We were robbed today. I’m not being metaphorical. Our garage was broken into overnight. We were lucky. The thieves took two bicycles, a negligible amount of loose change, and a couple of old fleece pullovers that my husband mainly uses to keep the dog comfortable when she rides in the car. Nothing of real value and nothing we can’t replace. We filed a police report and changed the code on the garage door opener. It’s a shame, but it could have been much worse.
I know we won’t see those bikes again, and I hate that most of all. I’ve had that same old black Gary Fisher bicycle for more than 20 years. I brought it with me when I moved to Denver from Austin. I’ve outfitted it with smooth tires and knobby tires depending on where I felt like riding in any given summer. In Austin I rode it to work pretty often. I lived close and the parking around my office was terrible. Once I climbed on the bike and knew something was very wrong, but it took me an uncomfortable moment to figure out the problem—someone had stolen the seat. I sat down on the sharp metal rod and nearly fell off. I bought a new seat at the bike shop near my home and the guy who sold it to me told me the thief would probably crack his own bike frame if he tried to use it. “These things aren’t all that standard,” he said. He was trying to make me feel better.
When I got to Denver, I lived a lot farther away from my office, so I didn’t use the bike to commute as much as I had in Austin. Still, occasionally on a casual Friday I would put on my helmet and weave my way through the suburbs and into the city. I rode mostly for fun, though. I rode up and down the Cherry Creek trail, the Highline Canal, the Dry Creek trail. Denver is a good place for getting around by bike.
I rode that bike in my first sprint triathlon in Texas. I rode it in a half-dozen triathlons in Austin and in Denver. I rode it in my first (and only) half-century ride through the hills south of Denver. That ride was harder than I’d anticipated and I was cursing the old heavy bike toward the end. A guy riding nearby assured me that the hill I was climbing was the last one. “It’s all downhill after this,” he said. He was wrong. We climbed another hill and he pedaled beside me and said: “No, this is the one. Sorry about that.” By the third hill, I’d lost my patience. “Get away from me,” I told him. “Don’t say another word.” That old bike has seen me at my best and at my worst. I will miss her.
A few years ago I attended the Lighthouse Writers Workshop retreat in Grand Lake, Colorado. One of the instructors assigned an exercise to write a curse. It was cathartic. So here is my curse to the thieves who stole from us:
May the pullovers be the wrong size and the wrong color.
May they make your complexion look sallow and agitate your sinuses.
May they cause your skin to break out in a rash.
May the loose change be one penny short of whatever you hope to purchase.
And may the bicycle tires go flat when you’re stranded in the middle of nowhere with no phone or no one to call and no way to flag down a ride.
May the handlebars rub calluses onto your palms.
May you suffer from saddle soreness and calf cramps.
May you take a corner too quickly and skid across hot asphalt.
May you experience epic road rash.
May your sunscreen be ineffective.
May your sunglasses break in half.
And when you go to sell the bike or exchange it for something more valuable to you, may you be disappointed to discover how little a 20-year-old a bike is really worth.
Except to me.
And now I suppose it’s time to shop for a new bike. I think I’ll wait until spring, just in case the old bike turns up. Wishful thinking, I know.
Have a great weekend.