Calculate the slope between points ‘a’ and ‘b’ on an Illinois hill.
"…let’s see…if the change in y is 0..."
We didn’t know what “slope” was. There aren’t any slopes. On a clear day, I could see out the window of my high school calculus class straight to the Sears Tower in downtown. That’s over 22 miles away, folks.
Things haven’t changed too terribly much. Now I live at sea level, but within walking distance, there actually is a hill. A man-made hill. It’s the Arthur Ravenel Bridge; the longest cable-stayed bridge in the Western Hemisphere, and one sonofabitch for an Illinoisian to bicycle across.
Once upon a time, Seth and I were feeling saucy and bought fancy new hybrid bicycles. To justify the purchase of such expensive toys, one must bike the bridge.
Ugggghhhh. Such pain!
The bridge is about 2.5 miles long, with about 1 mile of 4% gradient on either side. Just to give you a frame of reference, most mountain stages of the Tour de France average between 4% to 8.5% gradient. Of course…those guys are cycling for dozens of miles over those mountains…and we’ve just got one tiny little mile.
Do you see a yellow jersey on my back? Do I look like Lance Armstrong to you?
No. I’m humble, mere mortal, skinny-legged Kerry.
Some people (well…not some, actually…only Seth) like to say that I have an ass that just won’t quit.
Let me tell you something…about 2-3 minutes into the incline…my ass quits. It doesn’t even give two weeks notice. It just up and quits right along with the rest of my body.
Oh, but then the top! Excelsior!
For a few brilliant moments, you coast along at the peak until momentum really takes hold, and has you whizzing down the bridge at 30+ mph. A smile is imminent as you catch blurred glimpses of agonized faces heading up the bridge in the opposite direction.
What a sweet, sweet reversal of fortune, my friends!
The rate of change lessens…and lessens. Gradually, you slow to a stop. As the endorphin induced smile begins to fade…a terrible and ugly thought starts to enter your brain…
“I have to go back over the bridge to get home.”
Okay…so…it’s not that dire. And in between your trips over the bridge, there are several river-front bars to ease your pain. If you’re really a sissy (or really smashed) you can opt for the ferry to take you back. It’ll take you and your bicycle over the river and drop you a stone’s throw from our condo.
y = mx + b, where m is an ass-kicking, smile-inducing, good time.