Back in November, I did an unusual bike commute with a guy named Joe Simonetti: I traveled from Northern Westchester County, to Joe’s office in midtown Manhattan (I then continued home to Brooklyn), via a carefully chosen, if not always evident, path that wound through bucolic gated communities in Greenwich, Ct., underneath the concrete underpasses of the city’s edges, to the delivery-truck laden warrens of the Bronx. I was admittedly intrigued by the unusual nature of the commute itself (for me, it was around 65 miles, one way) — in articulating a kind of “secret” way to get into the city it evoked, for me, John Cheever’s short story The Swimmer, whose narrator undertakes a quixotic journey to swim across his suburban county:
His life was not confining and the delight he took in this observation could not be explained by its suggestion of escape. He seemed to see, with a cartographer’s eye, that string of swimming pools, that quasi-subterranean stream that curved across the county. He had made a discovery, a contribution to modern geography; he would name the stream Lucinda after his wife. He was not a practical joker nor was he a fool but he was determinedly original and had a vague and modest idea of himself as a legendary figure. The day was beautiful and it seemed to him that a long swim might enlarge and celebrate its beauty.
But I also wanted the journey to serve as a kind of Ur-text for exploring the state of riding a bike in America today, to examine the mechanisms of the oft-cited “culture war” between drivers and cyclists. In any case, the story, headlined ‘Rage Against Your Machine,’ is out today, in the new issue of Outside magazine. As far as I know it’s not online yet (I imagine it will be eventually), but I would, of course, urge you to buy this or any other issue of Outside in print. In the meantime, a few handlebar shots of the sometimes beautiful, sometimes foreboding landscapes we traversed.