Friday, July 06, 2007


The question isn't whether to ride, it's how the ride will fit the day.

For most of us, a broken car complicates life. The more broken it is, the greater the complication. While most people could walk or bike a lot more than they do, it would be hard for massive numbers to go car-free unless our entire approach to transportation changed.

Yesterday I had to deliver a broken car to our trusted mechanic. He's worth the trip, around 40 miles each way, if the car can possibly be coaxed to get there.

Cars suck money like nothing else. They lose value from the minute you buy them. They consume increasingly expensive and ethically questionable fuel. You have to insure them, maintain them, house them, park them and avoid other people driving them. They kill more than 36,000 people a year, more than the US casualties in the September 11 attacks and the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq combined. On top of that, you can get royally reamed by the people who repair them.

Auto mechanics don't have to be dishonest. They can simply be unimaginative to waste your money.

The guy who fixes my car is eccentric. He battles various personal problems. He's also a brilliant diagnostician. He would never thrive in a big shop. He's got his one-man hole in the wall and an endless work load, with customers who come to him from as far away as Vermont and Pennsylvania. He also has a loyal following among people lucky enough to have him right in the neighborhood. If I liked his neighborhood better, I would seriously consider moving there.

To get the ailing car to him, I could have driven it to town, worked all day, and then driven the rest of the way to Gilford with my wife following in the other car. We would have driven two cars close to 90 miles each and I would not have had a bike ride.

Screw that. I got up at 4:45 when my wife did, for her grossly early shift at her summer job, poured two and a half quarts of oil into the Toyota, loaded the bike and drove off shortly after 6. After a stop in town to drop my lunch and other items at my place of employment, I delivered the Toyota with a key and a note, and hammered the 27 miles back to Wolfe City to arrive fashionably late for work.

Boring things like a day at work go a little more quickly if you knock a few minutes off the front end. And don't blame the bike. I'm late when I drive, too. This is your life, people. Don't just punch a clock. Get out and live.

I did carpool home with my beloved at the end of the day, because we were both finished at the same time, and it was a way to be together. Other times I've finished the 40-50 miles by riding the rest of the way home. Whatever suits the needs of the day.

I owe a large amount of my deceptively comfortable lifestyle to the bicycle. I have saved vast amounts of money and stayed in decent shape. If I'd managed to connect with a better income, I'd be sitting pretty. Instead I have to settle for good times now and retirement in a large cardboard box in a vacant lot until I'm ready to wander off into the nearest available large tract of wilderness to take care of funeral arrangements. And things could take a turn for the better. I can't see doing things I dislike for years and years in the hope that I might get to have a little fun late in life. That's the kind of attitude that's gotten us to the tangle of highways and jangle of neuroses we call our modern life.

1 comment:

Biklangelo said...

Hmmm...your retirement plans are oddly simular to mine...except...I was building a 1982 Trek for loaded touring...figuring I'd spend the last 20 or so years, I suspect I'd linger, on touring from campsite to campsite. But I'd never consider living in a cardboard box...well, maybe...if that box was one with Campagnolo script printed on the side!