My tease for this week’s column is actually a column from the past. I originally wrote this in January of 2010, and posted it in February of 2010. In order to apply better context to my upcoming column on the life of a bicycle commuter, please take time to read (or re-read) the column below. I will follow this up with an update to my bicycle lifestyle this Sunday, September 26. Please check back then. Thank you very much. rc
For 10 years I have lived and worked in a town of 3,000 people, Bonsall, California. Lacking in people, Bonsall also lacks in services, though there is a small grocery, and a few shops of little consequence. The neighboring town, Fallbrook, claims 35,000 persons, and many more services. The distance between the center of Fallbrook and the center of Bonsall is roughly 8 miles.
Two small towns in San Diego’s rural North County, 8 miles apart, and a fitness trainer who lived in one town, but frequented the other to exploit its retail services and fulfill all of his consumer needs. He is me. One would think a man in good physical condition, who spends hours each month on a stationary bike, would live this life of traveling between 2 close towns, by way of a kinetic bike. However, the eight mile ride from Bonsall into Fallbrook is uphill at an average 21% grade. Though the ride home would be fun and easy, 8 miles at a 21% grade is not a formula for a quick trip to the store for toothpaste. Thus, I owned a Jeep, to more easily make the regular journeys into Fallbrook for shoes, chicken salads, sundries, hardware, and office supplies. I had always maintained though, that if I ever lived and worked in Fallbrook, I would give away my car, and exclusively depend on a bike for my transportation. It would be the right thing to do, and for many obvious reasons.
Put Up Or Shut Up
I’m now engaged to a woman who lives in Fallbrook, and I am also now living with her. As well, I have moved my business into Fallbrook – my perceived bicycle community. My fiancé has two daughters, one who just turned sixteen years old. Like all 16-year olds, she would immediately need a car to get her to and from school, to her athletic practices, events, and to the mall. I had a Jeep that I swore I would no longer need or use should I live in Fallbrook. In these separate transitions of two different lives, our circumstances would become supremely correlated – I gave her my Jeep. Several days later I bought a bicycle to get me around town, and to and from work each day.
An epic steed! Goodbye old friend, I already miss you...
One might expect that, me being me, I would have bought an expensive road bike, or hybrid bike that could be used for touring, racing, or general out of doors exercise. But, me also being me, I found a sweet little beach-cruiser at Wal-Mart – Pee Wee Herman style. It’s apple-red, has 7 speeds, very good handbrakes, and big fat tires that will not easily succumb to the thorns, broken glass, and various debris of the semi-rural roads I now transcend daily. Best of all, there is a nice cargo rack over the shiny chrome rear fender, on which I can carry my gym bag, groceries, odds and ends, and even the laundry hamper from my gym.
Pee Wee Herman Got Nothin' On Me...
Wake Up, Shape Up, And Look Up
It’s been four weeks since I began commuting across town at 6:00am, and returning after dark – 2.2 miles each way. Four weeks since I began riding into town to do errands, buy groceries, go to the bank, grab lunch, etc. I especially enjoy riding through the double doors of the grocery, and parking my shiny red bike beside the express lane of Major Market, for all to admire while I collect my meats and veggies. Four weeks of not buying gas, not paying for automobile insurance, and not having to wait for the A-hole in front of me to move when the light turns green – I just go around her. It has also been four weeks of putting fewer emissions into the air, and burning a few thousand extra calories each week – which offsets my proportionately increased use of salad dressings and coffee creamer; low grade fuel I know.
I have enjoyed every moment on my bike these past 4 weeks. I find solace in peddling briskly as I look more freely around, to better observe the nuances of my community. I see more faces, hear more voices, breathe more scents, and take in much more of my surroundings. I look forward to the rides, and never dread them, even the ones in the rain. This has been a transition I relish – and one which also enables me to enjoy a little extra relish, on an occasional hotdog I can now get away with, as well as some salad dressing and creamer.
For those who may read this and be so inspired to make a similar change, I do offer one bit of advice; the very best time to make such a transition – from car to bike, is not at the onset of the worst El Nino of the past ten years – but even riding in the rain has been a fun experience. It’s a good thing Wal-Mart also sells rain ponchos large enough to cover my handlebars, my body, and my nifty cargo rack. Be well. rc
Please check back this Sunday for my update on the many things which have transpired in this, the Year Of Biking Dangerously. Oh, and there is this amazing song, brought to you by the genius of Paul Weller,