Big Blue and my green bike

The author’s preferred mode of transportation is on two wheels

The author, a longtime Chico resident, is a former CN&R editor-in-chief.

I drive a 25-year-old Silverado pickup named Big Blue that serves me well. It’s a long-bed and can haul a small mountain of stuff. I bought it 11 years ago from an old man in Paradise who said he purchased it several years earlier because he’d needed a long-bed so he could transport his dead wife’s coffin, wife inside presumably, to Southern California for burial.

I think of that old man whenever I go on the freeway. I picture him ferrying his wife to her final resting place, in what was no doubt his last expression of love for her. The image adds to my appreciation of the truck, a sturdy steed that is always there for me.

It’s also a gas hog, so I use it as rarely as possible. For any haul longer than to the dump, I rent a fuel-efficient car or take my wife’s hybrid Camry. Otherwise, I ride my bicycle.

Every time I have to choose between the truck and the bike, I look at that big old truck, remember how much fossil fuel it burns, and choose the bike. The truck helps me make good choices.

Besides, I love riding my bike around town. It’s a joyful thing. Instead of being encased in a plastic-and-metal pod, I’m out in the open air, riding a beautiful green 40-year-old Peugeot 10-speed, a gift from my wife, and experiencing the world around me in an intimate and satisfying way.

You see things from a bicycle that you’d miss from a car—the flowers in people’s yards, a couple of kids laughing as they walk to school, a cat on a fence, all the ordinary but wonderful scenes of life that reveal themselves to us when we are mindful.

As drivers, we have a map of Chico in our heads showing the best routes to our destinations. The same is true of cyclists, only our routes are much different because of our vulnerability. We know where the bike paths are, which streets are bike-friendly and which aren’t, and how to avoid the latter.

There’s risk in bicycling, but it’s worth it. I ride 75-100 miles a week, getting useful exercise without polluting the planet. Most of all, though, it’s just plain fun. For the life of me, I can’t figure out why so many people drive everywhere, when such an ideal alternative exists.