My last experience with mountain biking coincided with the most profound sense of freedom I’ve ever known. Yes, I flipped over my handlebars multiple times while careening down a mountainside. Yes, I once bled enough to get light-headed and concerned about my survival. And yes, I once dangled over a cliff, saved from a fatal fall by digging my fingers into the earth up to the second knuckle.
On each of those occasions, fear was handily trumped by wonder.
Granted, all of that biking took place in the lawless streets of Kathmandu or in the foothills of the Himalayas.
I set out to buy a simple road bike – I live close enough to commute by foot-power and feel I should give it a go. Instead, I discovered an old friend winking at me: the same model, nearly the same colors, in extraordinary shape, and with a price too good to be true. That long lost blue and silver love that I left in the eager hands of a delivery boy in the smog-laced splendor of Thamel crossed into its own karmic reincarnation cycle and emerged in Massapequa, New York. It was meant to be.
I doubt I’ll have as much occasion to court death or crippling disaster, but the cars do drive a lot faster in these parts.
The first ride felt like coming home.
Lit by the golden glow of magic hour, even a porta-potty can look beautiful. This one failed to reach those heights, but the proud branding on the side shone just fine: EURE. It is a glorious thing to have one’s last name plastered across public toilets. It means what it means, okay?
Construction in the neighborhood was particularly ominous as the holiday made it all look like abandoned projects. Tall pine trees had been cut down, stripped, and split into logs no longer than 6 feet, creating a wooden rail along the street. The nearby warning sign on a faded-orange excavator showed a stick figure sprawled out after improper operation.
This particular street, after signs labeled ‘Gold’ and ‘Green’, terminates in swampland. Many of the corners warn of dead ends, some going so far as to say “NO TURNING SPACE.” One such street ended in a small footpath across a beautiful private canal, then emptied back out into un-dead-end streets.
Most striking and resonant, though, was the following sign, white text on blue: “Dog contained by Invisible Fence.” And then a phone number should one wish to install the same trickery. Icarus, free of said fence, was particularly restless on that block. It’s hard to spot the edges of an invisible fence.
When I was nine, my next-door neighbors had such a fence, marked by frequent white flags. Their dog, some kind of rottweiler mix, would surrender to instinct periodically and chase animals past those flags and into our yard. He would only remember the penalty of crossing the barrier once the passage was complete. And then it was nearly impossible to get him to cross again and go home.
The final slayer of this text-heavy walk was an old, rusted truck and its license plate: