Elly Blue and Cecily Walker were having a very profound exchange on Twitter until I came in with my 140 characters. They were referencing economic memoirs related to bikes. I took that high-brow thinking and translated it into my head to be where I’ve been when I’ve been on a bike. I came up with three distinct phases in my life.
How Long Will I Have to be Here – High School
When I was high-school and everyone was trying desperately to get away…sometimes from their own selves. I would load Journey, A-ha and whatever else 80s pop music that appealed to me at that time and would head towards the nicer parts of town, like Olmos Park or Alamo Heights—essentially the Monte Vista area of San Antonio. I was riding a vintage Raleigh, racing green, with down-shifters and drop handle bars. I have no idea how I ended up with it but it was old enough that it had ones of those lights that was powered by rear cassette. It was a brute to change the tires on, so I would always head down to Charles A. James bike shop in downtown San Antonio ostensibly for a tune-up but more likely to change the tube in the bike tire.
Once the bike was more or less in working order, which pretty much summed up my life at that time, I’d head out from my slightly down-at-heel neighborhood towards McCullough and the cleaner, tidier neighborhoods of Monte Vista. Once in Alamo Heights I’d ride all over the area, my favorite road was one that ran parallel to Olmos Basin and rose slowly, winding, tree- lined on one side with big Live Oaks, the limbs of which hung precariously over the road from one side. The other side of the road, huge, imposing limestone walls blocked all visuals into the life on the other side. At the end of the road was, this being Texas, the gun range. So the music playing in my ears was occasionally punctuated by guns being fired over the not-to-distant horizon.
I would set a challenge for myself to not break cadence up the entire hill. I’d put my gears into something challenging and fly up that hill with only a couple of thoughts—music in my ears and the number of years until I could get the hell out of San Antonio.
College, Mtn-Biking, Music – Austin
Fast forward a few years and my bike and I are on Town Lake trail. I felt like had finally found home. I’m not much better off financially but still invest in, what was the time, a pretty solid mtn bike called the Stumpjumper. It was the advent of mtn biking and Austin was as cool a place as any to get into this relatively new sport.
It’s was also the beginning of the 90s so Austin was just beginning to become hip and transplants from all over the country were showing up. It’s pre-Lance but there are people wearing spandex, looking the part and not smiling while doing it. I’m probably not smiling either. I’m working to put myself through school and between classes and work, there’s little time for riding or anything else, for that matter.
I ride as much as I can during the 5 years I’m at UT (1 year off to work) but most of that time was absorbed with trying to figure out how I was going to pay for this degree without ending up drowning it debt. Taking the bike out provided both a physical and mental outlet as I turned over in my mind how to keep going. Riding along Town Lake, or Zilker Park or some of the mtn bike trails near town gave me some respite from worries. You can’t continue to be too worked-up, when you are standing on trails thick with Live Oaks and the sound of rushing water filling your ears.
It’s less hot here than in Texas, right?
I got my degree and soon was headed out to Boulder, CO. The only consideration I had made when deciding where to live next was that it be cooler than Texas. Another ancillary benefit was that, at the time I moved, Boulder had more bikes than cars. I was sleeping on an air mattress in a veritable dump off of Colorado Rd., near the university. I had traveled with only what would fit into my Toyota Tercel, so I did not have a bike during this major transition. But that condition was soon changed by a used, red bike with dodgy gears. The first couple of years were spent cycling the main bike trails in and around Boulder. I would occasionally venture out of town, east towards one of the L-towns, both inspired and physically intimidated when I turned around by the site of the Flatirons looming large in the distance. One of my favorite rides was out along Baseline, following a road that swept by a small lake, in which the Flatirons reflected majestically on cool, clear days.
Flash forward several (decades, but who’s counting) years and I’ve been lucky to upgrade both where I live and my bike. I still live in Boulder but no longer sleep on a mattress with a slow leak. I also share my home now with a husband and two furs and a few bikes in the garage—the garage is probably the size of that first apartment I lived in in Boulder. I now have an 80’s pink DeRosa and there aren’t many days when I’ve taken it out when I haven’t heard an appreciative comment.
There hasn’t been a time in my life when I haven’t ridden, to get away, to think, to shed those stubborn pounds, to work or just to cruise around. As I get older, I think about the importance of not sitting still, to keep moving and I hope I continue to ride well into my more mature years. Cycling around Boulder was/is, on the whole, a joyful, optimistic experience. Yes, there are more drivers with less patience than even 5 years ago but all the reasons I chose to move here still remain: bike trails, mtn views and it’s cooler than in Texas (although, that seems to be changing, as well).