This is my neighborhood bike. She’s only been mine for a few months. She has a longer history than I will ever know.
My grandmother passed her along to me this summer. At 86, Grandma hasn’t been riding for at least a few years. Grandpa had built the bike for her in the early 70s, to be her neighborhood bike. He found the abandoned Gitane mixte frame in an alley in Isla Vista, the neighborhood my newly married hippie parents were living in at the time.
Grandpa, by the way, though also 86, continues to cycle, averaging around seventy-five miles a week. We recently asked him to calculate his lifetime mileage. (He always logs his miles but had never added them up.) 90,617: that's how many miles my grandfather has cycled since 1976. Yep, that's nearly four times around the earth's circumference.
This is my home, my starting point for today’s neighborhood ride. It was built in 1906. I’ve only lived here for 6 of its 105 years of existence. I feel toward my home and my neighborhood like I do toward my bike: nostalgic for memories that are longer than mine and hardly my own.
Two things I’ve added to my home’s rich history are my vegetable garden and my bees that help pollinate it. I’ve had some luck with my zucchini plants this summer, so this morning’s harvest just begged me to make more zucchini bread than I could possibly eat. I have three loaves of bread to deliver to my neighbors: hence today’s neighborhood ride.
First stop: Laura’s house. She’s one of my oldest friends, and we’re pretty much committed to living within walking distance from one another. That way we can either grow old together gracefully or intervene when one or the other goes nuts. Her kiddos, just-turned-seven Elizabeth and almost-five Jack, want to ride around the block with me. Sounds like fun and I’m in no hurry.
I make sure to ride past the duplex that my dear friends used to rent. The house is still empty. I wonder who will live there next, but I doubt they’ll be as great as Rebecca and Gavin (who, for the record, restored vintage Raleigh three-speeds as their neighborhood bikes).
Next leg: up the hill to Katie’s, the only bit of work required on this ride. I remember when I thought riding up this hill was climbing. Now the incline just adds a bit of variety. Katie and her family are super healthy eaters but I made the zucchini bread with whole wheat flour this time to make up for its generous amount of chocolate chips.
Next stop is my niece Madeline’s house (oh, and my sister & brother-in-law’s, too). My mom lives in an apartment just behind their house. Whenever I bring them zucchini bread, I have to let her know right away, so that she makes sure to snag a piece before it disappears.
Sometimes my sister Steph and I go on neighborhood rides together, with Madeline in the toddler seat on her bike. On a recent ride, Madeline noticed how my hands were placed atop my handlebars and said, “Your hands look like bird wings, Lala.” Such a poetic imagination.
I love to think that Steph and I rode together just like this around our old neighborhood twenty-some years ago.
Last stop today is the local market for a six-pack of Fat Tire.
My next door neighbor, Alli, might just want to sit on the porch this evening and enjoy some beer and zucchini bread. I kept a loaf at home just in case!