In 2006, I was in my late twenties, and at a point of my life where I had no direction. I decided what I needed was a chance of scenery, so I moved from Michigan to Florida. Alone. My parents had a house down there that I could live in for free. This sounded like a good idea even though I had never visited there previously. Even before I saw my first palm tree on the drive down, the idea popped into my head that I must have a bike. So my main objective before my family drove back up to Michigan and left me was that I borrow their minivan to get a bike. I was not at all what you’d call an outdoorsy or sporty person, so this was kind of a weird urge for me. Perhaps I was seduced by the temperate climate, and it seemed like a good way to explore my neighborhood and get the lay of the land. My mom thought I was crazy and was convinced it was a waste of money.
The area I lived in was devoid of pretty much anything. The town was basically one big subdivision intermittently inhabited by snowbirds between the ages of 65-100. If there even was a bike store within 30 miles, I didn’t know where it was, and I had just quit my job and moved across the country so I didn’t have the budget for anything good. I wanted basic and cheap.
I am explaining all this because what I did next is embarrassing and quite inexcusable, really. I’m going to alienate all our potential readers by admitting this…
I bought a bike at Walmart.
I know, you are hitting the back button on the browser right now, right? Not sure I blame you. But please, keep reading. Because it gets worse – it was this purple monstrosity:
I cannot find a larger picture, but perhaps that is for the best. The blue thing in the wheel is a tag. For some reason I thought it was a Huffy when I bought it, but it’s not even a real brand, it’s a KULANA. I only just realized that recently when I saw it lingering in the garage. Is that not the most ridiculous sounding name ever? I love how it hints at warm, balmy days spent lazily riding through a tropical paradise. The Kulana. Can you smell the salty sea air and hear the gentle breeze swaying through the palm trees? I did.
I am guessing in actuality it’s Hawaiian for “clunky chinese import”. But I wouldn’t realize that until later. I was quite smitten with this bike. It had all the major criteria I was looking for in a piece-of-crap Walmart bike:
-It had a big cushy seat!
-The seat was two tone!
-It was purple! I love purple!
-Fenders! Chainguard! Bonus!
[I have to note here that before I moved to Florida, I never shopped at Walmart, I hate everything Walmart stands for. But Walmart was literally the only store within 20 miles of me. So I succumbed to The Man. I hang my head in shame.]
But oh man, did I think I was cool, biking around my ghost town-esque neighborhood of uninhabited vacation homes. A few months later, after Christmas, my mom would drive down to FL again to visit and bring me an extremely high strung puppy. This puppy:
She really was only that size for about 24 hours and then turned into this leggy labrador retriever who was convinced she was a greyhound. Walking her was impossible, but she loved running next to me while I rode and that became our happy little routine.
I never actually made any friends living in the desolate little community I was in. That is the problem living somewhere where the average age of the residents is 86 and people only live there 2 months out of the year. It was a very lonely existence. Eventually I couldn’t take it anymore (you can only replace so much of your social life with World of Warcraft) and I gave up and moved back to Michigan. But to me Florida will always be about that purple bike and Abby running along next to me. And sometimes I really miss it. I still have Abby of course, but I miss the rides. And the sunshine. And the whole not having a mortgage thing. Those were the best parts really.
I discovered several things during that blissful & solitary time squatting in my parents’ vacation home:
- I actually do like being outdoors after all. In fact I crave it. Also, the house can survive a Category 4 hurricane. Good to know.
- Bicycling makes me happy
-A $5.64 dishwasher basket is the perfect size to hold an iPod, keys, and phone, and has a top that snaps tightly together to keep everything safely contained.
- When the dog needs to poop, you need to brake. FAST.
I moved back up north during a particularly icy January, and almost immediately missed my bike. I spent the next few months looking for signs of spring, and trying to buy a house. There was no storage for my bike at the condo I was living in, so it was regulated to my parents’ garage. Finally in July I closed on a house, and one of the first priorities was the get illustrious purple Kulana back into my possession. It was then I discovered that moving 1,300 miles hadn’t been kind to it. Things were rubbing together all weird, quiet things were now noisy things, there was this weird clicking issue and oh yeah, how did I not notice before that this bike was a total piece of junk? The Kulana got tucked back into the garage with a sad little sigh, and time passed. Andy moved in. Spring would come and I’d want to ride again. And one year we even bought bikes – really nice ones – bikes that put the Kulana to shame. But in our overzealousness, we picked frames that were really too aggressive for our level of fitness (or lack of fitness, if we are being honest here.) They ended up in the garage too.
Things would change though…and we would end up getting new bikes again. And this time it would be different. But I’ll let Andy tell the next part of the story.