I often start my morning rides in the park, which takes me past a lake. While “lake” might imply a body of water larger and more majestic than it is–honestly it’s more of a puddle formed when the Van Cortlandt family dammed a brook like 300 years ago–I still find it beguiling, especially in the morning when the park is quiet. And on this particular morning I saw what appeared to be a swan family:

I attempted to zoom in with my smartphone camera, with predictably poor results:

Nevertheless, you’ll have to take my word for it the swan that’s further away was accompanying a group of cygnets. (Cygnets are baby swans, and yes, I had to look that one up.) Or at least I’m pretty those were cygnets. I do admit I was pretty far away, and maybe the swan was playing with some garbage or a bunch of dirty sponges. Regardless, this sight, despite being as fuzzy as the alleged cygnets themselves, buoyed my spirits, as animals nurturing their cuddly babies are wont to do.

Shortly after passing the lake my route takes me past a far less bucolic site, which is the Major Deegan Expressway. First I noticed traffic was at a standstill, which you don’t see too much these days. Then I smelled smoke, and a smoldering minivan came into view:

Without really thinking about the implications of a burning minivan I started taking pictures. Once again I zoomed in, and you can see a little more detail here than you can in the swan photo. For example, the orange in the hood area is where they’re cutting away at the vehicle with some kind of angle grinder:

Then, shortly after I took the photo, the firefighter at the rear of the vehicle withdrew a charred child’s scooter from the opening where the rear windshield once was.

This sent my spirits plummeting right down to the bottom of the lake. To be clear, I have no reason to believe there were any children in the vehicle, and for all I know anybody who was inside exited safely long before the minivan went up in flames. Certainly I hope that was the case. Still, even if this particular incident wasn’t a tragedy, it was a grim reminder of the many, many others that are. The swan endeavors to protect its young with its wingspan, we try to do it with our minivans. No sight is as gut-wrenching as seeing that security undermined.

This is not to say that cars can’t be benign, or even delightful. For example, while riding yesterday morning I spied this vessel sitting atop a promontory in Yonkers:

I’m not enough of a van geek to know anything about this particular vehicle, but goddamn it’s adorable:

It can also be yours, because according to the sign on the dashboard it’s for sale for $7,500. The sign further explains it’s a 1990 Daihatsu 4X4 with 28,000 original miles and that it’s “street legal.” I’m not sure the sellers would want me putting their phone number out there on the Internet, but if you’re genuinely interested feel free to drop me a line and I’ll give you the info. (No, I am not getting a commission. I’m too stupid for that, remember?)

Somewhat less cartoonishly endearing was the Chevy Volt I spotted the morning before:

Not sure what happened there:

Regardless of what transpired, automotive collision aftermath tableaux are just as much a part of early morning cycling as delightful wildlife sightings and those first golden rays of sunshine backlighting the trees. Over the years I’ve come across cars in storefronts, on top of each other, and–as I did this morning–on fire, oftentimes confirming the nefarious nocturnal doings I can hear at night in the form of distant tire squeals and revving engines. (Though obviously that doesn’t include the Volt, which is electric, but you know what I mean.)

Another sound I’ve been noticing lately on my morning rides is the whooosh-THWACK of people hitting golf balls:

I wondered why they each had their own cart:

So I looked it up and apparently it’s part of the distancing protocol:

Golf carts: mandatory one person per cart. Two bags permitted per cart, with one person driving and the second person walking, alternating driving/walking. Pull carts are available; golfers who can are encouraged to walk.

I guess the idea is you can maintain distance from your partner while playing golf but not while riding in a cart? Pandemic logic is so byzantine. And I’m still trying to reconcile the fact that you can play golf (that’s a public course) but they’ve taken the hoops off the backboards so you can’t play basketball:

Seems to me that as long as you’re observing THE DISTANCING there’s no meaningful difference between playing with a tiny white ball and a big orange one. But I guess big balls make some people uncomfortable.

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