A little less than a year ago I switched jobs. I traded working for Catholic health provider, the Holy P, to go back to where I had worked before, the Northwest Insurance Company, the Mighty P. I have been very happy since I have been back. Michelle and I get to carpool in together and see each other a lot more than we did when I had a longer commute. I am back with old friends. I am working with people I “grew” up with and training people I can completely relate too. It’s a good fit for me.
I’ve also been able to do something I’d always wanted to do, I am a bike commuter. 3 or more days a week I get to saddle up and pedal home. It gets me there in a much better mood than my ugly drive from the Holy P.
I have told people this is the first time I’ve ever been able to cycle commute, turns out I was wrong!
I was working, listening to music. I just started Pandora today, and it has an 80’s channel. Two songs came on back to back. Mellencamp’s ‘Jack and Diane’ and Joann Jett’s ‘I love Rock and Roll’. These two songs alone always make me smile. But together it jarred a memory. I was a cycle commuter WAY back before it was cool!
It was 1982, and I had graduated from Clover Park High School in Lakewood.
At the time I was Bag Boy for the McChord AFB commissary. It was a great after school and summer job for a kid. We worked for tips only, so the faster we worked the more we made. On a good Saturday I could bring home $50. It was all in one dollar bills and quarters, but $50 it was!
Right after I graduated, my mom and stepdad were stationed (Doug was in the Air Force) in England. I had already been accepted to WSU, so I moved in with my Dad in Tacoma. Sadly, my 1969 purple station wagon that I had borrowed to get me back and forth to school had to be given back to the original owner. (He was using it in the $10,000 demolition derby).
Since I needed the job to help pay for school, there was only one option, my trusty JC Penny 12 speed bike. It was about 10 miles from my Dad’s house, to work. I’d bike there, be on my feet for 4 – 10 hours depending on the shift, and then bike back home. It’s no wonder I was so skinny back then!
I learned a lot back then that I’ve used since. During this time I learned that you can avoid many of the busiest streets by simply cutting over a block or two and finding the smaller residential streets that parallel the main drag. These suck for cars but are great for bikes.
I learned that there are just times that you have no choice but to hop on the sidewalk and punch the pedestrian crossing buttons if you need to get across an intersection.
I learned sometimes you have to just say “Screw it!” and stop for a burger before you get home for a real dinner because you are honestly just THAT hungry RIGHT now! Then you still eat dinner when you get there!
And I learned that with enough lead time you can out run a great dane, but its nip and tuck when you are on an incline.
One thing that hit me as I sat here writing this, I commuted 5 – 7 times a week, both ways that summer. Riding some pretty crappy roads and shoulders full of debris. I didn’t have a bike bag, mini pump, spare tube or patch kit with me at all. I did not have ONE flat this whole time, and I was never late for work! The bike gods smiled on me that summer! I dont remember one summer shower either.
Who knew that this skinny kid just trying to get to college would become Mountainstoh? I really wish I knew how many miles I went that year!
OH the songs! At lunch, we’d call to Godfathers pizza and order ahead, and then pile into someone’s car to beeline down there. We had enough time to drive there, listen to some songs on the jukebox, and head home. For some reason, we always rigged it that “Jack and Diane” was the first song, and by the time “I love Rock and Roll” was done, we’d damn well better be heading for the car!
Looking back, that was a great summer….