Friday, October 7, 2011

Flat (Independence)

I'm currently vehicle-less.  It's somewhat strange.

Yesterday I drove from Rockford back to Peoria and met some friends for lunch at Flat Top Grill - it's like a Mongolian Barbecue place where you put a bunch of uncooked vegetables and meat from a buffet into a bowl and give it to them, and they cook it for you. $10, and I can usually pack my bowl high enough to get three or four meals out of it. It's one of the cheaper ways to eat if you have a place to store leftovers and reheat them, and it's pretty good too.

When I got back out to my bike, I sat down, popped it into neutral, and noticed that even though I was on a bit of a slope, the bike wasn't trying to roll backward at all, which was a little strange. As I pulled away, I noticed it felt very sluggish - the bike didn't want to coast at all.  Before getting out of the parking lot, I did a quick look-over of the bike... and noticed a completely flat back tire.

I pulled back into a parking spot and took a closer look.  Sure enough, flat as could be - no air at all.

I also noticed the pointy end of a nail sticking out of the sided of the tire. I rolled the bike a little bit so the nail was towards the bottom, and while the nail pulled out of the side of the tire, it was wedged in the bottom pretty tight. I called the two bike places in town - only one had the tire in stock, and it's on the other side of town, so I had to get a tow over there (after waiting 45 minutes for him to show), then wait for a friend to come pick me up.

I'm not really a fan of depending on other people like that. One of the best parts about the trip this summer was how independent I was: with the tent and the sleeping bag, I technically could have gotten along without depending on other people. Even though I stayed with people, I didn't have to. And I love that feeling of not having to wait for other people, or inconvenience them, or work around their plans. Already in the past 24 hours, there have been times when I've wanted to make a quick trip to the store or go somewhere, and I can't because I'd need someone to take me.

In a lot of ways, traveling by motorcycle was ideal this summer. I've traveled by car quite a bit, and a few times I've traveled where I didn't have a vehicle - taking the train to L.A. a few years ago, or flying down to Florida to visit my sister.

The problems with traveling in a car are parking and navigation - especially in big cities, I've spent a lot of time trying to find parking, or missing a turn and spending a long time trying to just get back to where I was to make the turn. The motorcycle solves both of those problems - U-turns are a piece of cake, and parking can be fudged quite a bit.  Even with meters, sometimes there's enough room between cars that you can mooch off them for a bit by squeezing in. If it's unmarked street parking, there's guaranteed to be a spot too small for a car but big enough for a motorcycle somewhere on the street.

The problem with traveling without a vehicle - though it's primarily a problem with American cities - is freedom to get where you want. If you're walking, it's hard to get anywhere in a reasonable amount of time. I was thinking about it while riding my motorcycle around Manhattan a few weeks ago, traveling through the same neighborhoods I walked through in 2008 when I was there. An entire day of walking and we hardly covered half the island - and yet I could ride that in my motorcycle in half an hour, even with traffic. New York is the kind of city where you could probably do better with public transportation, but a lot of U.S. cities don't have that. You end up being limited by your willingness to pay exorbitant amounts for a cab.

Traveling with the motorcycle fixes both those problems - it's a nice middle ground between being able to get places quickly, and also having a little bit of flexibility and not having to deal with the hassle of having a car to keep track of and take care of.

They should have my bike ready to go today sometime, so it shouldn't be a huge problem for me, but it's eye-opening how much I hate having my freedom to move taken away, even just for a day.

1 comment:

  1. I was thinking about almost this same thing when I was on my bicycle the other day. That tiny bit of flexibility in having a smaller vehicle is so. fricking. nice.

    It would be awesome to have a motorcycle, though...that extra little bit of speed would be much appreciated every now and then. :)

    Hope you've gotten your vehicular freedom back.