I managed to forge a cycling purpose into a non-cycling vacation in August, 2011, using the brute force of a big-ass 1996 GMC camper van.
My wife and I spent a few hours Boulder, Colorado on our non-cycling vacation. I hadn’t been on a bike in several days. Instead I’d been driving the huge GMC van, which awakened the part of me that takes pride in my ability to operate a motor vehicle. I believe that part of me is called male. I really don’t drive very much.
We pulled into Boulder and decided to do what any self-respecting tourist would do: We headed for the Pearl Street Mall.
A block from Pearl Street, I waited at a red light staring at a prime parking spot, and I cursed any motorist who looked like they might even be thinking of claiming my spot. I believe this primitive territoriality was also awakened by three straight days behind a wheel.
My brainwaves of hostility managed to protect the spot until I could park the van — parallel park the van — in one shot. Perfectly.
Triumphantly, I strutted away hoping my wife was as impressed as I was.
I stopped momentarily to snap this photo of a Boulder Frankenbike which featured a meat thermometer.
And that, I thought, might be the only bike-related thing I’d be able to pull out of this three hour tour… a three hour tour.
Five blocks away we were comfortably waiting for a pizza that we had ordered. It was then that I remembered, Crap! I didn’t pay for parking! What would be the fastest way to get back to the van, put money in the meter, and return before the pizza arrived?
Looking out the window of the restaurant, I saw a Boulder B-Cycle bike-share station.
I’ll be back in a flash, Honey!
It took me a couple of minutes to figure it out, but less time than, say, the first time I used the self-checkout at a grocery store.
It cost me five dollars for a 24-hour pass (which I could use 30 minutes at a time), but I was still thinking there would be a cost benefit if I could get to the van before the parking cop. Plus, I thought, I can blog about this! I’ve never used a bike share system before.
The parking ticket was $15. So with the bike share, this adventure came to $20.
But at least the pizza would still be warm.
When I returned to the bike-share station, all of the bays were full. I knew this because I looked.
I went to the informative touch screen to tell me what to do. Sure enough, it offered to add 15 minutes to my check-out time so that I could ride to the next nearest station with an available bay.
I poked the button to do that. The touch screen told me, no, I can’t do that because there are available bays at this station. I looked again, this time very carefully.
In my mind were two things: (1) the pizza getting cooler every second, and (2) my wife watching me from inside the restaurant — as I walked slowly around the bike-share station examining every dock — and wondering how she ever married such a fool.
She texted me, “What is happening?”
I had to call the help number printed conveniently on the handlebars of the bike. A helpful guy answered and deduced that one of the docks must not be detecting one of the bikes. The nearest bike-share station was about two blocks away, he said. He stayed on the phone with me like an experienced pilot helping a nervous schoolteacher land a plane. I appreciated that.
I docked the bike, and walked back to the restaurant still chatting with my new bike-share friend most of the way.
The pizza was cold. My explanation, unsatisfying.