Thursday, December 31, 2015

Ride into history

A week ago, I was about 100 miles short of 6000 bicycle miles for the year... a goal that seemed quite distant considering icy road conditions and cold temperatures.  I was riding every day, but usually it was 5 or 6 miles.  But I had a day off Monday, and decided it was do-or-die time... and rode 25 miles.  That put the prize within reach... I finished up with 6002 miles for the year.  (The 11th year in which I've ridden 6000+ miles.)

During today's riding, I ran across preparations for the New Years' Eve Potato Drop.  (When I paused to take a photo of the big truck, a guy mistook me for a parking enforcement guy and asked, "Is the potato getting a parking ticket?"  Haha!)

(Hey!  That's not a potato! haha)

I also rode across, and then under, the Broadway bridge... probably for the last time in its 1956 form.  (Since the bridge was allegedly built when I was 2, I don't remember life before the bridge.  They will replace it, but likely with a slab on blocks, rather than the graceful arches of yesteryear.)

Today also marked the end of my 30th year of transportation cycling.
Back around the start of 1986, I "invested" $400+ of scarce and hard-earned money in a shiny new Peugeot Canyon Express mountain bike. I'd gone to the bike store expecting to buy a Centurion road bike, to take up bicycling to work. But they didn't have my size in stock, and the mountain bike - a pretty newfangled thing in early '86 - looked sturdy and competent. The Missus - who shared the burden of rationing out our very limited young-family budget - was skeptical. She saw the bike, not unreasonably, as a new "toy" for me. I assured her that I was in it for the long haul, even though I probably wasn't fully-sold at the time myself. But as it has turned out... I was in it for the long haul; at least 30 years' worth.

(I'll forever be grateful to Betty Vickrey - she and I worked at the same place, back in '86. She rode her bike to and from work almost every day, and her words of enthusiasm, and her example, were what made me a believer.)

My motivations at the time were:
- to avoid motor-vehicle aggravation... traffic jams, parking hassles, etc.
- to save some money
- to get a little exercise
All three were well-placed, and have panned out very nicely in the ensuing years!

What has changed
- Me!  I'm older and slower than I was 30 years ago. (I'd guess that I've lost 3mph, and probably a bit of endurance, as well. It's sobering to think where I might be, physically, if I hadn't been bicycling all those years.)
- The hardware, for better or worse - is much more diverse and technical than it was 30 years ago. My bike is a "30 Speed" - a "10 speed" would be fine, but ya can't get a "10 speed." Pretty much every bike was steel in '86. Nowadays you can get a bike made of anything from plastic to titanium. The diversity is great... but it comes at the cost of simplicity.
- The hazards... particularly behind-the-wheel electronic distractions. You could buy a cell phone in 1986... but it was the size of a brick with an antenna, and cost $1500. 30 years later, it seems more people are using "smart phones" while driving, than those who aren't. In '86, I rationalized that if I did my riding during the day, the probability of being hit by a drunk driver was reasonably low. I'm not nearly so confident about avoiding distracted drivers. They regularly kill and maim innocent bystanders, and so far, society seems to accept that as acceptable collateral damage. The National Safety Council estimates that 1 in 4 crashes involves cell phone use, and another 10% or so to texting while driving - an activity that's illegal in 44 states. It's scary to share the road with people who have such poor judgment! (78% of Americans say that distracted walking is a serious issue! At least when they're walking, they're usually not killing innocents!)
- Geese!  The Canada Goose population has exploded, at least in Boise.  They are magnificent birds when they are flying over in their V-formations, like honking squadrons of B-17s.  They are pests when they are waddling around on the ground, creating Canada Goose By-Product.  Apparently little can be done because of migratory fowl treaties.

I take great satisfaction in the transportation-aggravation I've avoided and the money I've saved, and the consistent exercise I've gotten over the years.  But the decision to ride a bicycle has turned 30 years of transportation time into 30 years of recreation time.  No regrets!

It's unlikely I'll be able to ride for another 30 years - and certainly not as my primary form of transportation.  But - I'll give it a go.

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