Thursday, November 27, 2008

Fading Frontiers

After bouncing around on a couple of links on some message boards, I came across Charlie Kelly's website. He's posted a lot of really cool pictures of the early Thanksgiving morning bike rides he began organizing in the mid-70's. Seeing CK and his friends on cruiser style bikes (preceding the dawn of the purpose-built mountain bike) really reminds you of what an original concept it was in the beginning. I also can't help but think of all the disgusting homes that have been built in Marin, encroaching on its precious open space.

Combing through CK's account of the early days of mountain biking in Marin was pretty inspiring and stirred up a lot of memories of youth. I may not be the most serious, or able cyclist, but biking has been an inseparable part of my life since the beginning. I had my first bike probably around the age of 2 or 3, and did a lot of riding as a kid.

My bike took me on a lot of adventures. I remember getting in trouble for riding my Sears brand BMX bike from 28th Avenue alllll the way down to 23rd. My mom didn't think it was a good idea for a 7 year old to strike out on his own like that. In retrospect, it was obviously no big deal, but the sense of freedom and rebellion that ride instilled in me was incredible at the time... not to mention totally worth the scolding.

A few years later, I crashed and broke my nose while riding the same bike. For all the danger my mother had hoped to escape in San Francisco, I managed to find some of it in the suburbs. After moving to Novato, I grew out of the BMX bike, and got a mountain bike as a replacement. Sears brand once again, naturally. As I got older still, I started to become way more aware of the level of wealth in my community, and also aware that my family was not keeping up with that standard. Friends of mine began getting more serious about mountain biking, and their parents outfitted them with the name brands that eluded my possession.

The year I turned 13 was pretty special. I must have begged my parents for a "real" mountain bike for Christmas. I probably exercised the "birthday AND Christmas" clause, which all December babies keep as an ace up their sleeve when they want something REALLY special. Whatever I did, it paid off. When I woke up Christmas morning to see a shiny blue Diamondback Sorrento next to the tree, I probably came close to having a heart attack.

Lightweight aluminum frame, quick release wheels, cantilever brakes, 21 speeds, shifters mounted under the handlebars... it was a sight to behold. Sure, it was just a cheapo bike from a chain bike store, but no Sears bike had ever come close to this.

I rode that Diamondback until I was about 15 or 16. I rode it all over town, and through the numerous trails that cut through the Marin County landscape. I'd spend hours jumping my bike off of dirt mounds, or slugging up a hill for what seemed like an hour, all so I could race back down it as fast as I could. I have less fond memories of pedaling my bikes around Michelle Circle once a week on my paper route, but for the most part all my bike memories were very positive.

Until I began to write this, I hadn't realized that my bicycling habit had lapsed for nearly 10 years. About three years ago, I revived the habit, and bought a Raleigh road bike. Since then I've built a couple of fixed gear track bikes and try to get out on the roads at least once or twice a week. Like I said, I'm not a rabid cyclist by any means, but I certainly feel a strong connection to it, and I know that it will always be a part of my life.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Examination (Transit III)

As the enormous weight is finally unchained
It crashes and falls at an infinite rate
The peace that was once lost in the fray will be reclaimed

We endured a nightmare to see a new day
The winds bring change
The rains erase the memories and tragedies of history
Cast off the past

Weathered the storm and its deafening noise
The havoc it wrought, the treasures destroyed
Recover then revel in the disheveled waste
Winds bring change, the rains erase

The tumbling rubble that all else succumbed to
Becomes calm in the bleak, blackened dawn
Rebuilt and reformed, mended and mourned
The rules that defined us... rewritten