Sunday, December 30, 2007

Getting My Downtown Wheels

Another personal story about the Meeko. I am a cyclist. No, not the sort that goes for the 30k tour de Whatever. Nor a speed racer. Nor a BMX rider. I just ride. That wasn't always the case. One of the issues with me is that I've always had some balance issues. I've taken gymnastics for some of that, but found writing and learning to sketch/paint to be more worthwhile. Those skills can take care of the mental creativity. It doesn't free you to out-distance yourself, or take you physical places from your comfort zone. I have found bicycling does that for me. It's just not a mode of transportation. It moves you, to be cliché.

For Christmas my 6th year, my parents got me a lime green Huffy with training wheels. I was fine with the training wheels, but once the wheels came off, just one at first, I was terrified. I couldn't ride without at least one. My mom swore I would never get another bike until I learned to ride the one I had. It was personally humiliating for me. I eventually got over it when I was 12 years old. Everyone else had shiny ten-speeds, while I had my little girls Huffy bike with the banana seat, flower basket, and training wheels. There's nothing like peer pressure to get you over your fear.

Eventually it did happen for me and I've been on a bicycle ever since (for the most part). I would ride through high school, even using it as a way to get to & from work (and drive my mom crazy with worry getting across highways). Those were the days before bike helmets and lights on your bike; Before it made more sense to wear light clothing and reflective tape. You just rode until your bike wore out; The good kid-stuff that people seem to forget about when they grow up. I wore out 2 bikes in the Army taking them out on long distance country rides — getting around the hills and towns and feeling the wind, the snow & even the rain on my face. I think I was hardier stuff then. I kept riding, though; And much later I would only ride to get back and forth to class or work or whatever and whenever. I was on my bike. It was enough.

This changed for me about 3 years ago when I felt I couldn't ride safely anywhere. I was living in Anaheim and near busy intersections and a sweaty ride down the side roads of I-5 to make much sense to me. It was too much trouble to take the bike out, hauling it up & down the stairs and then the long trek to the front of the complex to what would surely be a difficult and dangerous way to get anywhere. Instead I would walk or take the bus, or just not go anywhere. Moving to downtown LA changed that for me. Downtown LA is a bike-able city.

If you're still with me, yes you read that right. Downtown LA is a bike-able city. If only I had known that when we made our move downtown. I was looking forward to the buses, the MTA the walking (and yes you can walk in LA too). Because I am a believer in the simplicity movement, I was willing to lose my bike and it's attachments. No more bike helmet or locks or air pump or things that reminded me of my beautiful Trek Hybrid. It was a sore point with me; I had become apartment bound and without wheels. I didn't deserve that bike.

Yet, as I sit here, surfing the net, I'm finding that there is so much more going on downtown with people, like myself, who enjoy the long ride. The ride for no other reason to get to someplace that is too far to walk yet too short to drive. The people that like the wind in their face, the clicking of gears, the squeal of brakes and the camaraderie of doing something like any number of Bay Area bicycling groups that might still exist in their own pockets of space. There is that secret happiness when you can see another cyclist. You can smile at them, knowing when they smile back, it's the acknowledgment of the cyclist. It's the club you belong to. The bicyclist club. I wanted back in. I would get back in. Meeko and her bike is a necessary thing.


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