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Your bike is always there for you
This year, particularly the last four months, have unquestionably been the worst and most difficult of my life, heaping before me hardship and heartbreak, piles of woe unmerited and unwanted. And the bad news keeps coming. Needless to say, I am ready to close the books on 2009.
Friends rallied to aid me, to boost my spirits, offer solidarity and advice. Among it, perhaps the best: “Don’t forget, your bike is there for you -- and so are we!”
Both have softened the sorrow.
I had been away from both friends and bikes for several months, training for a marathon. I had to keep my legs as fresh as possible, I reasoned, dedicating all my efforts to running. Returning from and resting after a 9-, 13-, 20-mile run, I would look wistfully at my bikes. I was committed to my training; I pledged myself to it. Unlike some, I took it very seriously and would not bend.
But, oh, how I wanted to ride my bikes.
Every time I finish a big race, get my medal, eat about nine free bananas, I go back to running for joy, when I want, where and how hard I want, and my bicycle love is stronger than ever. It’s like recess.
I had back all those running hours; I had nothing else to fill my time. In those free hours, I have taken again to riding all over the city, exploring its mysteries and learning its secrets. In the gloom and dusk of day, my bike’s brakes echoed sad sighs; the wind wiped tears from my reddened cheeks; I raged down hills and across flats, pedaling and grimacing until I thought my legs or jaw would fall off.
I watched people live their lives: happy couples; young families; loud young men, out carousing; packs of women, dressed to the nines and with laughs that go to 11. I’d roll out to taverns, have a drink, lament in whispers and half-drunk chuckles, walk my bike around, watching passersby. Then roll off to another.
And I have taken my time, to ride and work through these things: no rush anywhere. Leaving the Atlanta Bicycle Coalition offices during the SEC conference game, I crowed with delight, pointing at a low-flying blimp advertising DSL specials. I bid adieu to Ali and Rebecca, and rode off. I pulled off in places to perch and watch the airship circle downtown Atlanta.
I met another ABC member, Steven, on Edgewood, and we pulled off and talked shop. He commutes from Decatur, and in the past several months has lost more than 30 pounds. Stopped at Highland and Ponce, I waited for the light next to a young couple, out on their first date. Again, I pulled onto the sidewalk and chatted with them, cracking some jokes and maybe easing their evening.
“So … remember that crazy asshole on the bike?”
“Ha ha, yes: good times!”
And thus, ice was broken.
The simple, subtle hum of bicycle tires has helped. It honestly has. I am steadier, saner, and have had hours and hours alone to work through my crises. I am smiling again. I am laughing again. My bikes have been here for me: my friends, too, and they were right.