Fatigue Limit – 10

South Bay orchard in the 1930s, colorized.

No matter what the road conditions, I felt safer on the safety than I did the highwheeler. The one occasion I borrowed a highwheeler, I walked down steep slopes. Carl feared nothing. He mastered the art of the header: tuck and roll.

The first steep section dipped into a gully, where Carl propped his feet up. I decided to give it a try on my safety. I reached top speed within seconds. No sooner had I gotten used to it then a hansom came my way from the opposite direction. We both headed downhill into the swale. The horse’s brisk pace took the driver wide on the curve and into my path. I issued a bloodcurdling scream. Bike swaying to and fro, I flew by the carriage. The driver looked back and screamed bloody murder. What he said I cannot say. It happened so fast. Close calls on the bike become a routine matter. Death, always lurking, reaches out and shakes cyclists at every opportunity to remind us we are mortals. We learn to live with the hazards or we quit riding.

Several minutes of level pedaling gave me a chance to gather my wits before another long, steep descent. From my vantage point, descending this hillside with few trees to block the view, I saw Santa Clara Valley. Such a view gave me no untold satisfaction, like a glass of iced tea on a hot summer day. A sea of white and pink flowers transformed fruit orchards into a painter’s canvas. No wonder they called this place the Valley of Heart’s Delight. Another range of hills to the east hemmed in the valley. Mount Hamilton at four thousand feet altitude hosted the new observatory, its white dome sitting mushroom-like on the summit. Located behind a series of hills, this mountain settled into the eastern horizon.

Fatigue Limit home

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