Monday, September 26, 2011

wicked witch of the west?

I rode my bike to the grocery store this afternoon—a total pick-me-up.  I try to do this weekly.  Reality? I do it when I can.  A few years back, I bought this big container that looks like a cooler-on-wheels; it attaches to the back of my bike.  Surprisingly, I can fit a week's worth of groceries in there (provided I don’t buy toilet paper and canning jars, in which case, I think I can only buy toilet paper and canning jars). 

I had the idea to do this because it’s only a 2.37 mile round trip to the store, and it seems silly to get in my car every week to drive somewhere that’s just over a mile away.  In these days of rising oil prices and rising global temperatures I thought it an unnecessary luxury to drive.   At least that was my initial thinking.  What I didn’t anticipate was that it would turn out to be a luxury to ride. 

On the first day I set out with my cooler contraption, I felt glaringly conspicuous.  I could only think of my husband’s first reaction when he saw my getup.  He said I looked like Almira Gulch, the evil dog-snatching neighbor in The Wizard of Oz. 

Now add some of the most sinister music ever to emerge from a Hollywood film thrumming in the background.  I felt ridiculous.
But since then, what seemed quirky and embarrassing has grown normal and gratifying—and I’m actually happy if people notice me.  From an environmental perspective, I suppose my efforts amount to little more than a symbolic gesture.  Deducting two and a half miles from my weekly driving tab hardly stems the flow of oil that we move steadily from earth to atmosphere with such frightening alacrity.  But I've persuaded myself that it's worth it anyway. 

In those first moments, when I set out from my house with no seatbelt and the wind in my hair, I feel as if a ball and chain has just clunked off my ankle.  When I arrive, I completely avoid the hideous parking lot where my fellow shoppers plod and jockey for the last spot, like clumsy cattle jammed in a feedlot.  Then I load my groceries right next to the door, slip out the back, and avoid the parade of automated bovines waiting for release at the light.  Free! 

Of course, there is the matter of getting home--which of course, is uphill.  It would make for better reading to recount some sort of haphazard travail: the cart tipping, tomatoes and lemons scattering like billiard balls in the intersection, but I only tipped the cart once, and it was empty.  I’ll admit, however, that hauling everything does make me think twice about whether we really need that heavy 6-pack of beer, or that supersized jar of pickles.  If the ride involved any significant hills, I'm sure the sight of me pedaling in place would inspire even the most lackluster cartoonist, but luckily, it's only a slight but steady incline.  Just enough to call it exercise.

Strangers often ask me where I got my "container."  If you're handy you can make one yourself.  If you're like me, you can buy one from BycicleR Evolution at (I benefit in no way if you look into it). It wasn't super cheap - in fact, I'm pretty sure I stashed money away for several months before I could buy one.  I hope the sight of me riding inspires people to think about their own cycling possibilities.  If my measly 2 miles can't make a difference alone, then I need other people and their two miles too, right?  

Of course, I also hope my kids will someday follow in my pedaling shoes.  When my 14 year old son, Garreth, first saw the bike trailer, he said, “Mom, you’re so weird.”  This prompted a great conversation about why I might want to embark on such a bizarre endeavor.  Finally, he had to admit it was pretty cool, even though he wouldn't be caught dead riding with me (the route passes right by the high school after all!).  His sister, Olivia, is still too young to be embarrassed by me.  She rides along with her ten year old pig tails sticking out, wonky helmet out of place, her big smile to hold it up.  And then I don’t feel so helpless, as if she and I could change the world with just that trip. 

So I relished the luxury of my ride this afternoon.  The sun peeking out for a few hopeful moments on an otherwise gray day, the ball and chain tucked safely on the carport, the sound of my wheels thrumming to the beat of a song that I’ve learned to associate with perseverance rather than wickedness.

1 comment:

  1. I was always scared of that damn witch, but it's a good thing you don't look like her and teva's don't really pass for black boots! I can only giggle uncontrollably thinking of you towing that big ol' cart behind you. Someday I will have the will you have to tackle the big hills by my house.