Saturday, July 31, 2010

Something New

I like to mix it up, and try new things. In the city I live near, Bellingham, as in many towns and cities across America, everyone is riding bikes. I yearn to be like everyone else and to be a part of this new-fangled bicycle movement. Of course, for me it's not very practical as I live 2o miles away from the city where I would be seen being a part of this scene. Recently I schemed and planned and bought myself a new snazzy bike that was made in another town near me. Very important this buying local thing, I am down with the movement. I am pretty sure the bike rack attachment I got for my car rack was probably made in China, oh well, can't bat a thousand all the time.

Mostly I ride my bike near my home in the country. It's pleasant as the roads are mostly flat and sparsely traveled. The air smells of hay and wild roses and cow manure. It's peaceful and satisfyingly pastoral. We wave at people we know as we ride the 5 miles to Everson and on the way home we can get soft serve ice cream from the local dairy and eat it as we cut across the middle school field. But somehow this wasn't enough for me. I longed to ride the streets of Bellingham.

A few weeks ago with Pearl enrolled in a summer day camp in Bellingham I brought my bike along to town. I parked the car in what I thought was a strategic location and set out on the bike. In short order I realized I had almost no idea how to get into downtown from where I was. Luckily I ran into a friend who hipped me to a path which took me past the mall near where I had parked and through a funny forgotten neighborhood to a place where I could pass under the freeway which separates downtown from where I began my journey. I rode down into town on fresh pavement and it felt good for a time. It was hot. As I rode along getting closer to town I started to become aware of the difficulties of riding a bike on streets with parked and passing cars. I soldiered on. I felt brave being so close to the street. I realized how comfortable I am passing through space inside my car. Once downtown I needed some lunch and then I needed a place to eat said lunch. I parked myself on the lawn behind the museum and ate my California rolls and thought about how I might look to passersby and museum employees. Did I look homeless? Was I breaking any loitering laws? Was it odd, a woman eating lunch in public with a bike, alone. I ate slowly enjoying the shade, struggling with my chopsticks as I always do. A whole bunch of Asian students appeared suddenly from the hill below my spot and I felt instantly self conscious about my lack of mastery of the tools I was eating with. They didn't care, they were lost in a tour taking pictures of each other and chatting away.

After lunch I continued on with my mission to participate in bicycle society. I came across a sign on the sidewalk that clearly stated no cycling here so I got back onto the street and found myself in the midst of a small drama between an angry motorist and a meter maid, I rode through it invisible to the players, one of whom was dramatically tearing up a yellow parking ticket and throwing it on the street. I stopped into a few shops, one of which I brought my bike right into and the other I locked my bike up to a stand with the other bikes and went in to look at overpriced panniers. They let me use their bike pump, that was nice.

Pretty soon it was time to go and collect Pearl and so I headed back to my starting point the way I would have had I been a car. I did take a small detour through a park trail which was okay until my mind started to wander and I entertained how foolish it might be to be alone on a trail. Would someone jump a person on a bike? Who knows. I called out to squirrel, accusing it of being a rat. It went up a tree. The path let me out onto a very busy north south road and about a block along a woman yelled at me to ride on the sidewalk. This perplexed me and I yelled back to her suggesting she was a redneck. A fine insult I thought. I eventually did get onto the sidewalk, it seemed safer and I passed a nice man holding a sign advertising spicy food. He was well dressed and smiled widely at me and wished me a good day. I returned the sentiment. I marveled quietly at how this generous fellow without knowing it had canceled out the earlier insult. I eventually got myself back to my car and got the bike loaded back up and picked up Pearl on time.

It's good to do things if only to get clear in your own mind whether you like them or not. It was a romantic notion this town riding but I think I am better suited to country rides and trail excursions. On the third day of Pearl's class I took my car downtown and felt okay about it.

1 comment:

CathyLehman said...

Thanks for the nod. I'm glad it worked out!

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