Road Bikes in San Francisco
I remember reaching downtown just as the sun began to set. San Francisco at dusk is a beautiful, bustling place. Brakes squeaking, fluorescent lights illuminating bars and restaurants. Riding road bikes through the streets sounds fantastic, but in the dusk, reality proves dangerous. Obstacles abound: trolley tracks that attempt to catch your thin wheels, taxi drivers whose patience is thin, not to mention the steep hills that define the city. As the orange light breaks through the small crevice between the grey cement sky scrapers, I give up. I get off my bike yelling to my companions, “I don’t have health insurance!” I thought I was cutting it close when we were descending the steep hill into Sausalito after the Golden Gate bridge. One patch of sand or small rock and us novice bikers could have met our Maker. After riding the ferry back to the city and attempting to ride fast to make it home to Nob Hill by dark, I had enough.
I have always been a timid person. Yes, I realize I have white water rafted on the Nile, bungee jumped over gator infested waters, and swam in a rip tide that the next day killed six surfers with surf boards. That may not sound timid to you, but in my mind, I always knew these activities were dangerous. Like a little girl winces when the waves wash over her feet at the beach for the first time, not knowing whether or not the cold, salty water is something to be trusted and enjoyed. The difference between these activities in my past and this bike ride was simple yet substantial: health insurance.
I was 26 and needed to be responsible. If my wheel caught in the trolley tracks causing my bike to tip and my leg to scrape against the pavement, being dragged for 10 feet before coming to a painful stop, I would have to incur the ridiculous costs of the emergency room visit and subsequent treatments thereafter. Money I did not have.
Needless to say, I jumped off my bike and began pushing it up the sidewalk. My friends were laughing at me as they continued on bikeback all the way home. I didn’t care. I could not risk it knowing I didn’t have the means to clean up after my mistakes.
Knowing now what I didn’t know then, I would have continued on my bike ride. I would have finished the journey, finished the fun. Being sick and not being able to ride a bike makes me realize what I’m missing. I miss the laughter of my friends as we barely escape hitting a taxi. I miss the burn in my thighs as I push up California leaving the Financial District in my dust. More than anything, I miss the freedom I had, freedom from the burden of health insurance, financial stresses, and sickness.
And I miss the bike rides.