Every winter, but especially after a particularly wet one like this year, I promise myself it’ll be my last in Salt Lake. I really love this city: It’s home to SLUG Mag, a burgeoning bicycle, art and music community and a handful of my friends and family––I just can’t handle pedaling or driving through all this extremity-numbing precipitation. What inevitably keeps me here is the fact that I can navigate my way around this godforsaken desert without Siri holding my hand. A city doesn’t become home until you can confidently give a stranger accurate directions to the nearest, local strip club.
Of course, I’m no Magellan. My navigational skillz result from a combination of being penniless and lazy. In order to expend the least amount of energy, but arrive at my destination within a 10-minute window (that’s what cyclists call “on time”) via bicycle, I have to plan out the most efficient route. Otherwise, I end up more like my Spanish-commissioned compadre, Chris Columbus, and nobody likes him.
I’m usually clawing my way through security every time I fly out of this state, but once I arrive at one of my many exotic destinations (my last flight was to the extrinsic land of Dallas, Texas), nothing can make me more homesick than biking in a strange city. I’ve legitimately ridden a bicycle––and by legitimately, I mean that it wasn’t just some beach cruiser on the boardwalk or some baby shit like that––in three other cities: New York, Los Angeles and Austin. Each one was a completely different, unnerving experience that made me happy to be back on Salt Lake’s bike lanes, however slick and slushy they might be.
My first time riding out of state was in New York City: The place known for its murderous yellow cabs, aggressive pedestrians and the almighty (all hail) BikeSnobNYC. Staying in a hostel alone for a couple of days, I hit up a fellow Candy Cranks contributor, Olivia Roldan, and her BF let me borrow his fixie so we could bike around the city. Thank little, baby Jesus that we were biking to a yoga class that night, ‘cause I was on the verge of an anxiety attack by the time we got there. This was due to the fact that I was riding a fixie that was two sizes too big, in flats that were falling off my feet, helmet-less, trailing my hosts (who didn’t pause once) at breakneck speeds through traffic down Third Avenue in the middle of Manhattan. After that experience, my respect for the “glorified” NYC messenger runs deep, man.
Austin was next on my list. I was there covering SXSW for SLUG last year, and was invited to try out a new bike share program they had going for the festival. It was a pretty cool idea: You hand over your credit card and they give you a Tern folding bike for the day. You can buy accessories for it, like lights and shit, and at the end, they’ll exchange an unmarred bicycle for your card back, or you can buy the bike if you can’t seem to part with it (or if someone else left it de-parted––there are a lot of bike skeletons in Austin). You can find my full report on slugmag.com, but Austin wasn’t the stressor in this case––the city is actually pretty bikable. I almost didn’t get a chance to experience it, though, because after exclusively riding a fixed gear the past four years, I pedaled out onto a busy street from the bike share tents on the freewheeled folding bike, and reverted back to my 3-year-old self learning how to ride without training wheels. Fortunately, I’m much bigger than a 3-year-old, so the onslaught of cars saw me coming.
The last adventure I had across the Utah border was in LA for the Ovarian Psycos’ Clitoral Mass. This time, I got to experience a group ride, and it was, hands down, the best ride I’ve been on in my entire bicycle-riding history. I drove there, so I was able to bring my trusty ole Mercier, which made me feel much more at ease, as I didn’t have to adjust to both a new ride and a new setting. It was also the most well-organized, courteous and empowering group ride I’ve been on, which is (fuck it, I’m sexist) definitely because the leaders and main demographic were female. Sorry guys, but your crazy testosterone levels have led me on some really dangerous and dramatic group rides in the past. Regardless of the good times, the ride was hours long, and my baby-making parts were starting to feel raw. I wanted to bail and head to the after party, but because I had no fucking clue where we were or how to get there (Apple Maps kept telling me to ride my bike onto the highway), I was stuck until the group led me back.
I’m happy I’ve been able to experience biking elsewhere, and I recommend everyone try it at some point … I think you’ll find yourself complaining about this town a little less and appreciating our many bike lanes, the sparse fleet of cabs and our timid pedestrians. There are a few other places I want to add to my bucket list of bike rides: San Francisco, Amsterdam, Tokyo, Ogden––I imagine each place will have some new misadventure for me.