The night before a mid-June morning, I set the alarm for 4:45. No matter—I was wide-eyed at four, triggered by panic that I’d missed an imaginary highway exit ramp in some Sonata-induced dream.
The bedroom window was open to murmured city sounds. At that hour, a whisper of daylight pushed against the heavy grain of night, setting off a songbird chorus. It was a good sign; maybe it wouldn’t be another rainy, dreary day in what has become the worst of the worst springs.
I lay for twenty minutes, mustering resolve and energy. You need to ride, I told myself. Finally, I pulled from the bed and went to the window. The gray city street two stories below was dry, a good sign. The black ink night sky was cloudless, even better.
At ten to five, I was on The White Knight, a beautiful eighteen speed wonder that I bought last summer at a bike shop where the manager never seems to mind that I’m trans. I had insisted on a “real woman’s bike” as a new-life, second chance substitute to a man-Raleigh, which had been a gift from my ex-wife in 1982.
In case you don’t want to do the math, 1982 was more than a quarter century—and for me a gender—ago.
I pushed off at the condo entrance with a brilliant pulsating front light and funky red flasher on The WK’s back frame. A minute later, I was on the Stone Arch Bridge, headed west.
Menthol cool air condensed on my side view mirror. In no time, my body felt heat sparks, which spawned sweat droplets in the small of my back. Still, I pedaled on and on, along the trail behind Target Stadium and then beyond to woods and wildflowers.
The stage was set—dewy plants, creeping sunlight flickers, and the fragrance of lilacs (late bloomers with the late spring) emptying onto the blacktop trail.
In a word, it was glorious. Even more, it was so unexpected.
I’ve been surprised before, like last summer when The White Knight and I came upon a woman riding—no, make that plodding along on—a Nice Ride bike. Being a relatively courteous rider, I shouted out, “Coming on your left, Nice Ride.” When I got next to the woman, she laughed. I thought it a bit odd, but kept going.
Five minutes later, I stopped to listen to a band that was playing behind the Sheraton on the Greenway. As I sat on a ledge rocking out to a Van Morrison cover, a bike-helmeted woman came up to me. She asked, “Are you Ellie Krug?”
I had never seen this woman before and consequently was a bit hesitant to answer. Still, I nodded and asked, “Do I know you?”
The woman shook her head. “No,” she responded. “I follow your columns,” she explained. “I’ve wanted to meet you for some time.”
She identified herself as the person on the Nice Ride whom I had passed a half mile back. Because of my columns, she knew that I presented with a deep voice. She also knew that I look feminine with blonde hair. Thus, when she heard a man’s voice (oh, how I hate to write that!) announce “Coming on your left,” only to then see a woman ride past, she concluded that she’d stumbled upon Ellie Krug.
At that point, we bought a couple beers and talked. It was one of my few celebrity moments, so I soaked it up.
Call me a narcissist.
Back now on this June morning, I made my way to the tranquility of Lake Calhoun, the only rider in sight. Daylight was taking hold and I paused to flick off front and back lights. The ride resumed, I pedaled to the far end of the lake and slowed for a good look at the glass and steel of downtown Minneapolis. On the horizon behind the cityscape, I saw the first glimpse of Mr. Sun—more brilliance!
I left the lake and headed home. Three miles later, I rounded a curve and found sun-soaked sparkly haze, the kind that lasts for only a few minutes. I paused just long enough to know that I’ll remember those sparkles forever—like death-bed forever.
Soon I was back at the condo.
It was just a ride.
And so much more.
Ellie Krug is the author of Getting to Ellen: A Memoir about Love, Honesty and Gender Change. She welcomes your comments at [email protected]