Monday, June 2, 2008

I Have a New Toy

So, we've had this recurring dilemma for the past few years.

The dilemma is this: what do we do when we need to take the minivan in for maintenance? I mean, Honda Odysseys are pretty reliable and all, but you still have to take them in occasionally for all-day or a half-day maintenance checks.

And our other car is a little itty-bitty Toyota Corolla, for goodness sakes. There's no way that you can fit three child safety seats in that thing.

So: how do we get our minivan to the dealership for maintenance, and then get the driver of the minivan home in a reasonable time; and then get him back to the shop in the afternoon when the maintenance is done--all without leaving a kid unattended, and given that the only vehicle we have that can seat all kids in back seats at the same time is the minivan that's getting fixed?

Hmm. You could... er... maybe if you carry the two... T'aint so easy.

It reminds me of that puzzle where you have a goat, a cabbage, and a wolf, and you're trying to get them across the river in a boat that can carry you and one other item, and you're trying to keep the cabbage from being eaten by the goat, and the goat from being eaten by the wolf, and (presumably) the wolf from being eaten by the cabbage. And you probably don't want to be eaten by the wolf either. Only in our case, it's like you have two small boats, and three cabbages, and... Ok, that metaphor is shot. But you get the idea.

Options? Well,
  • The dealership doesn't provide loaner cars, and they don't provide any kind of taxi service to their maintenance customers. One can rent a small vehicle in a pinch, but that's a little expensive.
  • I'm not sure that mass transit in this area has decent enough coverage. This is something of a sprawling suburban area, and such areas tend to have limited bus service. And even if the service exists, there's no telling how long it would take.
  • It's really too far to walk. I mean, I could do it if I had to; but it would take a few hours, and by the time I got home, I'd have to start back.
  • We hate to arrange a babysitter to look after the kids, just so we can take the car in to get it fixed. I mean, if we had gumption, Tonya and I could turn this into an event: take the whole day off and just have a date for the two of us, while the van gets fixed. (That's actually a pretty good idea, come to think of it.) Alas, we don't often have that much gumption. And it's a rather strange idea to schedule one's romantic life around your automotive maintenance needs. Works for some, I suppose; if this is you, God bless you! :-)
So this leaves, um...

This leaves the brainstorm I had while lying in bed Saturday, while trying to justify staying horizontal just five minutes longer. Incidentally, there have been some great scientific insights that have led to breakthroughs, that came by way of dreams to the scientists in question. I understand the discovery of the chemical structure of Benzene was discovered thanks to an insight from a dream. Perhaps my own insight wasn't so momentous in the grand scheme of things, but it appears to solve our problem once and for all.

The solution? Get myself a bicycle, for crying out loud.


"What?" I can hear you yell. "That's it? That's the great solution that solves your problem? We thought it would be something momentous, like getting a horse or a jet-pack or something!"

Well, for this family, it is pretty momentous. I mean, perhaps it sounds from reading this blog that we're pretty happenin' people, but we're actually pretty hidebound. Neither Tonya nor I has owned a bicycle since we were kids. (Although Tonya has me beat in the coolness department here: as a kid, she used to ride a unicycle. I ain't riding one of those all the way home from the dealership, though.) Fact is, bicycles haven't been part of our regular, everyday lives for nearly the last two decades. And while we still remember how to ride them, we just don't think about them very often. And up to this point, we haven't had any compelling reason to think to ourselves, "I think we should go get some bicycles today!" We always had something else to do--preferably something that took less money.

But getting a bike was one of those things that had been bouncing around way back (way back) in the recesses of my cerebral cortex for some time now. After all, my eldest daughter has been learning how to ride, bit by bit; and I figured it would be nice if she and I could eventually do a little together. It always gives a bit more motivation, if there's someone doing it with you.


So today, after making sure that Mommy was Ok with taking care of the kids during the evening, I went over to a local bike shop, and picked out a reasonably inexpensive Fuji-brand bicycle with an aluminum frame and twenty-one-speed twist-shifters. It's more of a street bike than a mountain bike, which is fine with me; the salesman said that this kind of bike shouldn't be taken off into the wilds, but a well-established dirt bike path (like the trails that run alongside our local river) should be fine. The bike is solid frame with no shocks, which is fine with me; none of the bikes I learned to ride on as a kid had shocks, and here I am today a Daddy of three, so I'm good with that.

It was a little intimidating being in the bike store, though, when for the last two decades I've only even been on a bike once every year or two; it's like I was in a whole different culture, and didn't know which fork to use with the salad and which to use with the fish. Which seat do I get? ("Chances are, you'll go through several before you find one that you're really comfortable with," they said. Great.) Which helmet do I use? (Eventually got one that didn't hurt when I put it on my head and cinched it up tight. Apparently I have a bumpy noggin.) Which bike lock? Am I going to be riding this thing enough to need a portable bike pump, or will the one we have at home be sufficient? Am I going to be out late enough to require lights and/or reflectors? Am I going to need the hands off GPS with Bluetooth, optional chrome trim and Oak Leaf Clusters?


(Ok, I made that last one up. But I did see there, in place of a bell, this little plastic panda-bear you can mount on your handlebar that lets out a loud squeeeeeeak when you squeeze it. I didn't get it, but boy, I wanted to. The Pillowfight Fairy would have loved it.)

But all those questions duly answered (by postponing them until much, much later), I went ahead and got the bike. Now, visions of Physical Fitness are dancing in my brain! Now shall I have the opportunity to have Rock Hard Abs, Buns of Steel, and Thighs like pilings! Now shall I have the opportunity to slim back down to my fighting trim, so I fit into all those goofy clothes I wore back in High School!

Um... No.

(Incidentally, every time I hear the term "Buns of Steel", I send myself into fits of giggles when I reflect that across the pond, they use the term "Bums" instead--but that there's a very subtle difference in meaning between our "Buns" and their "Bums", of which any American who watches enough British Television is at least dimly aware. Imagine being the proud possessor of Bums of Steel! Imagine Jane Fonda exhorting you not to give up just yet, because if you finish these exercises, your Bums will be made of Steel! And to get the full effect, you don't speak of them with the possessive pronoun my, you use the formulation (best rendered in a Cockney accent) "Me bums are made o' steel" when explaining your unusual anatomy and your airport security troubles to your friends. As I said, this whole line of thought gets me every time.)

Where was I?

Oh yes. Anyway. I'm now the proud owner of a new bicycle, after nearly two decades of slovenly living. In the spirit of Calvin's dad, I'm officially ready to have my mid-life crisis sponsored by the bike shop. ;-)


Arby said...

Ride on, dude!

B. Durbin said...

My last bicycle lasted me from the age of thirteen through high school (three miles each way) and college. An accident my freshman year of high school bent the frame subtly so by my post-college years adding speed would shift the back wheel to rub against the frame, slowing me back down. I gave my mother-in-law permission to get rid of it and she donated it... without first removing the lock.

I want another one desperate bad but I live in an apartment with no place to store it out of the weather, and a couple of years with a borrowed bike showed me the idiocy of that maneuver. (The tires deteriorated so fast that I just couldn't keep them inflated, so I returned it to my father.)

The type I want? The old-fashioned ten-speed style with the curved handlebars and narrow tires, but with the cheater brakes atop. Four years of six miles a day means that other styles just don't feel right.