Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Pedal Power

That's pretty dangerous, building a road in the middle of the street. I mean, if frogs couldn't hop, I'd be Gone with the Schwinn.

Kermit, The Muppet Movie

Today's Epic Adulthood Project: Cycling.

I live roughly three and a half miles from downtown Salt Lake. This means I live three and a half miles from my high school, my first job, my other job, by current job, the movies, the library, and really good raspberry muffin tops. Downtown is really close and convenient.

Since we moved to Salt Lake, my father has been trying to convince me that it would be a good idea to ride a bike to downtown instead of bumming a ride off of him.* Over the years, we've worked out a number of compromises, including:

The 'I bum a ride off of him anyway' compromise
The 'Just drive me out there and I'll find my own way home' compromise
The 'No one's even using the car right now, I'll just borrow it' compromise
The 'I'll bring you back a shake from Crown Burger' compromise
And last but not least, the 'Co-sign the loan for my own dang car' compromise

I do now have (Own! Paid off! Go me!) my own car, and since I work downtown, I have the shiniest parking in the whole wide city. For many months now, I've driven myself to and from work. (This habit started when UTA canceled my convenient late-night bus. Really. The bus was discontinued [With lots of warning . . . thanks, UTA, those hours standing on the corner waiting for a nonexistent bus really enriched my life] and after going back to the ride-bumming game for about a week, I bought my first car. Correlation may not imply causality, but in this case, causality sure as heck implies causality.) But there's still that niggling voice in the back of my head insisting that even better than driving my own self to work would be biking the 3.5 miles like a Gosh Dang Grown-Up.

Really. Biking to work means that my largest expenditure of fuel just disappears. I get a daily dose of cardio exercise, which I really need because I hate cardio and can't run a block downhill. It decreases pollution in our lovely city. It saves wear and tear on the car that I'm hoping will last me until the birth of my fourth child. (Only five seatbelts, see.) So it's free transportation, free exercise, and free smugness. Where's the downside?

The downside is that I have to drag my lazy tush out of bed at eleven o'clock at night and go out into the cold, cruel, dark world. That's what the downside is.

Oh, and let's just add: Salt Lake has these little suckers.

Who needs alien invaders? Our planet produces these diabolical things all by itself.
They're called 'goat's heads' or 'steerheads' and are little seed pods and were specifically created by the Lord God Almighty on about the sixteenth day of creation, when Adam had done something to tick Him off, to destroy bike tires and thus teach mankind a lesson in humility and patience and just giving up and driving a car. They are proof that God hates bikes and wants them to languish in garages, cowering in fear.

The few times that I've actually attempted to bike to downtown (or home from it), I have inevitably wound up walking my flat-tired vehicle through the dark and creepy city streets, leaving the six or seven steerheads in my tires because what, really, is the point in picking them out? I've lived on the West Side for eleven years and have seen a thing or two, but the only times . . . the ONLY times . . . I've ever genuinely felt unsafe was those nights alone in the dark, far from home, with a crippled bicycle.

Oh, and I made the acquaintance of steerheads by getting fourteen of them stuck in each of my bare feet. No one has ever learned to do a handstand so fast. But that's a whole 'nother story right there.**

Anyway, this irrational fear of cycling has been preying on my mind for some considerable time. Finally, in a fit of madness, I took a leap: I asked for a bike for Christmas. A folding bike.

Even for someone who doesn't like bikes, folding bikes are COOL. I did not anticipate actually receiving a folding bike, because their coolness makes them expensive and my dad knows me too well to think that I wouldn't chicken out of actually using one to get anywhere. Unfortunately, I underestimated my dad's faith in me. I hate it when that happens.

This is what greeted me on Christmas morning:

It's my very own folding bike. And it's Pink.

For those of you who may not know, I hate pink. I don't own anything pink, with the exception of my own skin. (I'm letting everybody know now, so that later when I have kids everyone will know in advance not to bring pink things to my baby showers.) I hate pink. But this is a Folding Bike. And it's Pink. It's one of those things where you plow straight through hatred and emerge on the other side head over heels in love. My Pink bike is officially the coolest thing in the history of cool. (One of the great advantages of being a twenty-something is that you get to decide what Cool is. Any younger, and Cool is something decided by other people to which you need to conform; any older, and whatever you think is Cool isn't.)

I think the Pink must have originally started out as an expense-cutting measure, but it has rapidly degenerated to a running gag. My Pink bike now has a pink rear wheel, a pink bike lock, and pink cycling gloves to go with it. My dad has been having way too much fun.

Add to all of this gear my Kindle, stocked up with Terry Pratchett audiobooks (yes, I'm on a kick; no, it won't last forever, I'll be fit for company soon), and you have one road-equipped Blogger ready to take on the world.


Yesterday I chickened out. It was cold, I was sleepy, I didn't know where anything was and I hadn't put lights on the Pink yet. I drove. I felt like a coward.

Today I girded up my loins, put on long johns, work clothes, warm socks, boots, headband, heavy coat, fluffy scarf, bike gloves, camelpak, purse, reflective vest, and earphones, and . . .

. . . biked a total of three blocks. One to the bus stop, one from the bus stop to my honored dance director's house, and another block in there switching stops between transfers.

Hey, riding the bus is good for the environment too, right?

At my honored dance director's house there was a dance-related meeting, which was fun and involved discussions on Terry Pratchett and Doctor Who, and included free ham. Throughout the meeting, I kept waiting for someone to offer me a lift to the Trax station.

No takers.

No takers.

It's cold out there . . . and dark . . . and there are steerheads . . .

You know the great thing about a folding bike? It'll fit in a car . . .

"Bye!" said everybody. "Your bike is so cool! We're so impressed that you're riding it! Have fun!"

"Bye!" said I, watching their warm labor-free vehicles drive off into the night. My face sported one of those smiles that doesn't fit quite right and gets jammed into place, breaking facial gears and leaving you unable to emote properly until repair crews are called in.

So at last, resigned to my fate,† I biked.

More accurately, I coasted, at least part of the way; Honored Dance Director's house is thankfully uphill of the local Trax stop. I pedaled where it was flat and got off and walked the short stretch that was too uphill for the Pink's poor little gears to handle well. I listened to Terry Pratchett. My left thumb got extremely cold (but not my right thumb . . . go figure). I stayed on the sidewalks because I'm still not in the mental place where I'm comfortable interacting with cars like social equals. I got a little bit lost. I got found again. I made it to the Trax, and from the Trax to work.

Distance biked: 3.7 miles, plus a block and change.

Tires: intact.


*My dad's a Pedal Pusher.

** The expression 'a whole 'nother' is, as far as I am aware, the English language's only infix. That makes it Cool. I'm twenty-six and I say so.

†A fate that I brought upon myself. Like Oedipus, except with a Pink bike.


  1. There is another English infix, but it's terrible inappropriate and likely not in your vocabulary. Also, awesome bike. I'd be temped to plaster it with cute punk skulls and such, but I think skulls with bows and hearts are Cool. :)

  2. Darn it. Now my brain's going to go through every bit if inappropriate vocabulary I know trying to figure out what this is. Thanks a lot, Charlie. :P

  3. I believe that Charlie would be referring to "-effing-," sadly.

  4. "The expression 'a whole 'nother' is, as far as I am aware, the English language's only infix."

    Tell me more.