Sunday, August 06, 2006

"don't drink and drive. even on a bike."

so my car died about three weeks ago. by died i mean dead. there i was, stranded at Ridge and Lehigh next to Laurel Hill Cemetary (read: not the best neighborhood). i was picked up by a female tow truck driver, "first and only in the city", she proclaimed, and taken to an auto shop at 11th and Spring Garden. three days later i found out there was about $900 worth of things wrong with dear Boris, and dear Boris, a 1990 Toyota Camry with 267,000 miles on him, more than deserves to go to the happy hunting grounds.

so i have been biking everywhere since then. my fat, sweaty ass has traversed this city for the past three weeks in this unbearable fucking heat, and not only is it quite okay, i FUCKING LOVE IT.

i had always admired city bikers from afar, but felt i could never coexist with cars and buses and pissed off cab drivers. my biking experience was limited to going to the corner store in Lebanon and occasionally biking down to the Stoever's Dam with my family. I, in fact, am now riding the bike that my father got for me when I was like 12. I think it's from Wal-Mart. Ugh. but when one has no other way to get anywhere (there are buses, but i really don't feel like spending 4 bucks a day to get anywhere), one must bike.

before my car even died, i had started "training" around the neighborhood. New Kensington and Fishtown are perfect for this: barely any traffic, small one way streets, and general respect for the biking folk. i noodled slowly around, relearning how to brake and pedal. first time out, going up towards Port Richmond, i detoured carefully around some construction vehicles only to smash directly into street sign pole.

first time i biked around town, i had to go down to Old City to get tips from a St*rbucks I had helped out at a couple of times. It's probably 2 or 3 miles at most, right down 2nd street, but i was a nervous wreck. I still hadn't figured out how to ride next to cars and to hit trolley tracks just right so i wouldn't go flying onto the pavement in the middle of Girard Avenue. I made it down in one piece, thank god, and made it back, just barely, a nasty sweaty mess.

on friday, i got out of work around 1:30 in the afternoon, and met a bunch of people at this bar on Fairmount. four hours later, i was pretty much smashed. i was supposed to go to First Friday with two of the guys i was drinking with, Nate and Eric, but i was so tipsy i figured it was time to head home and crash early. and then they suggested we just bike right down to the Old City. i was terrified. i mean, utterly terrified. biking through Center City in the middle of rush hour wasn't something i would do sober, and besides, Eric and Nate are really good, fast bikers, whereas i am not.

but there i was, following slightly behind them, the three of us forming a little pack down 19th street, around Logan Circle, crossing fucking traffic, and then all the way down to Chestnut street, dodging cars and buses and cabs. i could only follow their lead. i managed to clip someone's side view mirror only once, and i arrived in Old City intact and completely exhilarated.

there is something magical about deciding to do something you're almost sure you can't do, and then not only doing it, but doing really well. riding a bike in the city is amazing, because you are just so there. there is no metal box enclosing you from the sounds, the sights, the smell of the air. you move faster than walking, but not so fast that you don't notice everything. i have biked past places that i have driven by for YEARS and seen new things.

i biked home this morning from Malcolm's house at 7th and Pine. i left there around 8, i hadn't been able to sleep, and i had wanted to bike home through the city at that hour. it was so quiet, no people on the sidewalks, no traffic. i jumped from pavement to concrete to brick to cobblestone and back again. came up on the left of Independence Hall, no one out there except a couple chatty park rangers and a few tourists. the city was still sleeping from the crazy night before. it was so beautiful.


Blogger Aliengirl said...

On a bike..

Hi from spain :)

I love biking experiences.. But mine is dead, don't ask me why xD

7:26 AM  
Anonymous Beth W. said...

I don't like bicycling ... something about it. I do like walking, and I walk a lot, but my feet have begun to tell me that There are Limits. Sigh.

6:35 PM  
Anonymous Mum said...

'Not a Wal-Mart to be found in Lebanon County when you were 12! Those were the days when the suburban landscape was free of the yellow smiling face. The bike might have been purchased at Ames - do they still exist?

1:37 AM  

Post a Comment

<< Home