Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Pedalling and shit.

I've been very happy over the past week, okay I think it's kinda worn out over the past few days as I've been a bit sad. Which is probably why I'm writing this because reliving may be just as good as actually doing, almost. I can't believe I'm going to write this because though I'm really proud of it, it's also pretty embarrassing and I didn't think I'd want to tell anyone though I'm thinking of having a plaque highlighting 08/01/2010 made. Just kidding, am I? dunno, should I?, maybe if it's cheap, pretty silly though, is it really though? hmmmmm...And this has been another episode of forever contemplating, never decision-making in the much frustrated brain of moi-na, I hear my gray matter's planning a strike soon. Don't blame 'em, I'll even help make placards.

So I can explain this whole thing in one sentence, but of course I won't. Do you know me at all? Instead I will go back about 20 years and start there, especially because I think some background may make it a bit less embarrassing. Although, this isn't really making it public at all 'cause this blog's really just for my pleasure and I never talk about it so that's probably why I can do this without really worrying. So back to story, I had a normal childhood with lots of toys, dolls too for a bit until my mum stopped buying those supposedly because she watched Chuckie or something. May have been upset about that back then but now I'm glad I didn't have to spend anymore time with those anatomically disproportionate, literally air-head blonde bombshells. Amongst my other toys were pretty good tricycles, usually Fisher-price, so I know my parents cared for my cycling health at some point in my life. I know I had a couple of these tricycles and a bike with training wheels because every time we moved somewhere new, we would give away one of these babies to make space.

All of this talk is meant to show that I can see absolutely no reason why there was a sudden decline in this care for my cycling ability and the resulting mini depression caused by passing cyclists I had to carry around for years and years. If you do not get this from the annoying long sentence above, here it is; I did not learn to ride a bike like a normal child. I guess I can be fair and acknowledge possible reasons though I've never really asked mum and dad why. Perhaps I had the tricycles and training wheels when we lived in the duplex where we had a large yard and there was space to bike around. And then, dad's company bought those blocks of flats in that estate and we moved there because we could live there for free (or more accurately, for my dad's hours and the travelling and the moving him away from us) and though the flat itself was nice, there was not much space anymore and mum didn't feel as comfortable with letting us go about outside because she's over-protective like that. That probably stunted my cycling development more than anything else though I didn't help myself either. I remember my best friend responding to my complaints and shame about not being able to ride a bike when I was probably 8/9. She wanted to take me out on her bike and teach me to ride despite knowing I could very well crash her new shiny bike which makes her the hero of my childhood. I wish that story ends with 'and then I learnt to bike' but instead I painfully remember stupid me saying I would be extremely ashamed if any of our other friends happened to see all of that going on. Yes, yes, yes, I am currently banging my head though I'm doing that against the sofa and not a wall so probably not getting as much pain as I deserve.

I lived in Nigeria for 15 years and though it seemed most children learned to ride a bike early enough, (I say seemed because I also realise now that I came from an urban middle class family and pretty much only hung around people of this group and I have also only visited 3 states out of 36 not including road trip state drive-bys, so there is still so much I have to learn) very few people ride bikes past their teenage years which I've always thought is a very stupid thing. It has always seemed obvious to me that oil is currently the cause of most of the troubles of the world and since this oil is needed for cars I have been somewhat wary of them. This is why I still don't have one though my parents have tried to get me to officially get my license and get one since my freshman year and I'm running out of excuses. But I would think Nigerians would be aware of the troubles of oil more than most people and embrace bicycles to begin the process of cutting the oil ties. However, when the roads aren't particularly bike-friendly what can you do. Or are they not bike friendly mainly because there is no demand, classic chicken and egg dilemma! Anywho, while I always I hated that I couldn't ride, I wasn't constantly being taunted by passing riders so I could push down that need for a bit though I always knew I would love biking based on everything else I like to do and its statement against oil dependence.

Then I moved to London, Wembley precisely, and though there were more bikers and I had much more acute feelings of regret and wishing I could be comfortable enough with someone to tell them and let them teach me without feeling mortified, there really weren't that many compared to what I would experience later. I hear Wembley's changed now with the housing development and the new (not so new now) stadium so it may have changed on that score too as the mix of people could have also change to folks more aware of the overarching results of their transport decisions. But back then, not so much. And then I moved to Minneapolis and one of the reasons why I have sooooooo much love for this city is the same one that has caused me lots of distress. I don't have to try and describe it, look at the rankings and you'll see Minneapolis' biking rankings in the U.S. and the world. I guess I should be glad I didn't go to the Nederlands, actually I put off going even though almost all my dutch classmates visited at some point during our course probably partly because I wanted to learn first. Can't go to the Nederlands without riding a bike, geez! My first spring here in 2007 was utterly miserable on that score, they all came out of the woodwork, whizzing past me and leaving eyes filled with jealousy and wonder in their wake. How sad, wonder at an act that kids learn before they turn 5 *shakes head*. But summer classes started soon and that got my mind off things, same thing the next year and the next. It's really disgraceful to think how long I just let myself feel sad about it without doing anything. Of course, as these things usually work out, bikers gravitate towards each other and the same for the other people so pretty much all of the friends I made ended up being people who never got on bikes as far as I could see. And I'm pretty sure a few potentially great friendships went off the tracks partly because the transport systems didn't match. But this all meant that even if I could talk about the fact that I couldn't bike, most of the folks I knew weren't really into it anyway.

