The crash happened on January 25th, 2005, a sunny Tuesday in Austin, Texas. I was driving my 1995 red Honda Civic 2-door hatchback with almost 200,000 miles on it west on Bee Caves Road. A truck pulled in front of me and didn’t get out of the way in time, resulting in a “t-bone” accident. I survived, the car did not; it was the truck driver’s fault. That was the last day I owned a car for a decade and a year… and counting.
Skip ahead to today, January 26th, 2016, when I celebrated, silently to myself save for you, dear reader, 11 years of biking, busing, walking, and yes, sometimes driving an employer’s for work or that of a friend, but essentially being car-free. I was carless for many other years, too. So yay me for my little statement, victory, accomplishment or whatever you want to call it. Some might say it’s a failure to make enough money to buy a new car, and they might be partially right about that. So buy me a car, already! I’m not against cars, just the accidents, pollution, congestion and isolation they promote.
But it’s mostly been a choice. It means little to anyone but me, and even less the tens of people who may see this blog, but it’s still another accomplishment in my story as a bicyclist. In the grand scheme of things, it’s not a huge deal. Millions of people around the world don’t have cars, due to poverty or better mass transit options. But in the U.S., particularly a state like Texas, being carless is an anomaly.
So A Dude treated himself with what else? A bike ride. And also a movie, but not one about the Civil War as referenced in the title to this post (if you’re a human person, especially a white one, and haven’t seen 12 Years a Slave, please do). I finally went to see Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens two days before its run ends at the huge Bob Bullock Museum IMAX 3-D screen. There is one slight spoiler below but a month after the film came out, that’s on you.
Overall, it was a wonderfully done, beautifully filmed movie about, wait for it, war in the stars. Still, it brought back fond memories and actually some powerful emotions of seeing the original film when it opened when A Dude was just a boy. A full review would be at another blog I might write if I had the time. But tonight, the Force smiled upon me, because the computer was re-booting so I got in for free. $13 was saved and that exact amount was immediately used on popcorn and peanut M&M’s. Recovery fuel for the bike ride, I rationalized.
Speaking of glitches, on the chilly ride home, with the recently full moon playing peek-a-boo with the clouds over quiet winter streets, I was bike-thinking about space (the final frontier). I couldn’t help but wonder about the elegant simplicity of riding a bike compared to the complex technology of a spaceship or a Death Star. While a bike has alot more parts than you might think, many of them small, as A Dude has been learning at Yellow Bike Project (more on that another time), it’s a pretty basic machine.
I mean, I can’t really call myself a neo-Luddite, especially sitting here writing on a computer, recording every ride on a smart phone application, and so on. And I’m not against technology when it’s helpful, which it often is, like say prosthetic limbs. (I saw a young woman twice on the same ride the other day who was biking with one. Not one leg. One organic one, one prosthetic. Anyway, she was awesome.) But often the price of technology is not considered. I just wonder if it will be the end of us. Like Ex Machina a film about clones who become self-aware and then kill their maker (Can you name the two actors who were in both that and Star Wars?). Or there’s Flint, Michigan’s tainted water. And definitely the extraterrerstrials of the awesomely just-returned to TV X-Files and soon to return zombies and survivors on the also awesome The Walking Dead. Very scary technology gone bad.
It’s when technology has it’s downside when we should be more concerned. From drones dropping bombs on civilians in Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria, to Genetically Modified Organisms in our Frankenfood, the U.S. government spying on Americans and everyone else, to cars with their infernal combustion engines along with the huge cost of producing oil to fuel them polluting the atmosphere, there is definitely a Dark Side of the Force of science. Riding a bike is one small thing an individual can do to conserve energy, reduce pollution, improve health, and much more. But many small things add up to big things. Think of Donald Trump’s hair, for example.
So yeah, I linked Star Wars and bikes. I can connect almost any topic to biking. Like prostitution in the Netherlands. Huh? What? How? Well, the other day at a stop light, two Europeans — who I guessed wrongly but not too far off as being Swedes — were waiting at the bus stop. We had a quick chat, and as it turned out, A Dude had just read a News of the Weird tidbit about Dutch drivers education instructors being legally able to be paid for their services with sex, if the student is 18 years or older. And, as many people know, Holland is one if not the top leading biking countries in the world. So, boom! Biking and banging. Good times. Notice how I got all three words about that country into that paragraph? I’m on fire!
By the way, Strava says that with tonight’s ride, although a relatively short one, I have ascended 3,000 meters thus far this month. That’s 1,875 feet, not alot, but going up hill is not my forte. I’m more of a downhill specialist, thanks to my extra ballast (aka body fat). The fastest I’ve clocked was I believe around 40 miles per hour on an insane downhill coming back from from Lake Travis as part of my 50-mile birthday ride. Another 61 miles and I’ll be at 400 for the month. However, with this ride I’ve passed my real monthly goal of 338.75, which is 4,000 for the year. So anything more is icing on the cake. Mmm, icing. And cake. Sounds good. But we’ll see, A Dude is a very busy guy and has been feeling the cedar fever lately.
Well, before this gets any longer I’ll conclude with some final thoughts, or maybe they’re wishes or perhaps just a dream. If we’re so smart now, with all our brilliant scientists making amazing technology, or in the future suggested by Star Wars, why are we still waging war? Even though there’s a huge, planet-killing death ray in the movie — one that’s largely solar-powered, by the way — why do we still blindly march into war as a way to solve problems? It’s such a horrible, very expensive and disastrous technology. What is the technology that will end this hugely wasteful and destructive impulse humanity seems to have to destroy itself? What if millions more people reduced the demand for oil by riding a bike one day a week? How much of an expenditure of human energy is necessary to fuel global transformation of transportation without so much devastation?
And what if the most powerful force in the universe, the most efficient technology there is — the true Force that has yet to really be awakened — is LOVE?
Ride, ride, ride your bike / Gently down the street / Merrily, merrily, merrily / To bike is but a treat.
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