What with the price of gas nowadays, it would seem that those of us fortunate enough to have friends with bikes who are NOT gloating should be grateful. Because there is nothing worse than an adult in a helmet, riding a bike with more gears than my car, laughing at me as I watch my life savings being depleted while I fill up at the gas station.
Now most bike riders are perfectly nice people. In fact, I have to admit that I am a closet bicyclist. But I don’t want to spread that information too far and wide for fear I’ll be blackballed from the “If god wanted man to ride a bike to work he’d have put a gas engine where his heart is” club. I’ve been a member of such good standing for so many years I’d hate to be tossed out.
I got into biking when I got to Anchorage and realized there was enough time without snow and darkness to actually enjoy it. In Barrow, you have to be way more dedicated than I am ever apt to be to the whole idea that fun can include two wheels, legs pumping madly over icy roads and temperatures hovering at 25 below. For me, that really makes biking nothing more than a sheer endurance contest and I’ll leave that to Lance Armstrong. Here in Anchorage, if you can avoid cars that seem determine to eliminate the competition one rider at a time, bike riding can be quite enjoyable.
I started out with my three wheeler and have now graduated to a two wheeler just because I want to feel a little more grown up. I still have not exactly re-mastered the skills needed for a two-wheeler so I stay in the woods near my home where the only thing I will have to avoid is the occasional angry moose. That is much preferable to the angry driver who doesn’t understand that I don’t have complete control yet over the steering mechanism and spend a lot of time swooping and swerving down the road. The moose is actually more reasonable.
I always thought that once learned, riding a bike was like driving stick shift – it’s something you just never forget. You get on the bike no matter how many years separate rides and in just a few minutes you are back at Grand Prix level. I was very wrong on both counts – and I can only hope my sister will not connect her car’s stripped gears with my visit.
Somewhere between youth and now, I lost my basic sense of balance. (Pause for eruptions of hysterical laughter from my family at the idea that I ever in my life had anything in balance.) When I got on my sister’s two wheeler recently for a ride on the Atlantic City Boardwalk, I quickly realized that I was having a distinct amount of trouble not steering into railings and people As we negotiated the streets from her house to the boardwalk, she’d ride ahead to an intersection and yell when it was clear so that I could sail through without stopping since I can apparently no longer stop without falling over sideways like Arte Johnson on his little tricycle on Laugh In.
You would think that experience would sour me on anything but my trusty tricycle. But I am nothing if not a little stubborn. I’ve decided I should be able to balance on a two-wheel bike despite all evidence to the contrary. So when I got back to Anchorage, I went out and bought a two-wheeler, determined to re-learn how to steer it down a street without looking like a scene from an early Woody Allen movie.
I’ve not yet reached the point where I will take either bike near real traffic. But as gas prices slide up the scale with the ease of greased pigs sliding down a pole, the thought occurs that if I can just conquer this brave new world I can ride my bike to the store and use my trusty little basket to haul my groceries home at a great potential cost savings. And the higher the price of gas rises in what seems like the most blatant price gouging of my lifetime, the more determined I am to find an alternative to paying those ridiculous prices.
I was on the East Coast when Katrina hit and watched gas prices rise to almost $3.50 a gallon overnight – long before the real effect of the shortage could have possibly reached the pumps or created a situation in which any sane cost for that gas could be determined. I knew then that my patience was quickly running out and I needed to find a way to not patronize any group that would see such an overwhelming natural catastrophe as just another opportunity to make an obscene profit.
So maybe my bike riding friends have a right to be laughing at all of us with smug superiority. Their cost of living didn’t double when the price at the gas station did.