Yesterday, after much hemming and hawing, I was able to close a chapter in my life that had been holding me back. Since I was a kid I’ve had this idea lodged in my noggin that has driven me to do some very nutty things. For a long while the narrative went something like, “Yeah go to far away planets and drive/fly all over them in explorer fashion.” The early imagery of Battlestar Galactica fueled this fantasy more than anything else. Watching the Landram roar across some anonymous Southern California desert got things going for me back then.
As I got older and had some spare change rattling around it was this same dream that drove me to re-build a line of vehicles. It started with my first “real” bike. The one I saved up for and bought after many early mornings delivering news papers. It was a low-line, chromoly Fuji road racing bike. Back then the town I grew up in went nuts for the Coors Classic, a multi-stage bicycle race that started in California and ended in Golden, Colorado. When the tour came my little hick town became as cosmopolitan as a Swiss town nestled in the Alps, and everyone wanted to be Greg LeMond.
But not all of us are built like Greg LeMond. In fact, most of us just aren’t. It took me a summer of last place finishes on the River Road Time Trial to realize that as much as I might want to be a sports car, I wasn’t built for sprints. Eventually, I turned my race bike into a touring machine (another story herein). In doing so I was acting out this distance fantasy the Landram had seeded.
A long succession of bikes, skis, rollerblades, boats, cars, trucks and vans later I found myself spending my last red cent on a 2003 Toyota Tacoma Double Cab which I dubbed “Ootek.” My plan was to build it and then drive it some where far, far away. I wanted to see, from the driver’s seat, unknown rolling past and know that I was far beyond the reach of anyone’s aid.
Yesterday, I traded in “Ootek” and bought a tiny little Fiat. I did this because that fantasy was financial so far beyond my reach it had turned into a constant, nagging reminder of that vision and how unreal it had become given the context of my circumstances. Every time I drove the truck into the city I felt like I was behind the controls of a conquering tank. Every time I filled up the fuel tanks I was confronted with the range my financial situation imposed. My castle had become my hassle.
For better or worse, I am once again a denizen of the city. In order to afford the luxury of visiting the trailhead I need to get there quickly and cheaply. Otherwise I need to find workable and sensible ways to exist within my urban context. I’d prefer that these modes of travel also remain low impact and as moral as I can make them. Given the reality of climate change, fifteen miles to the gallon does not represent a moral exchange of GHGs for distance.
Trading wheels has already allowed me a nearly forgotten freedom of movement. I’ve spent most of the past five months recuperating from a mild back injury and a worrisome plantar pain. This week I’ve been able to get out and about with A-bear for some trail running. I can once again afford to get us to and from the trailhead. So while I won’t be driving our Prius v above the tundra or beyond paved roads, it feels, for the first time in a while, that I’ll be exercising my fantasy.