Somewhere On The Other Side Of Cooper River
Charleston, South Carolina
May 21 `77
On my bicycle, in stop and go traffic, as the shimmering heat lines rise off the trunk of the car stopped in front of me. Exhaust fumes choke me as I turn and watch the sweat pour off the faces of the black city folk walking on the sidewalk. Ahead of me are minor concrete rises, and then the monstrous steel colossus. Steep, not just an incline–the highway rises straight into the sky. I’m picking up speed now, trying to make every inch of free ground count before the drudgery of the incline.
On hot pavement, I’m in 10th gear, 8th gear, slower, switching to low
range, pump, pump, and finally 2nd gear. Get a comfortable grip
because you aren’t going anywhere for a while. Zoom, Swwissh,
GrrrrroooooM, one after the other, the cars and trucks pass on my
left. Beads of sweat group and fall off my forehead. The sun bakes my already well-baked body. It’s getting congested now. Rra, Rra-u,
Rrauuuw, the trucks are inching past me, but I’m still going up and
I’m almost there.
Wa-la, from the top of the first incline, 3rd gear, 5th gear, still
going up, but it doesn’t seem like it. The bridge is large, high, and
I wish I had time to look around, but the traffic is frightening. Here
goes high range. 10th gear and I’m bent over the handlebars, picking
up speed. Move over fellows. I have just declared equal rights.
Faster, faster, hot air hitting my face, shirt billowing in the
wind–the now eye-squinting wind. Wobble, wobble, stay true front
wheel; this is your first test—Hell—this is your first test! Down,
leveling off, and a new incline to begin.
Pump, pump, pump, pump, 8th gear, pump, pump, low range, 3rd gear, pump, pump, and 2nd gear; it’s steady as she goes, with burning, sweaty eyes for company. It’s up and over for a second time. High range, 8th gear, 10th gear, and its not over till its over. No
excuses; I’m on my way down again. Make room for daddy! Coast, mighty red rocket, coast; I need some rest time. Up ahead, more metal giant, and more burning eyes–one last time.
Pump, pump, pump, 8th gear, pump, 3rd gear, pump, pump, pump; arrived and waiting for the downhill, move over cars, I’m about to be reborn again. 10th gear, pump, pump, and its all down and away from here on. Fast and getting faster, hot air, wobbling tire, and more glaring, hot pavement; if I had wings I could fly. Oh God, no traffic jams please! I will not brake.
Down, faster, faster—oh no—Highway 17 left lane. Nanoseconds, look over my shoulder and thank God there’s no traffic; merge, merge—all the way to the left lane. Honk yourself you asshole; at 50 mph I’m as much a car as you’ll ever see. Honk, honk; go fuck yourself. You can pass on the right, left, or stay where you are. I don’t give a damn! I’m coming through. Move now oh lightening fast ten-speed. Let the chips fall where they may.
Shoo—ah, on Highway 17, and I’m still alive! Okay pee-brains, the
road is yours again; you can have it, just give me my six inches, and
get out of the way. Swisssh, Zoooom, GrrrrrroooooM, I’m on the other side of the Cooper River and heading north.