she would be plenty warm.

Broadway – nearly void of traffic at the early hour – was steeper but she still was able to stay in the medium gears and work up a little speed.

At the top of Broadway, she took the frontage road that runs next to Highway 24 and encountered for the first time some serious grades that forced her into the low gears.  She settled into a comfortable rhythm.  She favored a slower tempo than a lot of riders, opting for a harder push.  On the steepest parts, she came out of the saddle for ten or twelve beats and then settled back.  She did it again.  She enjoyed switching back and forth, using all the muscles.  Dancing on the pedals.  Then sitting.  Dance. Then sit.

When she reached Tunnel Road, Carr steeled herself for the twenty-minute climb to Grizzly Peak Road and into Tilden Park.  This would be the toughest part of her ride.  She was breathing hard now and grinding steadily.  She was quickly far above the highway.

She spotted the first rider in front of her from several curves away.  He was wearing yellow.  Carr slowly but inexorably reeled him in.  Each time she caught a glimpse around a turn, he was a little closer.  Finally, she was only 30 yards back and could use him as the goal, as if there were an invisible line between them and she was pulling herself along it closer and closer with each turn of the pedals.

She was on the guy’s wheel now, waiting for a safe place to pass.  When they came to a long, straight uphill stretch, she pushed her tempo a little faster and quickly pulled even.  As usual when she passed anyone, she flashed a smile and said, “Hi.”

Some riders ignored her.  Others scowled.  Most smiled back.  Occasionally, one would try something hopeful like, “Hey.  Meet me at the top?”  Of course, a few male riders would feel pressed to assert their manhood and pick up the pace – a dangerous and usually futile move since the reason she’d caught up was that she was comfortable climbing faster.

The rider in yellow was in some pain.  He just grimaced, wagged his head and went back into a private trance, mouth wide opened and eyes staring downward at the road.  Carr gave him some silent encouragement as she got up on her toes and danced ahead of him.

“C’mon, honey,” she thought.  “You can do it.”

Chapters of the serial are published Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday.

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