On Thursday evening I gathered some reusable bags and my shopping list for my first trip to the grocery store in several weeks. What have I been eating? Cheerios and veggie personal pan pizzas from Subway. That’s all I recall. But I want to make smoothies, to start my day with fruit. It’s part of a larger initiative in my life to get back on the healthy track by eating a mostly vegetarian diet and getting on the move.
I hadn’t driven since Monday because I live 1-2 blocks from HUB-BUB and the Hub City Bookshop (my two places of employment), and I wasn’t looking forward to a drive in my airconditionless car in the near 100 degree heat. Perhaps my car sensed that, because it didn’t start. Wouldn’t even flash a few lights of life for me. But I didn’t panic. I tried it again and calmly got out and went upstairs to change and prepare to ride my bike to the store.
I also got the big can of Raid.
Back in February, I borrowed/adopted a bike through Partners for Active Living and Hub Cycle, the program in Spartanburg that takes donated bikes, repairs them, and lends them to anyone in the community for free (you just put down a $15 deposit that you get back when you return the bike). I rode it pretty frequently at first, exploring central Spartanburg (and discovering the beautiful Duncan Park) on rides when it was still cool. But then it got hot. And I got lazy. And I would try not to look at the bike locked outside of my apartment building for the guilt I had in letting it rest.
But, as I said, this week began the new initiative to just move. And I was craving the motion of the bike. So I went to it, said hello for the first time in several months, and then immediately backed away. “Oh no,” I said to my bike, its seat dusty and cobwebs with leaves hanging from the pedals.
On the rim of the front wheel hung a nest, and along the bottom of that white, honeycombed nest rested a yellow jacket wasp. My bike had sprouted a home.
So when my car wouldn’t start, I knew I would have to reclaim the bike as my own, to evict the poor yellow jacket and whack off the nest.
I sprayed the Raid from five feet away. The yellow jacket wiggled its antennae and continued tending to its creation. I moved to the other side of the bike and sprayed again. Then reached under to spray upward and, though seemingly unaffected by the spray, the yellow jacket flew out and toward a nearby tree and disappeared in its leaves. I remained still for a few seconds, unsure if the insect had just gone to rouse an army or to launch an attach from behind. I’ve never been stung by a wasp and don’t want to try it. But I wanted to get my bike free as quickly as possible. So I took the flyswatter that I had brought as a poking stick and started nudging the nest.
It was at that point that former AiR Jonas walked up and saw me standing fearfully over my bike.
“What are you doing?” he asked.
“There’s a nest, and I’m trying to get it off.” I pointed.
He bent down and flicked it once with his finger. It landed with a crisp on the ground, and nothing emerged. I thanked him and he walked away into the evening.
That night I rode from my home to the grocery store for the first time. I took the Rail Trail south to Ingles, loaded up on fruit and almond milk and orange juice, and lumbered home with a heavy backpack and sack swinging on my handle. I heard the sounds of summer along the tree-lined trail: cicadas and birds and countless insects I can’t identify. I emerged from the trail to the view of Spartanburg’s skyline, the Denny’s building, always surprising in the colors and shadows it takes at the rise and fall of the sun. I was moving, active, and enjoying the parts of Spartanburg you can only see on feet or two wheels. I was breathing, sweating, carrying fruit, waving at the dozens of others walking or running the trail, their kids eager to run ahead.
And I was thinking about Camille, one of our current AiRs, who is currently riding across Iowa in their Ragbrai. Some time tonight she will ride into Davenport, Iowa, after crossing the entire state in 8 days, covering 454 miles and climbing 21,206 feet.
One of the first things I learned about Camille is that she loves road biking. The AiRs have been riding their orange cruisers all over town since they got here in June (did you see their video introduction at the Entry Show reception?!), opting always for their bikes over their cars if at all possible. The AiRs immediately sensed the ridability of Spartanburg, and the eagerness of its citizens to get moving. And, in the last month, we got more options and accessibility to bikes with the installation of Bcycle stations around town. And, we have Artcycle, the yearly project in downtown Spartanburg that promotes regional artists by displaying sculptures made with recycled bicycle parts and celebrates the City’s national designation as a Bicycle Friendly Community (remember to vote for your favorite!).
Camille will tell you all about her ride across Iowa very soon, so be looking for that. In the meantime, I hope you have discovered or will discover the pleasure of riding around Spartanburg and the rich bicycle culture we have here. I’m thinking about taking a loop around Duncan Park soon. Where do you love to ride?