I can be seen every morning and afternoon on our Ballona Creek bike path, Darth Vadering a pair of goofy construction worker’s goggles, recommended by my ophthalmologist to reduce wind across my eyes. Atop my head is the required helmet, lavender, to match my 21-speed ladies’ Schwinn bicycle. I commute to work on what I fondly refer to as “my broomstick,” which I started in June 2013, shortly after I’d walked the mini-marathon that set off my weight recovery journey. Appropriate weight range being maintained by acts like conservative eating and drinking and regular exercise, riding to work on two wheels underscores that lifestyle.
On a whim, about ten years ago, I sauntered into my nearby Toys R Us, and purchased my amethyst bicycle. I liked it because it was a shade of purple, and it was a Schwinn, reminiscent of my childhood wheels. I had one of their original and famous banana-seated Stingrays. In the day we all had ’em; I wonder if they ever showed a kid on a Stingray on Mad Men? They tried to bring the Stingray back a few years ago, and I bought a shiny, silver one for my younger son, which turned out not to be the optimum vehicle for him, so we exchanged it for the then-popular “fixee.” My boys were brought up on bikes; in the good days of the marriage, we’d haul the kids stagecoach-style, attached to the back of their dad’s bike down the Venice bike path to the beach.
I’ve only had a few bikes in my life, so I remember them all well. I also count my gym-grade Lifecycle, on which I maintained my weight for a time, the carcass of which still lurks in some forgotten corner of my backyard. Years eventually passed when I rarely rode my bike, even though I’d bought a contraption to attach it to the back of my car for road trips. I found I couldn’t bring it along unless somebody more mechanically inclined attached it for me. So my bike led a life of getting shuffled around in the garage. Now it has a prominent parking place in my living room. I never thought I’d sully my inside decor which consists mostly of books and Japanalia with a bicycle, but I am proud to say that I use it so often, that it’s parking spot needs to be above all, safe and accessible.
I’ve commuted as a velocipede for two full summers and two full school years to my work at four of our Culver City campuses: Farragut, Culver City Middle School, Culver Park High School and Culver City Adult School – all conveniently located with an opening onto the bike path, which I reach by salmoning up Sawtelle (you can’t safely get on the path from the correct side of the road). I briefly considered selling my house out from under myself this past month, but one of the main deciding factors against it, at least at this juncture, is my proximity to the path. Not only can I commute to school, which is my work, but I can also feast my eyes on the Pacific Ocean itself within less than 20 minutes. On the way back, I can see the Hollywood sign. Biking west at sunset is a breathtaking reason to be alive.
On Ballona path, I see familiar faces every morning; the same people walking for their constitutionals; a “good morning” here, a “hi,” there, and a few “ohayou gozaimasu’s.” I notice the variances in water levels, the growth of the weeds, plants, and graffiti. I’ve been rained out of the ride a few times, but really not much over the course of the two years. I’m among the unfortunately few involved in any way with Culver City Unified meaning: kids, parents, teachers, staff and administrators, who bike to work/school.
Part of the original impetus was not just biking for health or weight loss. There also tended to be a lot of traffic in front of our school complex that stressed me out before I arrived at work. Not only does biking yield the exact opposite of stressing one out; it provides extra energy in the form of endorphins that, according to WebMD, “both improves self-esteem and triggers a positive feeling.” Better to start and end a day at work with such benefits, than the detriments of traffic related stress.
Having said all of this, I know I’m still a lightweight when it comes to the bicycle. I don’t know how to fix anything on it, so if I were on a long bike ride and stuck somewhere, I’d be at a loss. I nearly passed out on a recent CycLAvia because I rode in the heat after a beer and not enough water. Another time, I nearly blacked out at the house after trying to keep up with my eighteen year old son who was racing ahead of me on the bike path coming back from Marina del Rey; a handy bottle of cold Gatorade in the fridge from his last bout of stomach flu saved me that time.
I opted to arrive for a first meet coffee in the comfort of my fancy car, be-decked in a casual Saturday first date “outfit,” instead of by bike in my workout clothes. The inner me had considered donning my basic black dancewear and biking to the convenient Culver City location, but I guess I succumbed to first-meeting-itis, or laziness. He, as my luck would have it, arrived from Santa Monica by bike, in firefly yellow. Guess I blew that one; maybe it’ll be an incontrovertible match someday when both parties show up à vélo. I can just imagine, talking about it ten years into the possible twenty-year relationship to be: “we knew immediately, when we both showed up on our bikes, and caught each others’ eyes as we removed our helmets and looked up.”
Synonym Credit: bike hacks.com Dictionary of Bike Commuter Slang
Endorphin definition credit: WebMD.com
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