The TA placed a soft ball of clay the size of my fist in front of each of us and instructed us on the first ceramic object I had made since kindergarten, a pinch pot. No sooner had I began shaping the cool, malleable clay did I fall utterly and hopelessly in love. Dirt? What dirt? Why, they provided us with a full sized locker each; I’d simply bring a change of clothes! Soon, I never wanted to leave the clay studio. I became the most devoted ceramics student in all of Athens, Ga. I changed my major; I stopped worrying about dirt and getting dirty. Occasionally, people in my psychology classes pointed out that I had mud in my hair. Well, of course I do you fool! I am a ceramics major!
I am reminded of all of this because I noticed this afternoon as I wandered around downtown Flag with Bob and my camera that most of the bikes I saw locked to various streetlamp poles, benches, and bike racks were covered with a thick coat of dirt and mud, not unlike the clay “slurry” that used to coat everything in the ceramics studio on Jackson Street so many years ago. My reaction to the mud covered bikes (all mountain bikes, I will admit, thus appropriately covered in mud) was shock and horror. Why would anyone let his or her bike become so unsightly?
But this, I remembered, is Flagstaff, not Copenhagen or Boston or New York, and style is different here. Bikes in Flagstaff habitually interact passionately with our great outdoors. The mud after a snow melt or mid-summer monsoon is what attracts people to move here or for visitors to return again and again. Thick coats of dust from the dry, rocky trail serve as visual proof of a life devoted to adventure and fun.
The allure of the mud covered mountain bike and the thrill of flying across a twisting, single track path is understandable and I used to enjoy it myself until some years ago, riding alone on a steep rocky trail in Louisville’s Cherokee Park I found myself sailing over my handle bars, greeting the ground, and feeling the impact of my bike on top of me. Despite the fact that I was wearing a helmet, my subsequent thoughts about riding those trails always revolved around a closed head injury. I took up running soon after.
So today, I continued on my quest to define Flagstaff mountain cycle chic. As it was perhaps our first really warm and beautiful day of the spring, we saw dozens of people astride their bikes. I intentionally avoided the muddy bikes in order to avoid traumatic memories of my near death experience. Not much in the way of high fashion but I did manage to capture some regular people, wearing regular clothes, going about their business on two wheels.
Planner Guy and I celebrate our 2nd anniversary on April 28! We decided to plan a long weekend in Portland, Oregon. We're looking forward to experiencing Portland's growing bike commuting culture and exploring the very distinctive neighborhoods and sight-seeing aboard the city's light rail system. The Planner Guy will no doubt be in Planner Guy heaven snapping away at features of the streetscape (benches, bike racks, litter recepticals, public art) he finds noteworthy. I plan to have my laptop with me and update sheridesabike.com daily. I'm excited and ready to be inspired. I invite any Portland readers to share suggestions on what we should see and do while we're visiting. We plan to rent bikes for at least part of our stay and need some destination ideas.