The first bike I saved up for was also the bike that lasted me the longest. It was a Gary Fisher Wahoo. I prefer to think the name refers to the sound you make while riding it and not to the Cleveland Indians’ racist mascot.
I was one of, oh, about three people in my high school who still rode a bike. We had two gigantic parking lots but not a single bike rack. I had to lock my bike up to the fence at the school entrance. But I was proud to ride my bike to school. It let me avoid the parking lot traffic jam every morning and afternoon. I also got to listen to mix tapes on my Walkman, which made for a much more pleasant listening experience than any of the radio stations Tucson had to offer.
I rode my bike to Saturday track practice and Saturday swim practice, depending on the season. My track coach once told me I should be doing triathalons, since I did all three sports already.
Summers were the worst time for bike riding in Tucson. Once, bored out of my mind at home, I decided to take a trip to the public library. It was so hot I had to stop at a mall just to be in some air conditioning for a while. By the time I got to the library I was covered in sweat and didn’t feel like reading anything. I stayed long enough to cool off and headed back home.
The trip that really defined the miserable hot Arizona summer was one that I took with my two best friends and my younger brother. The four of us wanted to ride out to a baseball card shop. We told our parents what we wanted to do and they gave us a series of rules to follow. The rule that made the least amount of sense was also the one that our parents were most admant about. We were not to cross any “major intersections.” If you have lived in Tucson, you know it is virtually impossible to get anywhere without crossing a few roads. Some of those roads can be considered “busy” if by busy you mean cars are on them.
We of course agreed to our parents’ stipulations, little knowing the high cost of our little adventure. Below is an approximate map of the route from our house to the baseball card store. The longer, winding line is the route we were forced to take so as not to cross any busy streets.
Each of these elements presented its own unique challenge, which would have been tolerable if the temperature that morning wasn’t 100 degrees and rising. Walking your bike through a sandy wash is not only uncomfortable in the best conditions, but when the sun is beating down on your back and you don’t know where you are you begin to wonder if life has any meaning. That question was answered by the huge hill at the end of our ride.
It had already taken us all morning to reach the hill. There was no way we were turning back. At the same time, we had been beaten down by the sun and the sand and the neverending ride. Our morale was very low.
We began to ride up the hill. It was slow going, made even worse by the cars that would speed past us, throwing dust and hot exhaust into our faces. If I had been in the mood, I would have remarked on the irony of avoiding every major intersection only to have to ride on the shoulder of a road up this steep hill. Dangerous? Perhaps. Uncomfortable? Definitely.
Needless to say, we made it up the hill and into the plaza where the baseball card shop was located. We called home and let our parents know that there was no chance we’d be riding our bikes back home. By this time it was after noon and the temperature would only rise for the next three hours. They came in shifts to pick us and our bikes up.
Beaten but not broken, we continued to ride our bikes throughout our high school years, though we never attempted a ride as long as that one in the heat of the day.
Next up, the bike held together by duct tape: my college bike.