Sunday, September 24, 2006

I'm in Love. Her Name is Veronica

A few weeks ago I got a bike off Craigslist, and its been the best $105 investment I've ever made. I've been spending much of my free time with her (her name is Veronica) and people may say we're in love.

It's been one of those situations where I wonder why I didn't get or ride one sooner or more often (I had and have a bike at my house in DC, but hadn't used it in years). But I've had a rather schizo relationship with bikes my whole life. As a kid I had one and rode it the same as most kids. By the time I got to high school I was way too cool* for one.

My senior year in college I read an article about these cross-country bike tours and I thought it would be a great idea to do one. So when my parents asked me what I wanted for graduation, I told them a bike and a cross-country trip. They looked at me like I'd told them I wanted to convert to Branch Davidian; here was their son who hadn't been on a bike in 9 years who now suddenly and out of the blue wanted to spend his entire summer riding one 3200 miles from coast to coast.

My encouraging family:
-- "You realize you you have to camp each night. Outside. In a tent." -- Dad.
-- "And also that when you get tired, you can't just hop in a car. That you have to keep riding." -- Mom.
-- "Have you ever seen the Rocky Mountains? And do you realize that the only thing getting you over them is your ability to ride a bike?" -- Brother
-- "Do you even know what a bicycle is?" -- Grandma
-- "You can't even change your underwear unaided. How you going to change a tire? You're worthless and weak!" -- my Super Friends Aquaman doll**

The long story short is that they let me do it, even though at that point I really hadn't been on a bike in 9 years and didn't know how to change a flat or do minor repairs in case of emergency (of which there were many). I found out later that my parents had bets as to how long it would take me to quit (I think Dad had me at Kentucky and Mom at Illinois). Philistines!!

So in May of '92 I packed my new bike, 3 pairs of shorts, 3 shirts, and some incidentals on a train to Williamsburg, Virginia and spent the next three months pedaling clear across the USA to Astoria, Oregon. It was an organized tour with 8 other cyclists from different parts of the US (and 2 Europeans) and I still talk to many of them today.

An adventure of a lifetime, filled with scary moments (I almost got hit by a Camry that ran a stop sign, was literally run off the road by an RV, got a beer bottle thrown at me from some rednecks in a pickup truck), amazing experiences (having never been west of the Mississippi until then, I'll never forget seeing the Rockies and the Pacific for the first time or some of the people I met) and a tremendous sense of accomplishment when I finished. I also jumped into a rushing river and saved the life of a young girl who was drowning because nobody else would/could/wanted to put down their video cameras. (But that is another story.)

But when that summer was over I began grad school and pretty much couldn't be bothered to bike again (the irony of spending every day for 3 months on a bike is the great convenient feeling you get from hopping into a car when you need a 6-pack) and it all spiraled down from there.

But now it is the opposite. Living back in Chicago there is a great freedom in being able to bike anywhere and not have to worry about parking (I've biked to the bars in my Saturday night finery!) or waiting for the bus (I ride my bike to/from work every day even in the rainy weather and it only takes me 15 minutes, which is quicker than public transport). And some days it is the only exercise I get since my record of getting to the gym or the pool has been somewhat spotty.

* btw, I was so far from cool in high school, but even I recognized that riding a bike to school was just not cool, man. Not cool at all.
** So I had an Aquaman doll that I had occasionally had intense motivational conversations with. So what??


Sizzler Sister said...

I admire adults who own and ride a bike. There's no way I'd ride one to work here in Phoenix. Sorry, just not gonna happen.

I do want to hear more about this whole saving a girl from drowning incident though.

Sizzler Sister said...

PS - and NEVER to a bar in my Saturday finery either. But then again, you're not trying to meet a potential mate there so I guess you could get away with it.

OK< I am going to shut up now.

Anonymous said...

Does she have a sister that you could introduce me to?? She sounds HOT!!
(oh, she'd better sleep in the garage, cause there ain't no way I am sharing you in bed!!)

classyandfancy said...

I completely heart my bike as well. Too bad it's starting to get frigidaire cold up here! Don't feel ashamed about your confidant Aquaman. At least you could play it off as, you know, I was playing pretend or something. No, wait, this was after you graduated from high school? You have no excuse! Then again, I still talk to a ceramic panda . . .

Prashant Sridharan said...

Wow, this is your coolest entry yet. I've been pondering getting a bike as well, but you have to wear a helmet. I don't think I could do that to my hair.

Prashant Sridharan said...

Oh, and did your Aquaman doll look like Vinnie Chase, or was it more like that blonde buffoon from the Superfriends? The blonde guy was a moron. Completely useless out of water, so the writers had to contrive ridiculous circumstances just so they could use Aquaman.

When they re-imagined the Justice League as a cartoon (it just finished its five year run on Cartoon Network), they did a fantastic job of re-imagining Aquaman as well. That cartoon was pretty much the bee's knees, if you ask me.

Cherry Ride said...

Sizzler: I can't see you on a bike either. Being in Phoenix is just a convenient excuse for you.

Rich: I'll save the pillow talk comments for a less public venue.

Classy: Yeah, this was after high school. Waaaay after high school.

Prashant: I've been pleasantly surprised by what little damamge the helmet has done to my hair. I just stop in the bathroom before I walk into the office, run my fingers through it, and I'm good to go. And the Aquaman doll was the old-school Super Friends one. Nothing against the new one, but the old blond chiseled Aquaman as my first crush.

freakyshreeky said...

That was a neat entry and a neat adventure. The closest I've come to adventure is "accidentally" going down a Black Diamond in a ski resort after 3 weeks of skiing.

Look forward to seeing more in your blog.

Katie in the UK said...

I am confused and completely shocked that I learned none of this in the 6 weeks you spent no less than 2 feet away from me for 8 hours a day. Are you taking the piss? You really rode across the country?

Jessica Alba should play the drowning girl in the movie of this epic trip.

Shaun in SIN - class of 92 also said...

and you've been camping ever since! \

Cherry Ride said...

Shaun: Camping, not so much. But pitching tents, yes. Bud-um-bum!

Wingman: Its weird that I hardly ever talk about it anymore. Not sure why. I did indeed do it and I have photos to prove it - I'll just need to scan them. It is the reason that I decided to move to Portland after grad school.

Anonymous said...

Veronica has got to be one of the ugliest names I've heard. Sorry.