Que the Queen “I want to break free” song.
Once upon a time, I was a fearless, independent young woman in college. I didn’t have a car, and I didn’t need one. I had my bike…
An old, 70’s Schwinn Speedster. Coaster break. Original saddle seat and handle bars that, if memory serves, had green grips with a hint of glitter if you looked closely enough. A man’s bike, and slightly too tall for me, which I loved. It made me feel like I was riding a horse.
It may sound silly, but I really, really, really loved that bike. It ended up getting stolen in this misfortunate event in which our apartment complex staff got mixed up and thought our garage was that of affluent students whose lease ended and split town, with “their” garage (really OUR garage) full of belongings, apparently up for free grabs. Good bye many precious possessions… Clothes, books, furniture, wake board, fishing gear, and worst of all, my beloved bike. Many tears of grief and frustration were spilled.
It turned out to be a blessing in disguise, because the settlement arrangement ($$$) we agreed upon with the apartment manager ended up being just enough for our deposit for the tiny shoe-box studio we rented in San Diego, just 5 blocks from the ocean. It was TINY, so losing our belongings was pretty much necessary.
The only thing I wished I still had was that bike. It would have been absolutely perfect for cruising along the Pacific Beach promenade. (Although, if any of you reading this are San Diegans, les be real, I’m an OB girl at heart.). God, that feels like a lifetime ago. I can’t believe we actually lived in San Diego for two years. Those are some sweet memories. Snorkeling with bright orange, iridescent Garibaldi in the most pristine and sparkly dark-blue-to-pale-aqua water by the smelly bird-poop rock in La Jolla, to Bird Rock Coffee Roasters. That s*** was magical.
Wow… Just got lost in that memory *back to earth, and the bike, Becca*… Okay so skip forward a few years. We’re married and just moved back to Eugene in an adorable rental cottagey-house (Yes! You can afford to live in houses in Eugene!). What is one of the first things I purchase? A bike, of course. I got it at the Center for Alternative Transport on a friend’s recommendation.
It was really nothing special, but it was the right size and I didn’t hate it. I’m kind of picky when it comes to bikes. A tan Mongoose “hybrid”… So, very Meh. I never loved that thing, but I just liked biking around.
But as much as you may enjoy biking, if you don’t love your bike, biking definitely loses its appeal. So I take it out here and there, but really, it just sits in the garage.
I don’t know what possessed me to type “Schwinn Speedster” in the craigslist search bar last week. I guess we had a few sunny days, and I didn’t feel like running, but cycling sounded positively lovely. I don’t know why I just have NOT felt like running.
I was shocked when I saw the beautiful red bike in Portland. It literally took my breath away. I don’t know why. Just something about it. I’ve seen other Speedsters on craigslist before, but they never jumped out at me. They looked too small, too rusty, too yellow, had handle bar breaks… they just could never hold a candle to my old Schwinny.
But this bike was different. My eyes nearly popped out of my head. She (idk why but she looks like a she to me) was shiny, and perky, and sassy, and cool, and inviting, and adventurous looking. The Beatles song “Ticket to Ride” started playing softly in the back of my mind. Honestly, she looked like a total classic. If I was lucky enough to get her, I’d name her Sally (ride, Sally ride).
It was posted for 28 days, so I figured it was long gone. But as I continued to stare and swoon and ogle at the pictures, “Ticket to Ride” was no longer a still, small voice, but a groovy, booming jam at the forefront of my frontal lobe. I decided to reply anyway on the long shot it was still available, and texted my sister (don’t ask about her name in my phone, weird sibling nickname, lol):
I hope this strange, slight aversion to the idea of running passes soon, because I miss it. But until then, I am happy to bike. I’ve had Sally since Sunday and I’ve taken her on 3 rides, probably like 12 miles total. I feel like I’m rediscovering my old self with every pedal. That is so cheesy, but it is true. The frame on Sally is slightly smaller than on Ol’ Schwinny. Honestly, it probably fits me better. On the second ride she had a slight squeak on the break towards the end of the ride that had me worried, but I didn’t hear it at all when I took her out again.
I’ve asked myself a few times, if I could have Ol’ Schwinny back instead of Sally, would I make the trade? That is a really tough call for me. I really loved Schwinny, and we had a few great years together. But I think I wouldn’t. I think I would choose to keep Schwinny in the past, as heart wrenching as it would be to watch some other person ride away on him (Schwinny was a him). Not because I love Sally more. I don’t even love her yet; we’re still in the infatuation phase of our relationship. I would keep Sally over Schwinny to protect my memory of that bike. He will always be the bike I put on a pedestal. I know memory paints with a golden brush. He squeaked plenty and was ridiculously heavy compared to my friends’ lightweight frames. I rode him on many tear-soaked, solemn rides in which my heart was exquisitely tender with loneliness and heartbreak and confusion. I was nineteen when I bought him, after all.
My memory of my old Schwinn Speedster is like my magical memories of snorkeling with the Garibaldi in the La Jolla Coves. Impossible to replicate, and one of those brief blips in time when you think this is as close to heavenly perfection on earth as I think I will ever get. And this thought doesn’t make you feel sad because you know it has to end, but just grateful to be alive to experience it. You don’t remember the disgusting stench of enormous piles of bird poop at the same time you remember the sparkling light-aqua-indigo-blue water and glowing orange fish. They are separate memories.
So. Sally. She’s my new bike. And I think we are just perfect for each other. A bike like her deserves to be admired and loved and taken on amazing adventures. She’s kind of like a girl like me. 27. A stone’s throw from 30. By 30, you should feel like a real adult, right? Does one ever feel like a “real” adult? Don’t answer that. I guess, for the purposes of this post, it really doesn’t matter. Because you are never too old to fall in love with a bike.
But really, I see lots of gray-haired bikers (mostly men, which only slightly annoys me, c’mon, where my ladies at?) happy as clams slowly biking along the same back roads that I run and bike on. I am SO going to be just like them. Maybe on different roads. Maybe on the same roads. Who knows? Time will tell. But I do know that my keaster will be biking or triking or whatever-ing for as long as it possibly can, right up to where the pavement ends.