This summer I didn't take classes, I got done with classes last December so there was time I'd never had before and as should be the case I made lots of summer plans. Getting a bike and teaching myself to ride it was numero uno, as I had come to realise just before this spring that I didn't really need a teacher from good old www. I joined pretty much every biking blog I could find to get tips and I soon knew about pretty much every bike related thing going on in the cities and beyond. I soon realised how expensive bikes are and started looking on craigslist and found that even those were pretty steep. See, I'm interning this summer and since I'm not paid I've been pretty darn broke arse. Sometime in about June, I think, I found this beat up bike on there for 15 bucks and I got it though the guy who sold it to me couldn't understand why I'd want it and to stop the weird looks and questions I said I needed it for parts, ahhhhh loona muna. I figured learning would involve quite a bit of falling so why buy a good one until I learned to ride. And then comes my stupidity that kept me from riding for about two months.

Segue: I can't believe I still haven't gotten to the happy part, I'm getting tired now and I talk too much.

I still hadn't gotten over the unreasonable need to not let anyone know I couldn't bike that included going off to public parks and falling about, an image my mind completed with groups of guffawing teenage boys, giggling girls and smirking kids. Also an middle aged lady who means well coming up to me and saying, 'Oh you poor sweetie, you had to grow up without a family, didn't you?' Silly, I know, this is why my brain cells are going on strike. Even sillier, I decided to try and wake up at about 5 a.m., go out to a park and learn to ride with the pedals off and everything like the online tips said. But of course I never woke up that early, this is often sleeps till noon Muna we're talking about here after all. And then I lost my mind and decided to move the furniture in my apartment to one side and practice at home when Cherry wasn't about. I don't need to tell you that that didn't work and if I should be ashamed by any of all this, that should be it to the ninth degree (by the way I live in the tiniest apartment to fully prove to you my intense dumbability on this score). Went temporarily out of my mind one more time and when both went hopelessly wrong I decided I got a bike that couldn't be ridden and that was probably the problem. But then if you remember update 3 in my last post, Minneapolis got a bike renting service. You may also remember I said I didn't have a bike, I had convinced myself I pretty much didn't. Well, I rented the bike and did the screws-loose apartment thing for a bit and then decided to brave the back yard of my building since I feel like the other folks that should live in our building are never here. That was a fairly good move with no results since I tried for about an hour and got nowhere. However, I was also super conscious of all the people my crazy brain had convinced me were lurking behind their curtains laughing their heads off, so that didn't help.

Then I gave up for a bit, stopped reading bike blogs and everything. Then out of the blue on the 30/31st July that was all I could think about. I'm not sure why, maybe I walked past a particularly skilled biker, maybe I was mad at myself for spending my summer and especially that past week thinking about him like an idiot, maybe it was because I'd decided to try out a new run route earlier that week and I'd noticed St Anthony Park was pretty hilly and fairly lonely. I don't know, whatever it was thank God for it because I took that crappy Walmart Magna bike to St. Anthony Park on Sunday 08/01/2010 even though I had woken up at 8.00 instead of 6 like I had planned and I had thought there would be lots of people about. There were a couple walkers while I struggled to stay on that bike and though I probably would have painfully blushed if I was paler and may have unfairly sworn at them to myself, I kept at it and was cycling around on the grass after just two or so failed attempts going down a hill. So easy didn't fall once(there was tree hitting of course and my poor vulva's still recovering from all the impact from the saddle but I was never horizontal during that hour at least), all these years, so easy and the best feeling ever. I don't know if I should hate me for depriving myself of all those years of glorious biking or feel fortunate I can be thankful for being able to ride in a way no 5 year old could possibly feel and all on my own. That's probably what I'm most proud of, did it completely on my own and without doing the whole pedal off stuff and what not that was supposed to 'ease' me into it, would have been a waste of time and besides that bikes so crusted I don't think it would have come off without extra parts if I tried. I was riding about at quite a fast pace in a bit and though it seemed a bit harder to move onto pavement, I think that just needed getting used to after the grass and that soon became a cinch as well. All this in an hour because I had to get in the shower by 9 and catch a bus by 10, maybe the best hour of my life? The minute I got back home, I was right out and kept at it for over 4 hours. I started taking risks then and that's when I first fell and got most of the wounds and bumps I have now including one I'm getting a bit worried about. But no matter,if I die I'll die a bike rider and that's worth it lol. There was the first fall trying to go up the steep bridge on 5th street, the other side of Central towards Northeast, and then the potentially dangerous bit were I was going down the hill on that same bridge at an insanely high speed towards cars and being too afraid to press the brake because of something I'd read that suggested a possible somersault when a biker hits the brake when going too fast. I know now that I'd misread that but I didn't hit the brake and instead stopped by trying to crash into the walls of 'I like you' which should have given me so many more cuts but just gave me a few on my legs and three massive ones on my left palm which I have nicknamed Cedar, Lake of the Isles and Calhoun because of the way they curve about the bottom of my palm. I was pretty sure I'd stop after this, but no I got back when I got to 5th St and 2nd Ave and on the road no less! Not very smart but I thought I could actually go over the bridge that goes over 35W the same day I started biking. Needless to say I couldn't go up the steep bit, then I thought I'd at least go down that bit and then promptly crashed into the fence. Some guy walking his dog about a block away thought I was probably near death and I had to shout 'I'm okay' to him about a million times. Good times :) Fortunately I wore my helmet or it'd be a different story and I really only got the bump on my shin, the bruise and worrying bit farther up but I'll take care of that later. I haven't had any falls/accidents since and I have taken a new step every day this month (except Sat/Sun, very busy fun albeit sunny days y'all). Here's a timeline and I'll try to make it short, it's past 12, I'm sleepy and the heat's beginning to make me itch and scratch like a crazy person. I have all these heat rashes, the sun is fucking annoying these days, though even with today's glorious thunder storms my apartment still won't budge with the heat.

