Throughout college I often went biking on the gravel roads outside town on my friends' mountain bikes. My bike was at home, a 10-speed I’d bought in 5th grade, not appropriate for gravel. The summer after finishing college, I worked at a camp in Northern Minnesota. My Dad bought me a used bright green mountain bike – my Fuji Thrill.
Last Saturday I went to a Mason Jennings concert. He talked about what led to one of his songs, he reflected on what memories might pop into his mind as his favorites right before he’d die. Almost none (or none) of those memories were of times when he was alone. Standing there in the audience I too tried to scan through favorite memories and found this was not the case for me, I had many where I was alone – unless of course you count my bike.
One that came to mind was during that first summer. All the staff at the summer camp either had Saturday or Sunday off. I’m not exactly sure what everyone else did on those days – I heard the bar mentioned or going to town for a movie. I, on the other hand, would take out my beloved topo map, scout a route and go biking on old logging roads.
This summer was also the first I had my own car and therefore could, in a way, define for myself how and where I wanted to spend my time. Define in a way who I was and what I enjoyed. I don’t have many specific memories from those bike rides, but there are a couple: biking through a bramble of wild blueberry bushes and “discovering” a lake without any lake front property. It is difficult to put words to that last one. The gravel road did not touch the lake; somehow I was drawn to walk through the woods to it. It was at that moment I realized I had “discovered” this lake. There was no lakeshore property, no roads alongside, no trails, no path (except most likely the deer one that led me to it). It was incredibly beautiful. I realized this is how lakes were meant to look and I also realized how rarely I had seen a lake in this way.
So though I’ve been on a couple of Sierra club bike rides where people told me, “You are doing a lot of extra work with that heavy bike,” and the squeaking the brakes made was really loud and kind of embarrassing (they worked fine) and I always seemed to move more slowly than almost everyone else, and I pretty much always ride on pavement now – I still haven’t given up my mountain bike.
Then last summer it started having this annoying problem. Whenever I was going up a hill I would have to downshift into a really easy gear or it would slip (which could be dangerous if I was trying to cross a street.) It is probably (?) relatively easy to fix – maybe a new chain, but I don’t know how. Also I’d been thinking about getting a road bike for a while, because it was more work to ride. In 2010 my brother found a road bike he lets me use at the thrift store. So I didn’t end up riding my Fuji Thrill at all this year.
Even though we need to put the bikes in for the winter and it is taking up needed space in the garage, I still didn’t want to get rid of it. I knew I should though, so I did some research about bike donation. I found a place in Minneapolis called Full Cycle that gives paid internships to homeless youth to teach them about bike maintenance. After watching their video my heart became so happy with the thought that this would be my bike’s new home.
So today I am grateful for my bike and all the beautiful places it took me, exercise it gave me, and fresh air it exposed me to. And even more so I am grateful to appreciate this precisely because I am giving it away. Though it feels a little sad, it is through letting go that I can feel how wealthy I am.