Dances with lizards

Finding myself with a few hours to spare before work, I decided to set out on a little bike ride. The feverish heat of summer was finally giving way to fall and the air was pleasantly cool. My destination was the Eastern leg of the Cady Way Trail and it required a short ride past a shabby strip mall/art college.

While many of the businesses had shuttered their doors (and were subsequently absorbed into the art school), the student population managed to sustain several fast food joints, a few casual dining restaurants, and, predictably, a comic book store, and head shop. As I rode my bike past the strip of restaurants, I was treated to an olfactory merry-go-round. ‘Fried’, car exhaust, canal funk, artificial hamburger flavor, and ‘fried’ again. The occasional breeze only served to break up the sensory onslaught. Just when my nasal palate was cleansed, I was hit with the odor of reconstituted taco meat.

Past the strip mall, there were several car dealerships that stood between me and the start of the trail. The multitude of new cars and their thousand windows cruelly reflected the sun’s rays into my retinas and I was forced to squint, navigating solely by intuition. The ubiquitous new-car smell seeped from the interiors of the endless sedans, sports cars, and SUVs, and I reminded myself that it was likely the result of plasticizers and other noxious, cancer-causing chemicals. This made me feel better about my own car’s smell, a bold combination of locker room and Lysol spray.

As it was my first time exploring this particular section of Cady Way, I only had a vague idea of what to expect. My wife had ridden down it earlier in the week, and when asked about her experience, she mentioned that it “sucked for a while and then was pretty cool”. It did indeed suck for a while as the typical scenic vistas of forests and waterways were supplanted by industrial parks full of dilapidated buildings and heavy machinery.

Long stretches of fence, bolstered by coils of rusty razor wire gave the distinct impression that visitors were not welcome at the various sites. Apparently, the message wasn’t explicit enough as graffiti artists had tagged the walls of the buildings with a collage of cryptic acronyms and crude drawings. The stand-out effort was what I imagine would you’d call a "penisaurus”, a large dinosaur, possibly a sauropod, with a phallus where his head should be.

The industrial surrounding began to give way to longer and longer stretches of green space punctuated by the occasional housing complex. Large, garishly painted buildings announced that they were “Now Renting!” as if they weren’t renting before and in the near-future they may stop renting, so you better hurry up and rent.

After crossing into Seminole county I hit my first stretch of honest-to-god nature. It was a green tunnel of tree limbs dripping with Spanish moss. The decaying ground cover gave off an earthy bouquet that was not unpleasant and the prattle of civilization was momentarily dimmed.

On a bench next to the trail, a pretty young mother bounced a small baby on her knee. The baby literally looked like blob of lumpy dough lightly cooked in a broth and I now understood where the affectionate phrase “dumplin” came from. I nodded a greeting towards them and proceeded on my journey.

A scene opened up before me that was strongly reminiscent of something out of Star Wars. The area felt isolated and alien as the ground was covered by large, beige shrubs that limited visibility. The bike path dipped downwards and was soon bordered on both sides by monolithic concrete walls. A highway passed at least 100 feet overhead, but, from my perspective, no cars could be seen. The impression was that of being in some futuristic city, the population of which was eerily absent save for their infrastructure.

It was almost time for me to turn back, so I began looking for a nice terminal point. After passing a few apartment complexes that sported playgrounds designed by engineers who must have been in college during the 70’s, I found a roundabout and reversed course.

I glanced at my watch and realized that I was pushing my allotment of pre-work time. Digging in, I cranked up my pace. Like running a tape in reverse, all the previous scenes came rushing backwards. Star wars, dumplin, tunnel of green, prison industrial complex, car lot, and stink-hole all peeled past me as I propelled myself homeward in high-gear.

Back in my housing complex, I rode my bike up the pathway leading to my front door. Hordes of lizards basked on the warm concrete, and, at the last possible moment, they would do a 180 degree spin and dash back towards the bushes they called home, narrowly avoiding the tread of my tire. This suicidal game of chicken had recently cost one lizard the ultimate price, and hopefully his crushed body would serve as a reminder to others. Sort of like a reptilian public service announcement warning hatchlings of the danger that would befall them if they if they toyed with strange murderous giants.

After my death waltz with the lizards, I parked my bike and dismounted. Donning swim trunks, I had hoped to make it to the pool for a quick swim, but a sudden downpour put the kibosh on that idea. I began walking back home, making sure to navigate around several piles of dog poop conveniently located near a “please clean up after your pet” sign. I thought about the dog owner, who clearly saw the sign and still failed to pick up the feces. It made sense in a way, this is a country where people don’t like being told what to do, and, by extension, what their pet should do. Letting Marley’s turd stand its ground may have given his owner a satisfying sense of freedom and self-determination.

Me, I’ll go for a bike ride.

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About Unknown

Tony is the host of the Paleo Magazine Radio podcast, author of "Paleo Grilling: A Modern Caveman's Guide to Cooking with Fire", and Cofounder of Powerful PT, an innovative information resource for Fitness Professionals. He has appeared on numerous local and national television and radio broadcasts and regularly hosts healthy cooking workshops and informational lectures. He is also a full-time Personal Trainer and Wellness Consultant who lives in Jacksonville Florida with his wife Jamie.
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  1. I am laughing so hard I can barely see to write this comment, but your narrative is comic genius. Way to go!!!