Friday, May 20, 2011

National Bike to Work Day

A few years back I moved to California, where I acquired a crappy Free Spirit mixte from Craigslist. I weebled. I wobbled. Once or twice, I fell down. Over time, I bought a commuter bike. A road bike. A touring bike. I rode beach cruisers and racing bikes, things that didn't fit me at all and things that did.

In the interim, I've since moved home to Texas, specifically to Austin, where I am a daily bike commuter, general bike enthusiast (code-word for "fantastic dork") and spend as much of my free time as possible on a bicycle, pedaling through town to wherever the winds take me.

So welcome. I hope you like bikes as much as I do, which is a holy-shit level of "a lot". Which brings me to today.

Today was National Bike to Work Day, which inspires my perverse nature as few other things do. Given my perversity and the forecast of thunderstorms, I considered driving to work. I stood and looked at my bike, and said (as I often do to myself in quiet moments), "You know, I could just drive." But as almost always happens, I found myself going through the motions of shoving my lock into my bag, putting my helmet on, and making sure I remembered a rain jacket.

Bike commuting for me is a very zen experience. Yes, it's fraught with people honking at me, people passing just a bit too close for comfort, and bike lanes which appear and disappear with annoying frequency. I was hoping to see some of my fellow bike commuters out on our big day, but my commute passed as it usually does - with the bike lane to myself.

On the way home was another story. I was pulling out of the parking lot when I heard a big fat drop smack me square in the helmet. Then another. This is Texas in the spring. It quite frequently changes from bone dry to a deluge in a matter of minutes, and I'm enough of a Texan to panic at sudden rain. I got into my rain jacket, pulled the cover over my rack-trunk, hit the lights, and "BOOM". The ground shook and by the time I made it to the stoplight, the skies had opened.

As I rode, I had a couple moments of "OH NO," primarily related to the significant drop in braking power that comes with being hosed down. I cross a freeway on the way home and the thought of careening down the road unable to control my speed flashed across my mind.

After the initial panic wears off, the same thing always happens: I turn into a 5 year old girl splashing through puddles. I felt like I was pedaling through a lake at the bottom of the big hill, got back up the other side, headed down the slope to my house, and walked me and my poor, sad bicycle into the house. I looked in a mirror. From the waist up, in JacketLand, I was groovin, but the bottom half of me looked like I'd been dunked in a swimming pool. All in all, it was a pretty awesome commute.

So to all those who bravely headed off into the new today on National Bike to Work Day: welcome to bike commuting! I hope you like it here.

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