Bike Ride to Work
Okay, let's start at fourteenth and Kossuth. Everything prior to the intersection was pedaling and easy gliding. The traffic on Kossuth is slow and heavy. Two conveyor belts moving automobiles in opposite directions. A maroon sedan faces me on the other side of these two moving walls. The driver is an elderly woman looking for a way to cross. I can easily turn right onto the slow moving belt and cross over on another street, but I won't. I want to go down Valley street, down the hill that turns Fourteenth street into Tenth street with its curves and dips and beautiful green foliage (it is June of course.)
There is an opening in the traffic, but I do not go. Elderly woman in maroon sedan has the right of way because she was there before me. She does not go because she expects me to go first. She casts her hands in the air inside her sedan. "What the heck is this young feller, doing?" I imagine her saying. I raise my hand and smile amiably. Another break in the traffic, another chance. We both go. I swerve left and she swerves right, a symbiotic parallel across Kossuth and now I glide down the serpentine hill. I fly down the most beautiful stretch of downtown Lafayette as the breeze picks up with my momentum. Wonderful! June, Spring, heat, breeze, wonderful. The sweat on my shirt begins to dry. I think of pretty girls I have taken bike rides with on beautiful days.
After some strange automobile traffic I am pedaling down Main street Lafayette. There are a lot of cars downtown while it is warm, sunny, and breezy enough to minimize ones driving by choice. I wonder how much of this driving is forced habit. Sometimes driving a car feels like wielding a weapon without purpose.
I glide down Main street. There are so many people out and about. The middle aged couple walking hand and hand. The old man playing mandolin under the Lafayette Theater billboard with the unnecessary puppet; his voice moves me when I hear it loud enough. The cooks and bartenders and brewers sit in the sun smoking, talking. Pretty girls in summer dresses walk up and down the sidewalk. Young people laughing and flirting. The homeless enjoying the sun and breeze because it is all they have and damn it it that is not enough.
I see Esteban on the corner of Third and Main. We make eye contact. He waves. I wave. We meet by the side if the road.
"What are you up to?" I ask.
"I'm heading to Foam City for a second." he answers.
"Cool I'm heading to work."
"Hey, that comic is coming out in Colombia soon," he mentions. "We'll have copies in July."
"Oh cool," I say. I forgot I made a short comic for a zine which is published and distributed in the Country of Colombia. I smile. "I'm excited to see it."
"Me too." Esteban says and we part ways.
I pedal across Second street through a gap in the buses onto Riehle Plaza.
Dakota waves smiling with a skateboard in his hand. He hangs around the shop when he no longer feels like skating. He waves every time he sees me and I wave back.
I ride on the sidewalk for a moment because I am still skeptical of riding in two lane traffic. It is a lot of forward moving metal to process. I coast down the Wabash Landing parking lot going the wrong way. I gather my nerve and turn onto State street, pedaling hard. I want to gain momentum before I reach Chauncey Hill.
My bike was manufactured in Germany and, supposedly, is worth several thousand dollars. It cost me twenty dollars. A student at Purdue did not want to take it back to his home in Germany. He gave the bike to my uncle, who gave it to me. The tires needed to be fixed so I had them fixed. It is the fastest bike I have ever ridden and it helps me take hills like a champion. Having it sometimes makes me feel as if I won the lottery.
I hit the incline of Chauncey Hill fast. I begin to huff and puff as I lose momentum. I gear down. My legs begin to tighten and strain. I feel a slight burn in my chest, a good burn. Sweating again. I usually turn after Triple X restaurant, but I decide to defeat this hill with my bike today. Gear down, breath evenly, pedal evenly. Everyday I ride these hills become easier. The street levels. I coast into my destination at Amused Clothing. I sit outside for a moment and let the breeze evaporate my sweat. My heart rate levels and I feel that lovely natural high all over my body.
I'm glad I didn't drive to work.
Aaron C. Molden