July 17, 2012

Have Bicycle, Will Travel

I don't have very many fears or phobias, but I do get intimidated by the unfamiliar, the unchartered, the unpredictable.

Sometimes the simplest situations plague me.

For instance: owning a bike as an adult.

Last September, was easy enough to select, outfit and customize the contraption, but then I had to figure out not only how to ride it in a heavily motorized city, but also how to haul the thing around in my own car when I had to drive to or from my biking destination.

I had a hard time buying the bike rack.

I had an even harder time installing it.

Once I did, I was never sure that it was installed correctly. I didn't want to mount my bike on it. I was convinced that it would fly off during a high speed chase down the freeway, or shake loose and plummet after taking a speed bump too quickly.

So for the next several months, I drove around, my bike locked to the gate behind my apartment building, my bike rack folded up in my trunk. Never the twain shall meet.

But when a toe injury from my Bridge to Nowhere hike prevented me from doing much walking while in Ojai for two days, I felt just daring enough clip the rack to the back of my car and to hoist the bike onto the rack and spend half of the 90 minute drive watching it in my rear view mirror - mostly to make sure it was still there.

And you know what?

It didn't fall off.

But when I stopped driving and started to park, I wondered, "What do I do with the bike?" Could I just leave it there, on the rack, while I lunched elsewhere, my car out of view? As difficult as it was for me to dismantle, couldn't somebody - wouldn't somebody - just take it, if no one was watching?

To allay my concerns during that first stop, I parked my car and locked my bike up on the sidewalk. I then wondered if someone would take the rack. I decided to take my chances.

Later in my trip, I got used to trusting my surroundings, leaving my car for short periods of time with the bike mounted on the back, sometimes parking head-out to obscure the view of the bike for would-be thieves. Or, at least, minimizing their physical space for theft.

Nothing got stolen.

So far.

I did start to realize that together, bicycle and automobile provide a compound means to freedom that would have never been possible for me in New York City, a metropolis that barely drives (despite the horrible traffic), whose stairways and overcrowded public transportation make actually traveling any distance with a bike prohibitive. People do it, but I never would have.

Now, as long as no one steals my bike and it doesn't get whisked away in a wind tunnel, is there anywhere I can't go (once I can hike again)?

Is there any distance too far? Destination too remote? Wet? Rocky? Steep?

I've still got plenty of sights to see in LA. But as long as I keep moving (despite injury, intimidation, inexperience...), I don't think there is much I cannot see.

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