Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Transportation Meditations: Part 2, Bikes.

I have a limited experience with bicycles, but I appreciate their image.
Unfortunaetely, I've never been very serious or steady with them.
A bike has coasted into my life every 10 years or so, leaving knees skinned, muscles worn, tears.

I have an early memory of visiting my father, his wife Carla, and her children in Starke. Probably there were Tyler cousins around too. I was being carried around on the handle bars of someone's bike, when one of my (surely bare) feet strayed into the danger zone of the bicycle's spokes. A flip. A flop. A dusty end. Wailing ensued.

Later on my own bike, on the dead-end street near my grandma's, I would ride around with the gang of neighborhood kids. Us girls all toted our baby dolls in pink and purple baskets attached to our pink and purple bikes. Kristy had a Cabbage Patch Kid that I envied, a reminder of my (relative) poverty (no Cabbage Patch Kids, no summer camps, no labels). Jamie had a Kimberly Cheerleader doll who was massive, long-legged, short-skirted, with long, flowing locks of blonde.
I had an ugly plastic baby named Suzy (I named them all Suzy for a while) who would really pee. I would feed her a bottle of water, and she would immediately soak her diaper. Her eyes would close when you lay her down and open when held upright. My unsteady bike wheels weaving through patches of dirt.
Suzy skidding across the dead-end street with a strangely satisfying thud rattle thud rattle. Her plastic nose whittled down by the gravely road, her dress- tattered.

I had a Salvation Army $20 bike briefly when I was a student at UF. I wasn't bravehearted enough to ride it around town, but I happily rode it up and down campus paths until it was stolen by a Grateful Dead dreadlocked kid (I'm fairly certain of this). My memories of this bike and this time are mostly of being extremely sweaty in the hot Florida sunshine, the aroma of Hare Krishna food, and the color yellow.

Current day. I found a bright, day glo orange/pink beach cruiser in my mother-in-law's barn, destined for a landfill. I had dreams of transforming her into something more serious, respectable, useful. I painted her a deep wine color, I fixed up her bungling wheels, I moved her with us here in Takoma Park. And here my dreams met reality. The bike has no gears, no brakes. I'm terrified riding her in the street. I can't get up even a smallish hill, and here there are many hills smallish and large-ish. Pulling Noah along behind me in his little bike trailer is a Herculian feat. And Hercules, I ain't.

I haven't given up on the whole bicycle experience. I just haven't found the right bike for my current situation. Takoma Park is pretty bike friendly, there are bike lanes, people are zipping by on snazzy bikes right outside the coffee shop window as I type this.

My husband bikes to work daily. I'm so proud of him. He does it because he wants to get around without a car, without depending on oil, without polluting the environment, because it's a great workout, because he enjoys it, and because he likes to challenge himself.

I fantasize about Michael, Noah, and I coasting along together (as a biking family) through quaint little villages, breeze across our brows, stopping in a shady, quiet, spot for a picnic.



Lauren said...

I had a fake cabbage patch kid made by my grandmother, with painted on eyes and brown yarn for hair. I named her Maude.
I don't think you should give up on your biking fantasies yet. A beach cruiser is the worst possible scenario for Tacoma Park, so you just have to give up on your "beach cruiser" dreams and buy something more practical.

MaddyG said...

Maude is a much cooler name than Suzy. You're right, I'm totally going to have to invest in a better bike eventually. I'll keep you posted! ; )

Gray Sea

Gray Sea