Salinas, California. Hometown of John Steinbeck, Fresh Express Lettuce, the California Rodeo, and me. When I was visiting last week, we spent a lot of time driving, mostly to Monterey and back-- much like my high school years. But I also got a small taste of the years before that, before I or my friends could drive, when bikes were the best way to get out for groceries or ice cream.
My folks have been making bikes a bigger part of their lives in the last year or so, and especially since their last visit to Portland in the spring. On this visit to Salinas, we helped my dad pick out a new city bike, a Raliegh Roadster, which fits him beautifully and should suit his needs for something fun and practical to zip around town on.
We had lots of visiting to do and not much time, so we decided Saturday afternoon that we'd host a Sunday brunch for people to stop by and meet the baby. And rather than drive out for groceries, my dad and I rode bikes! We brought backpacks for our stuff, as neither Bridget's Brompton nor dad's Raleigh have proper cargo capacity (yet). And as we were riding, I remembered how beautiful Salinas can be for bikes.
It's a flat city, lying smack in the center of a broad river valley, with mountains to the east and west. The streets are broad and, thanks to the mild weather, in excellent condition. Most houses have their own parking, so there are radically fewer cars parked on the streets than here in Portland. And if you stay off the main roads, there really isn't much traffic early on a Sunday morning.
While we were out and about in Salinas, I saw a few other glimpses of a burgeoning bike culture that made me smile.
There was the kid on the brakeless fixie jetting helmetless down S. Main, his electric green rims matching his electric green bar tape and bandanna as he ran a whole series of red lights. Shame on him, sure, but he could have come straight out of Portland, and I have to admit he made me smile. I hope he learns some manners and I hope he doesn't get killed, but I'm kind of glad he's there.
There's Bobcat Bikes, the LBS in Salinas, which carries a nice range of practical bikes along with gorgeous sport machines, and has sensible and friendly mechanics who are always happy to get us what we need (even when it's only a multitool and some lube).
There's the increasing number of roadies riding Hwy 68, which has been repaved since I left and looks like a gorgeous trip, though it still has more traffic than I'd like. Having spent high school bussing and driving that road twice a day, it's inspiring to see people using it with their own power. Someday soon I'd like to ride it myself.
And there's the family I saw out by Hartnell Park one evening while my mom, Jaz & I were out playing. Two parents, both on swoopy-tubed white cruisers, a bright green I-bert seat on mom's bike, a grinning kid riding between her handlebars. Everyone in helmets. I don't know who you folks are, but seeing you gave me real hope for the country.
This revolution doesn't just live in Portland. It is spreading, and quickly. Where have you seen bikes that you didn't expect them?