Saturday, January 28, 2012

Winter in Wichita and the Joy of Bicycles

(an old stone church in College Hill - Wichita, KS - Presbyterian..)

Winter Prologue

I am a Texan by birth and have rarely lived in other places more than a month, especially in colder climes (except for a month in the Bronx, NY and East TN last year respectively). However, now my home is Wichita, Kansas where common winter temps range from the teens Fahrenheit to 40s. This sounds pretty chilly if you are coming from the South/Southwest and it actually feels quite chilly on my early morning bike rides to work, but a nice aspect of Kansas is our frequent clear skies and noonday sun. The warm rays often overpower any chill the winter season has to offer, at least during mid day. But watch out for cutting windy breaths from the north. It has really been a mild and dry winter season and I do have hopes for change. Everyone report of snow from last season has left me with unfilled expectations. Only an occasional bicycle ride through flurries and white dusted streets has been enjoyed so far, but they are among my sweetest experiences! Let me explain seeming absurdity: Residency in Wichita keeps one at least 5-9 hours from mountains and too busy for weekend get-a-ways. Therefore my outdoor adventures are in the form of bicycle commutes which simultaneously work the body and expose it to the natural elements, whether they be face numbing chill or soul glowing sun. And winter cycling is actually reasonable, just winter-guard yourself with wind/wet-proof proof gloves, hat, leggings, jacket and utilize driver safety devices with reflective vest/pants, tail and front light and winter riding can be quite comfortable.

(Old Town)

Cycle Climax
My ride to St. Francis for Pediatrics this January month has been approx 20ish minutes and my ride to St. Joe for other rotations is about 10 minutes (about 2x the amount of driving time). The longer route is my favorite: it begins in my “Hilltop” neighborhood of lower socioeconomic homes, then moves above highway 440 into one of my favorite Wichita neighborhoods, College Hill, full of Victorian and brick-artsy homes, an old stone church and a 1-way road/bike lane lined with some of the biggest trees in the city flowing up and down gentle hills. The route then flies under I-135 and past a commercial/industrial portion east of downtown. As the route crosses Washington st the pavement morphs to brick inlaid street and enter “Old Town” where old-time red brick buildings have been converted into mostly entertainment venues/pubs/etc. Next cross under an elevated railroad and past an upscale loft neighboring a rehab dorm for the homeless, then a quick side glance by some low income apartments next to one of our clinics and the route ends at St. Francis hospital. Pretty cool eh!?! Literally, just long enough to numb my hands during winter (even with gloves), but oh so satisfying.

Cycle Anticlimax

Retracing the bike route brings to mind one of the less fun experiences of this year and city. During the first week of Obstetrics in December, and night float at that!, I was happily adventuring to work daily, then tragedy befell my dear bike whilst I was in my own home. As I slapped helmet on head and hopped out the side door I noticed that Topanga was not in her normal resting position in the carport. Me thought, “Hmm, I had locked only the front tire to frame, perhaps someone had attempted to ride off with her and then given up, laying the bike down in the front yard”, but no. As I walked about in aimless circles, searching for my favorite two wheels on earth, a neighbor lady across the way yelled out that she had spied a young hooligan wheel the bike down the road on rear wheel. Oh, the despair that filled my heart! It was a black night at work that shift. Topanga and I had been together since sophomore year in college. My friend Jordan had sold it to me for $5, felt bad about it and later gave me $5 back. I had lovingly maintained her in good working order, even upgrading a few parts: smooth puncture resistant street tires, a torn seat from an REI dent and scratch sale, a new front rim. She was closer to me than any woman had ever been. For a short time I changed my jog pattern to criss-cross the neighborhoods nearby, hoping that kid had left it for some bike he could actually fit on. I made a theft report, hoping the cops would not ask for a Kansas driver’s license. All dead-ended. I was angry at myself for not bringing the bike inside every day. 6 months of parking in the carport had seen no trouble, but it only took the first event for my world to come crashing down. Thoughts passed through mind; “maybe inner-city living is not for me, not when they take my dearest Topanga”. But God traded my despair and anger with the sobering realization that our world, including the Hilltop neighborhood, is filled with broken people who have far less opportunity than I (a well educated physician with a loving social support) and who are not blessed with faith and a conscience that gives them hope in life enough to not steal other people’s belongings. I was left bicycle-less but with a bigger heart for people. I still have not replaced Topanga, but will be searching Craigslist for a junker to clean up soon. Until then a fellow resident is lending me his fixed-gear bike; it is parked inside every night J.

(my friend's fixed gear bike, which I am borrowing)

(my amazing red team nurses! we work as a team in the clinic)

(All Hallow's Eve - my attending is dressing the part )

( awesome Toyota Previa in the background - any man's sports car dream)

(I am getting ready to assist in the operating room on my surgery rotation. This surgery was probably for salvaging an infected wound)

(In this picture I am assisting Evan in the delicate art of dumpster diving. I believe we salvaged a few nice pieces of timber on this occasion)

Well, this Saturday morning after PEDS night call is almost complete and it is time for something else. Thanks for keeping up.

With Love from cold hands but a warm heart,