In the three weeks since I've adopted the bicycle lifestyle, I've nearly killed a Labrador and been cursed at by an angry old man along the bike path.
Jettisoning four wheels has been eventful, to say the least.
How did I come to step onto a bicycle for the first time in 15 years?
Man, I wish I had a more altruistic story for you. I'd like to say that one day last month I was walking out of my house and beheld the glory of a blooming cherry tree in my front yard and then thought, "You know, if we keep choking the earth with car emissions, then this cherry tree, alas, all cherry trees, shall die. And as the cherry trees go, so shall we."
And in that moment, life and the universe would suddenly have jammed into focus, giving me a glimpse into a better, cleaner world that requires us to lead by example and ditch the automobiles.
However, this didn't happen. I've gone more than three decades without experiencing an epiphany. I'll likely go three more.
Truth is, I pulled up to the Circle K along East Barnett Road a month back and had a little meltdown.
For some reason known only to a collective of slimy oil barons in Houston, gas had climbed approximately 30 cents per gallon over a weekend.
One Friday, a milk jug of unleaded ran $3.26. By the following Monday, it cost $3.56.
To be fair to the poor gas jockey who served me that day, I had left my apartment in a foul mood that had nothing to do with gas prices. Without going too much into detail, the dude was set up to fail when my GMC Sonoma rolled into the Circle K station that day.
I handed the jockey my debit card and asked for $30 regular. He laughed and said something like, "Yeah, that ain't gonna get you much today."
Ha. Ha. Ha.
I poked my head out of my car and looked at the price sign disgracing the sky above the lot.
"So, any reason why gas rose so much over the weekend?" I asked through gritted teeth.
"Ha! They don't tell us anything," the jockey said.
He then went on to say something about an oil refinery fire somewhere in the Bay Area, and then he drifted into some unintelligible crap about the oil barons "switching over from winter blends to summer blends sooner because of the unseasonably warm weather ... blah blah blah."
After getting home, I decided to fact-check said jockey and found that, yes sir, there was a lone oil refinery fire that shut down some production for a week at one location in the Bay and, well, by golly, they are switching to something called a "summer blend" months before, you know, summer arrives.
I don't think the American people have ever been told a single truth involving gas prices. Gas prices go up and down because that's what slimy oil barons wish to happen. This particular commodity is not linked to any sort of supply-and-demand calculus they taught us in Economics 101. Anyone who tells you differently is in league with the oil baron enemy and should be spat upon, eye gouged and sent weeping back to Houston.
I whined like a total ninny about gas prices for about a week before I remembered something my pap taught me: "Quit yer b——ing. Do something."
That's how I found myself in Medford Cycle Sport on Biddle Road. I have no interest in mountain biking or racing down the road at 67 mph on a high-end French bike. That left me with the hybrid, or commuter, bike lines.
I dropped a chunk of cash on a Trek bike. Mostly because it was black and looked cool. Also because I took it for a brief ride and it seemed to fit me the best.
I hadn't been on two wheels since middle school. They say you never forget, but that sure as hell doesn't mean you jump on a bike as an expert after an extended layoff.
I took the thing around my neighborhood, creeping down South Holly Street, and then over to Oakdale and then into cul de sacs south of Fichtner-Mainwaring Park.
Things were a little shaky at first. I was certain every car that rushed up behind me intended to roll over my skull, the driver speeding away and cackling like a character out of "The Road Warrior."
I soon realized that most drivers are extra cautious when sharing the lane with a bike. I've seen motorists veer completely into the oncoming lane to give me space.
In fact, the only issues I've had on my bike have been with other bikers.
I was rolling on the Bear Creek Greenway on a ride to Talent when I passed some old guy resting with his old-guy bike along the lane. I was cruising along at my normal flat surface speed when Mr. Old Grumpy Pants yelled at me to slow down.
The next day, again on the bike path, someone was riding a fixed-gear cruiser with their dog trotting alongside them. I went to pass, announcing my self well beforehand. As I dipped into the left lane, the Labrador exploded on the chain and charged me.
My first mistake: hammering down on the front brake. I was nearly force-fed blacktop and Labrador. I somehow managed to stop before plowing into the beast.
The dog nearly jerked the girl off her fixed-gear. I managed to swerve around the animal and slowed down to glance behind me, to see whether she was hurt.
The girl then spat a curse at me, as if the whole thing was my fault.
Since those incidents, the riding has been smooth. I haven't driven my car in several days and couldn't feel better.
I'm tired of making trillionaires out of slimy oil barons from Houston. I say this knowing full well that my bike is 98 percent petroleum based, but at least the cost of putting air in my bike tires doesn't jump 46 cents on the whims of Satan's unholy brethren.
They'll just have to stay billionaires without as much of my help.
Reach reporter Chris Conrad at 541-776-4471 or firstname.lastname@example.org/crimefinder.