Maybe I Should Make a 'Transportation' Label
My dad bought me my current bike less than two years after he bought me my first full-size bike, which was a nice, dark purple with a comfy, wide old-lady seat. Once I realized that was something to be embarrassed about, I was, but I also loved that bike. (I wish the current one was as comfy as that one was.) My dad has a habit of forgetting to close the garage door; one night, that cost me my bike. So we went to K-Mart, I think, and I chose this purply-blue Huffy (historically a favorite color of mine) with thick curves inspired by old-fashioned bikes and a matte finish (still with subtle glitter). It turned out that a water bottle doesn't fit in the normal place because of the way the bike curves; the lack of space can also make locking it difficult, since I use a thick lock with little give. The suedey finish on the bike seat, soft and appealing when I first got it, has dried out, cracked, lost a layer, and now soaks in all moisture it meets. If I leave a plastic bag on the seat overnight to protect against rain, I'm confronted with a wet seat inside from condensation. It takes forever to dry out. The handles are cushioned by foam, which, like the seat, has dried out and holds in moisture. The gears don't like me very much, and my back brake—you know, the important one—needs to be fixed again.
Still, it's essential. My bike keeps me within ten minutes of everywhere I regularly need to be, as it has for the past two years (excluding Detroit, an important destination for the past year if not anymore, but one that required my dearly departed Honda). I am, with my bike, less than ten minutes from the train station. Both jobs, my brother, my boyfriend. If there was anywhere I actually liked to buy groceries in this radius, I'd be set. Still grumpy, but more contentedly self-sufficient. Between downtown and campus, it's usually faster to bike than to drive, anyway, partially because traffic laws feel flexible when you're on only two wheels.
But I kind of hate it. I hate the hills in Ann Arbor. I hate how I bike up the same ones, day in and day out, and it never gets easier. I keep doing it, and I keep getting exhausted. We lived for a year at the bottom of a hill, and every day I biked to class—often in the rain, sometimes in the snow—I had to pedal up that hill. It felt like it took forever to reach Hill Street (ha ha) and be able to catch my breath and charge forward onto campus and to class. Coming home, though—it was great. To work hard to get to class, a place I usually didn't really want to be, made sense in some way. It was unlikely I would enjoy the way there, but the way home was fantastic. I raced down East University once, sometimes two times a day. If the street was dry, the traffic sparse, I'd let go of the handlebars completely and fly down the hill. Sometimes I dared keep my hands off even at the curve, so I could practice steering, not just balancing, simply with my body.
These days, I bike on busy streets, steeper, faster hills, in the wind and the rain (and the snow, as of last week). On these streets, I'm too cautious to fly, and I don't really want to bike for fun when I've been biking back and forth all day. It's also cold. If I were writing this in the spring, it might be different. Now walking feels like a treat sometimes. My impatience and my chronic tardiness are the reasons I bike so much more than I walk. Even if I don't have to be somewhere as soon as possible, my instinct is to pedal pedal pedal, make as many lights as I can, and be done. I'm better at relaxing while walking than biking, though again, the cold makes me want to get from A to B with the utmost speed. It's also easier to keep your pants dry when your legs aren't perpendicular to the sky.