I rode a bicycle back . . . mostly. It was a ‘70s Schwinn that I bought on Craigslist for 36 bucks. The big idea was to sand off the original coat of paint, lacquer it to a beautiful newness, and replace any moving parts that were worn or simply not working. During my ubiquitous lurking about San Francisco bicycle shops, a lot bike mechanics visibly turned queasy when I told them my intentions and even more so when my complete ignorance of bicycles shone through our conversations like idiot diamonds. It didn’t deter me. I expected discouragement and that’s essentially all I got from the few people who knew my plans. “What about this . . . ?” They’d say. “Have you thought about that . . . ?” I’d hear. “Why don’t you fly?” Squawk. “Fly.” Squawk. “Fly.” Squawksquawksquawk. Because I didn’t want to fly, you jerks. I hate flying. You step into a plane at one place and step out at another. Where’s the adventure in that? Besides, I needed a buffer between the two cities. I’d have probably burst into tears being suddenly in
So I rode a bicycle . . . mostly. A bicycle that was wrecked when I got it but maimed further when I was finished with it. My intentions were pretty, but my love only took it so far, so three days before I left, I had it tuned up by the fellas at Mojos Café and Bicycle Shop on Divisidero (if you’re ever in the neighborhood (the coffee’s amazing, too)), and the solutions I was unable to discover on my own were quickly solved by hipsters with knowhow. I danced out of the shop, enthusiastically waving goodbye as the mechanics solemnly stopped working and watched me go. That’s the problem with technical knowledge, I think. These bike pros had an encyclopedic comprehension of their craft and one guy in particular was almost . . . theoretical when waxing velocity and weight distribution. They were so scholarly with their information that I’d wager their fear of so many potential dangers kept them from practical application. That or they didn’t think that anyone without their vast knowledge and experience was capable of doing what I was describing. It’s bike riding, people, not combat aviation. Anyway, I liked talking to them because they knew their business and because they weren’t friends, they didn’t have any rights to depress my eccentricities with overwhelming caution (though their faces and body language spoke volumes).
I didn’t train. I didn’t read about cycling. I didn’t find out what was legal or illegal. I didn’t buy Spandex or bike shoes. I didn’t wear a helmet. I didn’t even plan my route. It’s only 1,800-ish miles. My preparation was practical and uncomplicated: plan for rain and snow, heat and cold, hunger and thirst. Have money for accommodations, a hunting knife for bears and rapists. Even now, I don’t understand everyone’s disbelief and immediate certainty that it couldn’t be done. I wasn’t going to be taking a Sunday outing with my parasol and bell girdle. Of course it would be hard, but like I said, it’s riding a bicycle for God’s sake. If I ever decide to
As my December 27th departure date approached, I shipped a few things back to Austin and pushed the rest of my San Francisco possessions to the sidewalk where I originally found them anyway.
Then I left.