Monday - Couldn't wait to get back from work, took the trail up and down the street by St Anthony, then got on the roads going between St Anthony and Logan Park, tons of times, off sidewalk.

Tuesday - Couldn't wait to get back from work. Did Stonearch bridge! Was really excited for that and it was pretty awesome though I need to do it again soon now I'm much better since I couldn't really look at the Mississippi while focusing on not wobbling or weaving about. Luckily, it was a muggy day and there weren't tons of people. Went down the heritage trail past Nicollet Island and then rode back home. I think I crossed University and 4th though I still haven't rode on them off side-walk, should do that tomorrow.

Wednesday - Couldn't wait to get back from work. Awesome day! Decided to take bike to the Quarry for my first transport trip but I forgot to take any money so it wasn't technically that but no matter, I remembered the diagonal trail started on the other side of the Quarry and I rode that to the end. Then did the scenic route coming back, cycling in the memorial parks (Park of eternal peace, I think it's called, is pretty eerie with no one there. In a good way though), the golf course (don't know if I should have been there but whatever, I added on a new peaceful sitting place by the geyser). Got in conversation about biking with nice biking couple and then I told then I hoped it would rain because it looked like it wouldn't start for an hour and I'd be safe at home and the night weather would be cool. But my prayers were answered a bit too early and the downpour started about 5 minutes after I said that so I got completely drenched, got off the bike for the worst of it but I biked in the rain!!! So I'm glad for answered prayers.

Thursday - My long work day so wasn't going to be a big bike day. Only biked for an hour + but it was past 10 so my first night bike ride, may have been not so sensible since I don't have lights but whatever, I didn't die. I also rode in a skirt for the first time, I don't know about it, people may have been entertained by my underwear.

Friday - First transport trip, extremely short. Had to leave for Duluth at 9 so I thought I'd take the bike to the bank to withdraw cash just to get some biking in for the day. Duluth was beautiful though, would have loved to bike the Leif Erikson Park and Lake walk. AND I wondered the whole ride over why I didn't see a single biker on the road to Duluth. The on-road trail (at least that's what they look like to me) looked really wide to me and it was a really beautiful day. Seemed totally doable to me, I want to do it next year.

Sad days for biking Sat/Sun, tried but was hardly at home and since I don't have a bike lock yet can't really take bike for outings yet.

Monday - Shopping trips, couldn't really bike back with the bags though. Need basket.

Tuesday is today - Rode to bank, kinda boring. Got period so....

So there it is, that's why I'm so happy and I think I succeeded in getting myself in a good mood again. I'll just read this whenever I need a pick-me-up.

Plus I suddenly have all these people to bike with, I'd told Kel this spring how much I wanted to bike and that I was jealous of the bikers this spring though not that I couldn't bike. And she suggested we do the Minneapolis bike race on September 19th so I'm doing that and I was really surprised she did because I'd never seen her on a bike or talked about biking with her before then. Then I've got plans to do the Hiawatha trail with a few other people to Fort Snelling/The Mall and a few more trails. I love that I had the week to bond with myself and learn on my own terms but now, bring on the buddy biking! And I don't even care that I don't get to bike with him, okay maybe that's a bit of a lie but if anything's gotten all of that off my brain, this is it.

I buy a new bike this weekend but I think I'll always love crappy Walmart Magna, and I see now there's a reason first bikes are small. How am I going to keep lugging that thing around with me as I move houses in the name of endearment?

I love biking!!!!!!!! and Minneapolis!!!

O.D.ing on exclamation marks, want to throw up a little but it seems necessary.

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