Vince on the Bike

Declaring Saturday an exciting night might be an understatement. Comedy, drama, adventure…the night had it all. It began with a wine party hosted by a couple of friends in downtown Cleveland that was, in short, a blast. The affair was held atop an apartment building on what turned out to be a beautiful, albeit blustery, night.

At some point that evening, I began to consider the notion of walking to my suburban home in Mentor after the party. The 25-mile trek from Cleveland to Mentor is a challenge I have often thought about and, for some reason ([cough]…wine…[cough], [cough]), an early Sunday morning departure from downtown seemed appropriate. So early Sunday, after lights-out and once our commandant had gone to bed, I gained my freedom by stealing away quietly into the night and pointed my feet eastward for the nocturnal sojourn.

The trip was uneventful at first; there really is not much activity at that time on a Sunday and I had little desire to get involved in anything that was going on in those wee hours. Making my way through Cleveland, I kept my presence in the shadows as unobtrusive as possible. As I plodded on, I passed such illustrious intersections as E. 55th and E 72nd. It must have been as I approached E. 105th or so that I came upon Vince on the Bike. Riding his mountain bike on the sidewalk on the other side of the street, he saw me and proceeded to make his way over. He was a young black man, probably in his 20’s. As such, he seemed more than a little curious as to why this white “kid” was walking toward East Cleveland at 4 or 5 in the morning.

“Howdy,” I said as he rolled up toward me.

“What’s up, man? Where you headed?” he asked.

“Mentor,” I opined.

At this point he was riding next to me on his bike and he looked at me with disbelief in his eyes. “You’re kidding, man. On foot?”

“That’s the plan.” I believe some comment may have then been made as to my mental capacity and questions as to why I don’t just take a bus. No one seems to understand the idea of walking just to walk, despite the availability of alternative transportation. In my mind, it’s the thought of doing something to see if I CAN, not because it is efficient or makes sense.

After a brief exchange he asked, “What’s your name, anyway?”

“Jeff.”

“Jeff, eh? My name’s Vince.”

And so began a relationship that lasted all of an hour or so. Vince was kind enough to ride along next to me, granting me safe passage through the rest of Cleveland and East Cleveland. It was nice to have some companionship; urban streets are a lonely place at that time of the morning, after all. We spoke of all sorts of things, from sports to what we each enjoy doing in our spare time. He was a single guy, much like myself, and despite our differing backgrounds I came to find we had quite a bit in common. My candor toward him was met with a certain respect, I think, and vise-versa. As we neared the eastern limits of East Cleveland we parted ways, him bidding me a sincere “good luck” as he rode off.

By this time there were signs of activity on the street. Birds were singing unseen in the overhanging trees as they prepared for the sun’s arrival. The darkness of the eastern sky began to recede as dawn approached. I was also aware of a growing sensation that I knew would bring a premature end to my trip. The bottom of my heels burned, a sure sign of impending blisters. I had not taken into account the fact that I was wearing semi-casual dress shoes that were anything but ideal for walking. Nearing the East 200’s, still miles from my destination, I realized that I was not going to make it. It was about 7:30 in the morning and now daylight. I put a call in to home for a ride and around 8:00 my chariot arrived, meeting me in Euclid at East 222nd. I was asleep just about as soon as I hit the passenger seat.

A 12-mile hike, hardly half of what I had set out to do. A failure in some aspects, fulfilling in others. I have come to the inescapable conclusion that I have grown soft(er) in the last few years. During my tenure at OU, I spent so much time running around barefoot at such haunts as Boyd Beach and Stroud’s Run that my feet were hardened. Now, having assumed this domesticated, sedentary life of the “real world,” it seems that is no longer the case. Just another reminder that it’s all downhill from here, I suppose.

Ah, well. I guess there’s always next time. And who knows….perhaps I will once again run into Vince on the Bike as he patrols his neighborhood stomping grounds. But for now, I’m not looking forward to walking on the balls of my feet for the next few days. And I thought people gave me weird looks BEFORE.

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