Tuesday, September 24, 2013

On the art of escape

Almost daily when I get into the elevator I get a comment in the vein of "oh its <insert inclimate weather phenomena here>. You ride in this?"

My answer is generally the same each time: "Yup, every day." And I'm not trying to be snarky or anything. I'm not trying to be all macho or cavaleir about it. Riding bike is just something that I do. I honestly don't think about it all that much - well, I think about it, but I never wake up and ask myself how I'm going to get to work anymore. I just know that I ride bike because that's what I do.

But I'm not a perfect bike commuter. I still run errands with a car. I still have moments where the two mile slog from the house to the store is just too much to think about doing on bike.

Yet I do choose to bike for transportation in many instances. Once I thought that I was doing it for the environment. Then I realized that while I care about the environment and try within my means to do right by it, I'm not riding a bike because I am some eco-warrior.

Then I thought I was making a political statement. I'm not. When it comes right down to it, I've realized, I ride because it makes me feel like I am a kid again. Some of my fondest memories growing up involve me and my bike. The Huffy BMX bikes, the Huffy 10-speeds, the borrowed 3-speed Sears city bike. It didn't really matter to me what I rode, just that I could ride.

I remember one particular instance where the bike was cemented as my escape of choice. My parents were in a bad way. Money issues and the like. Lots of heated arguments. Just not a comfortable environment to be in. The upside was that I was a bit invisible so for once I could pretty much come and go as I wished. As much as a twelve year old can come and go, anyway.

On one particularly bad day I snuck out while they were in the midst of some argument that wouldn't solve anything and I hopped on my Huffy Nitro and rode the two miles to where a bunch of new houses were being built. I think I chose this route because I knew that I there were some great dirt piles to ride on there and being the weekend, it'd be quite.

Immediately I felt like I was free when I started peddling, riding with no hands and just being in the moment. I got to the construction site and rode through the buildings and jumped the dirt piles. No helmet, no pads or special shoes or clothes. Just a kid on his bike.

Hours later I returned home and nothing had changed, but I didn't care. I was at peace. I can still remember exactly how I could feel the difference between heat and cool on my face as I rode under the naked rafters and the alternating sun and shade lit on me. I remember the feeling of sweat running down my back. I remember feeling so blessed to take an ice cold drink out of the hose of a neighboring house on the down low when no one was looking and I was so parched.

There is an element to that escapism in every ride I take. I know that once I get on the bike within a few minutes that the meaningless stuff I worry about will vanish for at least the time when I'm riding. I know that even when I feel like I don't want to be on the bike, that my legs and back hurt that once I am actually underway that I will forget about those aches and pains and just go with it.

Escapism. I don't bike tour, though it appeals to me. I don't do epic rides. The most I've ever ridden as a single shot was 60 miles and that destroyed me for days. But being out in the elements everyday, connecting with the thing around me allows me to escape for a brief moment.

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