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Gladys and I: A Biking Tale
Growing up, I was never very interested in biking. However, all of that changed when I moved to Bozeman, land of black labs named Bridger, Subarus, and bicycle enthusiasts. Although I have not yet been able to swing the acquisition of an appropriately Bozeman-y dog, I am now among the many women who toot around town, occasionally catching my boho skirt in the spokes of my cruiser-type bike. I embrace the stereotype, and have named my trusty steed Gladys. She and I have had some excellent adventures this summer, and I would like to share a few, in no particular order.
It was a scorching summer Sunday, and Gladys and I cruised the deserted streets. I assumed the other residents of Bozeman had taken refuge in their kitchens, heads fully immersed in refrigerators. But not Gladys and I. Within several blocks, I felt parched as my throat dried and I peddled through the bright day under the cloudless blue sky. I steered Gladys toward the Galligator, and made my way up the trail under trees and over streams. As I continued southbound, I made out in the distance a homemade sign in a backyard bordering the trail, that I at first assumed was the invention of my sun-fried brain. In black and white appeared the words No Pooping. I agreed with the color scheme as I also believe this is a no-gray area situation. Best to be absolutely clear about these things to avoid any awkwardness. The trail spit me out onto Willson Avenue and I made my way downhill towards Cooper Park. I situated myself under a stately tree with book and looked around at the uncharacteristically uninhabited green space. It was just me, some loudly squawking birds, a couple of truly dedicated sunbathers, teenagers with a dog, and the myriad of bugs that crawled all over my legs as I tried to read.
Climbing rocks and panic attacks
My brother agreed to bike around town with me while I took pictures for an article that I was working on. We eventually pointed our bikes in the direction of the northeast side of town, because it is awesome. I love the neighborhood by the old railroad depot with all of its random artistic and/or historic architecture. Plus, there is the climbing rock. I always think that I am going to have a great time climbing. I charge up, usually by the easiest route, at which point I remember that I have a fear of rock climbing. This particular bike-ride visit was no exception, and while my brother tried out all of his sweet rock climber moves, I clung prone to the top of the rock, and whimpered. After a few minutes, I turned from incoherent muttering to productive planning and started working out the logistical issues that would arise from living on my new home atop the fake rock, because I had no intention of ever coming down. My brother rolled his eyes as I described my elaborate plans of capturing birds as they flew by for sustenance, Bear Grylls-style. I further reasoned that I could use the crevices in the rocks to collect rainwater. After he had his fill of watching me make a spectacle of myself, he talked me step-by-step down from my crazy ledge and we continued down the trail towards the Story Mill, which is one of my favorite places to bike in town. It involves paralleling an abandoned railroad track that has trees growing up through it, passing under a bridge that frames the Bridgers, and encountering all sorts of interesting old buildings ending in the dramatically forsaken Story Mill.
Whereupon we ride bikes all day
In March, after I finally let go of the idea of having a proper winter, I began to embrace the idea of a beautiful summer. My brother, boyfriend, and I decided to ride our bikes to a coffee shop, and from there, go where the wind took us. It turned out to be an awesomely weird day, and sort of felt like being a kid, except with the benefit of a debit card. After caffeinating at the Little Sherpa Java, we meandered downtown, and ran some errands. I stopped at the hardware store, in search of a trowel with good intentions of successful gardening. I did later put the trowel to use, and planted flower seeds, which I have been diligently watering to no avail. Unable to admit defeat, my porch is currently decorated with moist pots of dirt. Next, we biked to the post office and then went in search of food to the downtown Co-op. Unable to resist a bargain, I purchased a slightly questionable, but ultimately delicious day-old egg salad sandwich, which I transported in Gladys’s totally sweet detachable basket. She also has a bell. We hopped back upon our bikes and rode over to Langhor Park, where we had a lovely picnic and I found yet another opportunity to embarrass myself upon a climbing rock. In the stream nearby, robins bathed in the sunlight, like something out of a Disney movie. Caught up in the excitement of a day without obligation and the freedom of the open road under our tires, we biked all the way across town to the climbing rock near Bozeman Pond, and narrowly made it home before the onset of an afternoon thunderstorm.
In summary, although I will probably never be one of the hardcore Bozemanites biking down the middle of the street during a snowstorm, pannier laden with groceries and a look of grim determination upon my face, I do enjoy the occasional jaunt about town. The bike culture, accepting of the full spectrum of skill and experience, is one of the many reasons that I love our town.
After visiting the west at the age of fourteen, Jamie Balke has been coming up with progressively more elaborate schemes to never leave.