Saturday, January 21, 2012

Mongrel Cyclist 1970

Spring of 1970, I was new to the SF Bay area and I'd just purchased a used (and immediately unreliable) motor vehicle from a Ford dealer in Oakland. I made a wise decision and bought a new "Ten Speed" in Martinez, Ca. to back up the (smoke and fire prone) Mercury Meteor...just in case.
My first ride of any note was an outing to the top of the most prominent local Lookout, Mt. Diablo. My new car's transmission had caught fire while climbing the same, the week before.
I had no idea that this, admittedly ambitious and according to my fellow workers...impossible, feat would cause me to catch fire with a life-long enthusiasm for the "sport" of bicycle riding.
I found the downhill to be far more harrowing, with steel rims and brand new brake pads, than the climb. Before the actual bottom of the mountain I noticed, what I thought was, a parallel double-track ranch road and I reasoned that if I had to crash, due to poor brakes, I would prefer it be on a dirt hillside, not on pavement contained by barbed wire fences. The dirt track meandered for a couple of miles before dropping steeply to an old ranch house and stables at the bottom of the descent. An old guy in a cowboy hat growled at me to get off his property and "wipe that stupid grin off your face."
I had discovered a couple of important things about myself on this mountain; I was more capable in the arena of self-propulsion than I had ever imagined, and riding on dirt with skinny tires can cause everlasting smiles.

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