by Dael Gagner
My first bike was blueberry blue. It was waiting for me at Grandmother Louise's. Our driveway was a long, winding, dirt road that people often mistook for a road to somewhere other than our house. Watching my niece and nephew struggle to ride on their long, winding, dirt driveway, I understand better why I learned to ride at Grandmother's. How we longed for pavement! A smooth, silky ribbon of asphalt to zoom up and down on.
My second bike was used and foreign, a grown up's bike, and I loved it, especially the rainbow of colors along the cross bar. It was still in the garage when I cleaned out my childhood home five years ago. Rusted all over. I couldn't watch when it was tossed into the dumpster.
I recently lost the first bike I bought for myself which is why I've been thinking about the bikes in my life. Ten years old, rusting in spots like the age spots on Nanny's hands. How many human years equal a bike's year? Went across the country twice - in the back of a truck; took me all over the City, across the Golden Gate for picnics in Tiburon; and that never to be forgotten Thanksgiving morning ride over to Tennessee Valley and up over the headlands and home again in time to make two pies, one pumpkin, the other pecan chocolate chip.
The day I lost my bike, I was sitting in the arboretum on a bench along the great meadow writing in my journal. I was writing about my bike, and how it makes me feel alive to fly atop its wings, speeding along with the wind, humming, or singing as loud as I can when city noise and wind provides adequate cover. I look over at people in cars, and I want to say, Get out, get out, get out and see what Life's about! I was thinking about the ride home, a gentle glide down to the beach. Perhaps all this bike on the brain was a psychic cry for help, or maybe it was the start of a eulogy, the universe telling me it's time to let go, move on.
There is a certain glee that only a bike can elicit. If you've been away from your bike for awhile, as I was after moving back to San Francisco, that first ride, and mine was helmetless, is magic. I am a bird, I am a child, I am a blur, I am pumping legs and pounding blood, I am free.
It's been long enough now since I came out of the arboretum, looked five times at the bike rack before I finally got it, my bike's gone, walked home with my helmet dangling like a broken limb, went to the police station and called my insurance company - it's going to feel so good to be in the saddle again. It might even be worth it.