To My Bike, With Love…
Posted: 10:10AM May 24th, 2013 | Comments
When I announced I was moving to Madison for an internship with Sustain Dane, the first thing my 62-year-old Father conservatively said—with a slight undertone of nostalgia, if I’m not mistaken—was, “Ah, Madison, ten miles surrounded by reality. You’re moving to hippieville!” Admittedly, there may be some truth to his sentiment, buried in a sweeping jumble of historical facts and romanticized generalizations—my own included.
For me, Madison has always been one of those phenomenal places where everything I love—inspiring creativity, universal spiritedness and copious supplies of coffee—comes together with a cherry on top. Passionately innovative people are around every corner. Artists of all disciplines thrive. Political debates are hashed out Mr. Smith Goes to Washington style, and everyone uses reusable cloth bags, shops at farmer markets and never litters. All of this occurs against the majestic backdrop of the Capital building, naturally. What can I say, for a girl from a small town in the center of the state, Madison is where city life, sophistication and political worldliness collides with beer, Badger games and Friday night fish fries. Sold—sign me up!
In my case, it really is ten miles surrounded by reality. Maybe taken in a slightly different context than my Dad intended, but still. It has been a year since I graduated from Winona State University, and although it isn’t a job, this internship was offering my dream work, in a nonprofit with a great cause, in one of my dream cities. It is the perfect open window to let me back into “big-girl world,” after having to move back in with Mom and Dad post-graduation. Job searching turned out to be a slightly more menacing task than originally thought out to be.
So, this brings me to you, bicycle. If I am really going to get the chance to fully experience Madison the way it was meant to be—in my utopian version, or otherwise—I need to ditch the car (truthfully I can’t parallel park to save my life anyway), and I need to take you on this exploratory sojourn with me. We have some major catching up to do.
Making the decision to travel by bike is the most exciting and absolutely terrifying thing all at once. It is where my ideology and daydreaming met logistics. I’ve always liked the idea of bike travel—no fossil fuels, built-in daily exercise, cost and space efficient, a free tan—but putting myself on the road, with other moving objects, while learning the ropes, is a little like how I would feel about an arrow flying at an apple sitting on top of my head.
It was one those “Maybe next year I should start…” or “Sometime soon I got to…” This inevitably led to your involuntary ten-year hiatus. Still, what’s not to love about you? I am already an avid pedestrian, so what do I have to lose—a little more of my love handles? Biking has all the same benefits of walking, only faster, right?
I know I’ve made excuses. I don’t want to be sweaty when I get there—maybe when I’m going somewhere less important. I’m going to have helmet head, and I was planning on washing my hair Tuesday instead of tomorrow. It is a lot of hassle to make sure my bike is safe from theft for this quick little trip.
With Madison, however, the excuses have finally met their match. It’s time to put my helmet where my mouth is and for you and I to get reacquainted. It is time to start biking—for real this time.
Honestly, I had my doubts about you—looking so sad and dejected next to the box of old Christmas decorations and the patio umbrella that hadn’t opened for years. Dirt had caked on to your frame in a permanent coating; the kind that wiped off on your finger but still managed to stay seemingly undisturbed. Your tires lay flat to the ground like a Wisconsinite beer belly. Your chain seemed questionable. Your gears looked foreign. Your seat? Uncomfortable. As I lugged you up the stairs, I half expected you to fall to pieces—a tire to drop off, falling to its death, in one final gesture of protest to stick it to me. I deserved it. I had some major sucking up to do to get back in your good graces.
However, after spending twice of what you are probably even worth—sorry, it’s true—it looked like you may just come back to life after all. To think, it only took a new inner tube on one tire, two metal baskets mounted on a new rack, fenders, a bike headlight, a bike backlight, a water bottle holder, an air pump, an air gauge, a new helmet, a legit bike lock (for a legit price, sadly), and, finally, another legit bike lock (for another legit price) when the first turned out to be very unpractical. This was all on top of a good cleaning and looking over.
You certainly have been needy, and it certainly seemed like my new sustainable lifestyle was starting to, ironically, cause a lot of extra stuff to enter my life. But, damn if we weren’t going to look like we knew what we were doing—even if we were complete and utter amateurs.
And, so, here we are at real starting line—as a team.
Throughout my time here in Madison I will be experiencing as much as I possibly can—all in the name of gaining some vital career dexterity and learning how to live more sustainably. My experiences will be documented. My observations, explained. My “greenness,” fully explored. It all sounds so scientific, but, really, this summer is going to be about living—living in a way that works for me, and nature. And you, my friend, will be getting a front row seat. Or will I? Technically speaking, you will be the one taking us there.
But first thing is first. We need to get started on this “being a team” thing, because, for one, you’re still showing your age a little, and, secondly, I’m way more out of shape than I thought I was. So, let’s start pedaling...
About Briana RosenbergBriana Rosenberg is Sustain Dane’s communications intern. After graduating from Winona State University, in 2012, with a B.A. in Mass Communication: Advertising, she returned home to work on various freelance projects. Now living in Madison, WI, she is falling in love with the city and thrilled to be working with Sustain Dane. When she isn’t working, or figuring out Madison’s bike culture, you can find her exploring downtown or held up in one of Madison’s many coffee shops, with a Café Mocha, reading a good book or working on her own writing.