This morning’s commute was colder than it has been for some time, but the riding was pleasant and it felt good to be out in the fresh air with the sun shining.
Tonight’s commute was another story.
There’s one intersection that gives me the heebie-jeebies, only because I once had a very close call there and I’m forever terrified that next time I might not be so lucky. Every now and then when I go through this intersection (in which I have to make a right turn) I get a little ‘freaked’ but I normally work through the fear and carry on as usual. Tonight, for some weird reason, I couldn’t get past the oh-my-I-might-get-killed-here-if-I’m-not-careful thoughts that clattered through my brain and so, instead of turning right, I kept cycling STRAIGHT ON.
Oh well. No big drama. I figured I could backtrack and return to my normal route fairly quickly. But I forgot that this is London: the streets aren’t on a grid system, which normally means it doesn’t take much to get lost.
And so this is how I found myself cycling through the pleasant backstreets of South Kensington, admiring the terrace-lined streets and the leafy garden squares. I meandered along some familiar residential roads for a mile or so, enjoying the respite from my normal traffic-clogged route along Kensington High Street and Hammersmith Road.
But I was very much aware of the pesky little voice in my head which kept repeating over and over, MAKE SURE YOU DON’T FIND YOURSELF STUCK ON THE A4.
You guessed it…
The A4 is arguably one of the busiest routes into and out of central London. It’s filled with cars and lorries and black cabs and everyone’s in a mighty RUSH to get to Heathrow or wherever it is people go when they want to leave London. It is not a cordial place for a genteel ride home on a bicycle.
Tonight, with no exit ramp or side street to make my escape in sight, I was forced to pedal like a mad thing — head down, heart hammering, lungs almost collapsing from the stress (and traffic fumes), my legs going round and round like a hamster on crack, my brain silently screaming YOU ARE F**KING MAD, WHAT ARE YOU DOING ON THIS F**KING ROAD, GET OFF, GET OFF, GET OFF!! — until, at last, I got to a major intersection at West Kensington and managed to cycle the rest of the route home on quiet, virtually car-less streets.
Now, safely ensconced at home, I can’t help but laugh… You see, had this happened to me 12 months ago, just the mere stress of making a wrong turn off my main route would have had me in a total flap. How I would have handled cycling about 1.5 miles along the A4 doesn’t even bear thinking about. I’m sure it would possibly have involved vomiting from the sheer terror of it all. A year on and these little ‘incidents’ don’t really faze me. Sure, they’re a tad hairy at the time. But you don’t ride your bike for the sheer tranquility of it all; you ride for the adrenalin buzz, the excitement and the inner-richness of knowing that you are truly alive!
But the best part is knowing that no two rides, no two commutes, are ever the same.