Sunday, June 29, 2014

A Day in Lucca and a tangent

Things are going well here in Lucca. It’s not hard to enjoy a break from racing when it coincides with summertime in Tuscany! I’m riding a handful of times a week, but always less than 2 hours, as was the case yesterday. Ben and I went for a spin with motorcycle-racing star Andrew Pitt and Tim, a transplant from the UK who moved here a few years ago, learned the language, and is now a cyclo-tourism guide. We call Tim the Mayor of Lucca because he knows everybody in this little city.

After a relaxing afternoon, we walked into the city center to meet Tim and Andrew’s family for dinner. The evening weather here is incredible, and every restaurant is empty because everyone is dining outside. Andrew’s wife is from Lucca, and we were captivated by her accent—Italian with a blend of Australian that she picked up from Andrew. It was a trip to listen to, for sure.

After dinner we walked over to a bike show, where a local frame-builder had a line-up of bikes on display. I got to ride a fatbike for the first time. I’ve got to get one of those for the snowy days in Colorado. As a bonus, the thing is a wheelie machine. You wouldn’t think so with tires bigger than my legs, but the geometry just works!

This bike show was the hipster hangout for the evening, with the piazza riddled with fixies. Everyone was passing bikes around, so I got to play a bit, showing off my backwards circles. Eventually I found myself atop a brakeless fixie bmx, definitely a first for me. Unfortunately there wasn’t much that I could do without a freewheel, but I still managed to come pretty close to a tailwhip. It was for the best that I couldn’t do much, because it kept me from trying things that could just get me hurt.

We then wandered up to the wall to see the spectacle that was a world-record attempt for the longest dinner table. As a celebration of the wall’s 500th anniversary of its construction, there were thousands of people dining at a 2km-long table. They were setting the records of longest dinner table and longest table atop a national monument. The only way to cap off the evening, of course, was with a cup of gelato.

That short time on the bmx got me thinking about my own back at home—the story behind it and how much it means to me.

As kids, Shane and I had two ways of getting the toys that we wanted. Wait for our birthday or Christmas to roll around, or earn and save the money to buy it ourselves. We certainly wished there were easier ways to get cool stuff, but it taught us to work for what we wanted and to take care of our stuff.

I wanted a PlayStation when I was 10, so I spent a day laying sod in a neighbor’s yard to earn the $100 I needed. I would go on to mow thousands of yards and work two summers at an engineering internship to pay for the truck I wanted.

When I wasn’t mowing yards as a young teen, I was roaming the neighborhood streets on my bmx. I was on a chrome Mongoose that I’d bought for $150 at Wal-Mart. It got the job done, but I wanted a nice bike that was unlike anybody else’s. So I started buying parts. I spent hours scouring ebay for the best deals, picking the parts one at a time to make the best-looking bike the world had ever seen. It took months, and the bike slowly came together.

There was a learning curve, though, as my mechanic skills and knowledge were as yet under-developed. I had a handful of minor parts that were the wrong size, which set me back a little money and time. Finally, just before spring break of my sophomore year of high school, I had all the last few parts. I had spent over $600—more than twice what I had budgeted, but that’s how custom builds go.

The result was everything I could have hoped for. The Frankenstein build was not perfect, as it was my first time to build a bike, but it was perfect to me. Over the remaining years of high school, I would go on to spend innumerable hours learning and perfecting tricks while accumulating a collection of scars on my legs.

That bike was my escape, my refuge. Of all the things I own in this world, I would consider my bmx to be one of a handful of prized possessions. I actually considered selling it when I ran out of money in 2011, but knew that the price I would get for it wouldn’t even approach what it was worth to me. Instead, I converted it from a bmx park/flatland bike to a dirt-jumper.

These days, I only pull it out once a year, and only for a short spin. After about half an hour I start to get too comfortable and start trying tricks that inevitably put me on the pavement, and it’s best that I avoid that.

This view is like a time machine for me
Nowadays, I just ride it for the feelings and memories that it brings back. Of all the bikes in my stable that come and go, the dust-covered one with flat tires in the corner, whose valuation pales in comparison to even the most trivial component on my race bike, well, that one is my favorite.