Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Bike Hunt Stories Show the Power of Bicycles - Story 8: Penelope

Here in the United States, we’re enjoying a relaxed week as we prepare for Thanksgiving. Food is central to Thanksgiving. But we also must remember the reason for this holiday embedded in its name – appreciation. That’s why, for the next in this series of excerpts from my recently published memoir, Bike Hunt, I’ve chosen the story of Penelope, a royal blue mid-1950s Sears single-speed I’d found at a Chicago bike shop. I’ve chosen her because I gave her to a hungry man who appreciated her more than food.

The morning after the workshop, which was not as interesting as I had hoped, I headed south to give away Penelope, just as I’d done with Sprinter—a Sunday morning with only one hour to find her a home. The streets were deserted save for a few cars. I turned onto side streets hoping to find a park or other place where people gathered. Nothing. Back onto the thoroughfare heading south, all I could see into the morning glare was miles of vacant sidewalk. My pedal strokes slowed. The farther I pedaled, the farther I’d have to walk, or pedal, back. A thick shadow from a hulking freeway flyover crossed the wasteland of blinding pavement. I was drawn to the shadow more for relief than hope.
They appeared as my eyesight adjusted, a line of about thirty forlorn people behind a van with its double rear doors wide open, stuffed with loaves of bread. From drought to flood. How was I going to approach thirty people, all of whom likely needed Penelope? I didn’t have time to worry about it. I followed my instincts as usual, pedaling slowly up to the line then coasting along its length, waiting for a sign.
“Good morning,” said a young, battered man with blond hair and beard. “Nice bike you have there.”
And we’ve found our winner. I slammed on the brakes. “Do you need a bike?” I asked him.
“I sure do!”
“Well,” I said as I stepped off and leaned Penelope toward him, “it would be my pleasure to give you this bike.”
He listened, stunned, as I gave him the spiel. As I handed him the key, the people on both sides of him in the line patted his shoulders and congratulated him, some calling him James. He thanked me with his eyes before I turned away, still enjoying their celebratory chatter as I rounded the corner to begin my long walk back to the hostel. I was on a different street from the one I had come south on, peeking into storefronts and windows I wouldn’t have noticed earlier through my frustration.
Crossing a side street, I saw a homeless shelter a few blocks down with a small group of people gathered outside talking and soaking up the sun. Good to know I would have had an option if I hadn’t found that breadline. Just as I stepped up onto the curb, just before the shelter would have vanished from my view, I caught a glimpse of movement, a flash of blue and that unmistakable blond beard. I stopped, one foot in the street, the other on the curb to watch a beaming James ride up to his buddies. He’d left the breadline to show off his new wheels. That guy had his priorities straight.

Penelope’s Bike Hunt story is one of many throughout the book. I’ve got my eye on several more to share on this blog. All will have the label “Bike Hunt” so you can easily find them.

Better yet, you can buy your own copy of Bike Hunt to read all of the stories and more. Find it through any online book vendor worldwide (Amazon, Barnes & Noble, etc.) or order it through your local book store. We also have copies for sale at www.OneStreet.org.


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