Saturday, May 8, 2010

Her name is China, and she’s beautiful.

And she, too, will change my life, but I feel like I say that about so much lately, it’s becoming a cliché.

Today the planets aligned, my motivation, cashflow, and ability to let go/make decisions all took exactly the right positions, and I biked to Jusco for toilet paper, knowing full well toilet paper doesn’t fit well in my bike basket.

In my old bike basket.

Originally, all I wanted was a bicycle not entirely made out of rust.

Okay so this isn’t actually a photo of my old bike in reality…

But after the Himeji ride and my extended borrowing of MiriJET’s bike, and after the weather began to change, I began to hurt for the bent-wheeled rusty creaky thing that was my bike. I had inherited it from Predecessor, who got it as a hand-me-down from one of the BOE people. Nice.

A few things began to up the stakes. One of them was the Himeji ride. My rental bike, for starters, on both the pre-ride and ride days was so much nicer than my old one. On this bike, I rode an estimated 25 kilometers. And it didn’t make me sore, or feel outside of my ability level. (Granted, I did it all over the course of a whole day)

The ride also brought me into contact with people who bike their commutes. A thing I would have considered unreasonable for myself, except that IllustratorJET’s commute is pretty much the same time as mine (his train, mine bus, both 20 min).

And, I see my boys doing it all the time.

Early on, it was just the badass crew. My graduated new HS students biking from the place where I work to around where I live. It warmed my heart every time I saw them from the bus window, in their little solidarity cluster, Ichinan freshmen.

But all of this broadened my ideas of what you can use a bike for, how far it can reasonably take you, and what that can mean.

When I first got Robin Red, I expressed joy at the newfound freedom. And indeed, I wouldn’t want to give her up. But I wanted to be able to explore more of the tiny roads and sprawling township around where I live. I wanted to be able to set off without a real destination, just to see where I could get to. Walking was too slow, driving too fast and nerve-racking on those tiny roads where you are going too slow for everyone if you don’t know what is up. If you’re biking, you don’t need a reason; you aren’t wasting gas and you aren’t in the way. You move faster than you can on your own, but you’re not inside of anything, so you feel the air move by and you’re really in it. Sort of like ground-flying.

Partly because of Jermaine, I began to think of biking as my go-to for how to spend a pretty afternoon. Pretty afternoons began to increase in frequency.

I did a little biking before, in Nashville which is in my memory Made Entirely of Hills (and so I’m confused to imagine it flooded—that shit is just surreal!).. which is probably why I think going for a bike ride requires more energy than you have and leaves you sore for days. And sometimes that is good. But I was seeking a different kind of freedom.

So I began to ask around, get information and ideas. I began to expand the image of what I wanted in this new bike of mine. More than just a shiny version of the old one (which is what I did when I replaced my camera this past week), I might want something with gears to handle the hills, a back basket for weight; when I went to the bike store in Himeji I discovered that they make lights that don’t make it even more of a fight to pedal because they are charged by an internal device in the wheel base (or something). I began to worry and obsess that the nearby Jusco or Namba would not have what I now required. I became convinced that I needed to get it from this sweet bike shop in Himeji.

This was a totally impractical plan because although their staff was great and the were clearly tip top in knowhow and selection, Himeji is about an hour drive. Robin Red, while lovely, is not big enough for a bike. The Asahi commitment to service and accessibility is such that they loan out a little K-truck to let people get their bikes home. But that would total up to like 4 hours of driving on whatever day I would want to get the bike. I looked at that prospect with sad horror and put it off and got scared and worried and obsessed and watched every pretty day go by with hungry eyes.

Until today when I said, enough. All I want is a glorified momochari anyway (I don’t actually know what that term means, only I think it refers to your classic standard bike that everyone has and which I also had in rusty form). I am going to get toilet paper and see, just SEE if there is nothing at all in Jusco that fits my minimum requirement.

She stood, tall and six-speed and glorious, and once I got the basket installed and the seat adjusted to my height, I felt like I could actually lean back like a gangsta with one hand on the wheel.


Sooner, rather than later, I needed her in my life.

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