An Intimate Connection

When I’m on a bicycle tour, I have a more intimate physical relationship with my bicycle than with any living person.

I know Valoria inside and out.  I am in physical contact with her for hours almost every day.  I look her over in detail for damage.  I get her grease all over my hands when I make repairs.  She gets my sweat on her when I ride.

Wherever I stop, she is right next to me.  I pedal for ten miles and stop, and there she is again. She’s been with me on mountaintops, deep inside canyons, halfway through deserts.  She’s been next to my table at street-side cafés in foreign lands. She’s been with me through lightning storms and torrential rain and stupefying heat.  She has lit my way in total darkness.  I’ve leaned on her for support, used her as a dining table, a work bench, a footstool, a windbreak, a drying rack, a shopping basket.

She carries the food, water, and gear I use to survive. She is incredibly high technology. She is simple enough that I can take her completely apart.  She is freedom.  She is health.  She will kill me if I don’t look after her.

My closest parallel is the rancher and their horse.  But even the rancher doesn’t know their horse like I know Valoria.

She was stolen from me once.  After weeks of anguish and frantic searching, I rebuilt her body from scratch, from a hundred parts, sandblasted and powder coated, recreating every cable and cog, from the headlight mount I formed with plastic epoxy down to the stickers on the rear fender.  It took months.  Then I arranged candles in a circle around myself and the bike, placed a hand on the frame, and willed the spirit of Valoria to return from wherever she had gone, into this new body.

Then I cast the entire event out of my mind as though she had never been stolen.  Only rarely do I remember it, and as I see it, I’ve been riding the same bike for ten years and her spirit just moved.

Some people feel like a part of them is missing if they don’t have their smartphone.  That’s sort of how it is.  Even when Valoria isn’t with me, if she wasn’t somewhere, locked up securely or safe indoors, I would feel vulnerable and incomplete, like a beaver in a dried up stream.

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