Bike / BMX
Illustration: Ryan Perkins
Hey guys, this is my last Beautiful Godzilla column. I’m moving to New York City to dedicate my life to pizza.
I’ve thought a lot about what I wanted to write here, in this space, for the very last time—something smart and meaningful and funny, of course, but all I could think about was how much I’m gonna miss this city.
So, those of you who claim your home elsewhere (even if you only lived in California for six months back when you were two years old), pick up a trusty ole beater from the Bicycle Collective, sign up for some volunteer hours while you’re there, and let me lead you through a verbal tour of Salt Lake City as a precursor to your next bike adventure. The next time someone asks you where you’re from, I hope you’ll jump up and down screaming “SLC!” after proving you’re not hiding a Mormon demon tail.
Everybody’s Salt Lake is a little different, waxing and waning as you meet new people, get a good tip on a restaurant you’ve never been to, or fall asleep on TRAX one day and end up adopted by juggalos. Mine runs the square area between 2100 South to about 4th Ave (too lazy to ride up that hill any farther), 900 West to 900 East (ditto). The mountains sure are pretty to look at, but there’s fucking snow up there, you crazy bastards!
I felt like an outsider for a long time in this town—not ’cause I had anywhere else to call home, but because I felt a disconnect with my surroundings, especially living in the bubble that is university life (one in every four college students has an STD, FYI). That all changed the first time I hopped on a road bike (I did get saddle sores, though …). Cycling makes a city feel like it belongs to you, like you know and understand it in a way that maybe you didn’t before. I’m sure that there are other things that can contribute to a true sense of residence, like fireworks and an inbred pioneer heritage, but there’s nothing like the bicycle—the perfect machine.
Salt Lake City became mine the first Midnight Mass I ever attended, about six years ago in the middle of a dry winter day. We rode all the way out to Sugar House, bombing hills on our way back as I gripped the handlebars in silent terror, thinking I was sure to fly over them if I were to hit the smallest scar in the asphalt. Chris Ginzton practiced his Spanish on me the whole ride, and as the adrenaline numbed my fear, I thought, “This is beautiful.” Or maybe it was, “He is beautiful … ”
As I attended more and more events, I felt my confidence grow, and not just in my cycling abilities. Critical Mass, as chaotic as it seemed at times, provided an outlet for the peaceful protester inside of me that I had been too scared to express before then, because you know that prison bitches would go apeshit over my butt—just ask my lil’ lesbo sis, Carla, who shares my “jeans” and is practically rolling in vaginas. I always looked forward to riding through the Gateway, a tall bike at my side, Zed’s boombox spitting cheesy ’90s rap, and bike bells ringing like a hundred wind chimes in a maddening gust as pedestrians gawked at us and cars honked impatiently. Those days, rides would often end at the top of the Walker Center as the sun set, with anyone we hadn’t dropped off at a bar passing around flasks of wine and whiskey, taking turns testing out the freak bikes among us. The view alone—an eyeful of historic buildings and dirty alleyways juxtaposed with contemporary architecture and modern street art, tinged by this city’s many Instagram-worthy sunsets—makes you feel like you’re doing something right.
Then there was the afternoon I came face to face—or perhaps frame to door—with my mortality. It was one of those days when the air hits your face like ice water, but the sun’s so bright it reaches under your skin to warm you from the inside out—the only appropriate outfit for that weather is one of those fluorescent green, full-body suits. Had I been wearing mine that day, perhaps things would’ve turned out a little different, but I was conveniently wearing a helmet, otherwise this column would just be a slobber smear. I hit the ground hard on my back, facing a car whose door was cracked wide open, gasping for breath as pedestrians rushed to my side. I’ve always been a careful cyclist—though perhaps a bit insane riding two years without brakes—but always aware of my surroundings, and that experience shook me even more than when I found out Santa was my parents, and they were broke. Riding hasn’t been the same since, and sometimes my back seizes up, but that motherfucker had to replace his entire windshield, and the spooked look on his face makes me believe he’ll be glancing at his side-view mirror before he gets out of his car for the rest of his life.
I’m excited and nervous about riding in NYC. I think my FBG status will go over well with the cabbies, but I’ve heard the pedestrians are a nightmare—a plague of pede-philes, so to speak. Still, when it comes to cycling, this city will always be home, whether I see it again or not—whether, at the end of my life, I’ve spent more years in other places that aren’t here. The bicycle community here has raised me into adulthood, supported me and helped me turn a life that would’ve felt like I was holding my breath for eternity into one where I breathe real deep and make that “refreshed” sound as I breathe out. So annoying.
I’ll be cruisin’ with Bike Snob soon, and won’t be around to push you down the hill, but there are plenty of fine people in this community who can help you out. In addition to the obvious, the adventurous James Miska is out to start Salt Lake Bicycle Tours, with the mission to show residents and visitors around this city and its magical spots. “My inspiration for it came from having consistently biked around this town for the past nine years, always going to cool places, and wanting to show those cool places to cool people,” he says. Hit him up over at saltlakebicycletours.com. The SLCo Bicycle Ambassadors Program is another relatively new way to stick your toe into cycling, providing one-on-one mentorships that are like commuter training wheels, and you can find them at facebook.com/slcobike. Jack Lasley, the BA’s Program Coordinator, summed it all up real nice, saying: “When you ride a bike, you fully inhabit the city. Everything becomes familiar as you begin to notice the details. You might avoid the same daily pothole as you did in your car, but on your bike, you notice that it has a yellow lighter inside and you have time to wonder how it got there. You learn that certain blocks have distinct smells and sounds. That every street and intersection feels differently. You start to navigate by names and faces, rather than by numbers and distance. You begin to develop rewarding relationships with strangers, even though most only last seconds or minutes. You have time to wave and smile as you pass another bicyclist or have a quick chat as you both wait at the traffic light. You start to feel like you have friends you haven’t even met yet.”
Come send me off in style on May 17, celebrating Velo City Bags’ grand reopening with the Clue Cat IV, some Blue Copper coffee, live music and the world premiere of Salty Spokes’ Bad Girls. See details at facebook.com/velocitybags.slc. It’s been real. #FBG4LYFE