Reasons to Ride Bikes

I haven’t ridden a bike in four years. I’ve been desperate to get back out on the road, and the quarantine has given me the perfect excuse. An antidote to cabin fever, and a perfect accompaniment to the calorie loading abyss of constant snackery from within my 4-walled chamber of commerce.

What’s most insane is the fact that there’s a bike shop right beneath my window. I’ve had no excuse for the 2 year period I’ve lived at this address. I finally bit the bullet and with a neighborhood discount, I was able to walk away less than $600 poorer for a solid road bike. I already had the skin tight breathable over-compensating uniform of my previous riding existence back in the day, so I was set to immediately take to the roads, a streamlined Los Angeles cliche minus the muscular definition of a seasoned roadster.

Yesterday’s inaugural ride took me a short-distance physically, but a longer one spiritually over to Hollywood to see a friend I reconnected with during the lockdown. Within less than a mile of my ride I already felt the strain on my out of practice thighs, but the promise I made to go see my friend powered me through the burn. This quarantine has had positive impacts on manifold components of my life, and resurrecting this particular friendship has been a blessing.

Today’s mission took me back down memory lane big time. I set out from Echo Park and headed downtown, right past Union Station and over the bridge. I rode alongside the train track and through the desolate warehouses. Even homelessness barely visible, the occasional car parked suspiciously down alleyways, the streets were beautifully empty. The sewers were undergoing maintenance and the smell of human waste hung in the air, slightly sweet and fetid, but surprisingly endearing in its familiarity. Almost as if, amidst the deserted urban scene, even the whiff of feces felt like intimacy — an olfactory glimmer of humanity.

I soon found myself right underneath the old 6th street bridge. Built in 1932 this magnificent edifice, home to a thousand movie shoots, was demolished in 2016 as part of an aqueduct regeneration project. 2016 was the last time I rode, and as I stared at the torn concrete ligaments and metallic arteries of this leviathan urban synapse, tears welled up in my eyes. I felt like me and the bridge have a lot in common. I’ve been through a hell of a lot in these past 4 years, and I feel like I’m undergoing my own reconstruction.

The silhouette of my past etched into my tailwinds I rode on and soaked up the sun and the breeze, crossing over into Boyle Heights and riding over towards Frogtown with Calvin Harris’ 18 Months album in my ears, with almost 18 months of sobriety under my belt. I circled back around and headed up the long hill towards Elysian Park, the heat and the pain in my legs mounting. I got off and lay down bathed in sunshine and surrounded by blades of grass and pollen yellowing my fingertips before feeling a little energy return for the final burst home.

The sense of interdependence, harmonious where do I end and the world begins feelings I crave. A recovering drug addict, I’ve always had an affinity for the euphoric and the out-of-body. I’ve found it in meditation, and I cherish it in my sobriety.

I’d forgotten how easily the divine flows through me when I’m plugged into my wheels. I will not forget again.

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Benj

Benj

Poetry of the ordinary, mental health, sexuality, gender and identity, authenticity, provocative honesty, spirituality and sobriety.