Petal Power: Meet Petunia

I was a late bloomer.

Bikes. Talking bikes here.

I didn’t learn to ride a bike until I was in the 4th or 5th grade, as we lived in the country on a road with no shoulder that was well-traveled by barreling sugar beet trucks and lumbering tractors. The nearby canal bank made for great adventures, but as a haven for goat-heads, it was best left to well-covered foot-traffic. (Those rainbow thongs- yes this was pre-“flip flop” era- that were all the rage in the 80s were not good protection from the spiky edges of nature’s version of stepping on LEGO. Except nature is crueler. You don’t have to pluck LEGO out of your own flesh.)

Once we did get bikes, we rode them endlessly in the neighborhood behind our place, flying down asphalt hills and hoping our brakes would at least attempt their jobs, giving boosts to friends when their bikes were sidelined by flats, and pedaling our hearts out to escape the barking dogs that roamed freely.

Since the endless days of childhood summer, I’ve ridden bikes off and on, but never owned my own again. I’ve had a few bike experiences, but always on borrowed wheels.

The last time I was in Lima, I took a bike tour of the city, which was great until I crashed (who waxes sidewalks?!), bruising both my back and my pride and obliterating the banana I had in my backpack for a snack later.

2020 and the pandemic lockdown introduced me to DC’s Capital Bike Share, which I used all of last summer to transport myself into the eerily empty National Mall, but I got tired of trying to figure out when/where bikes were available at the various racks and carrying my own Lysol wipes to avoid COVID cooties.

So, time for an investment.

I looked online at more bikes than you can count. But, every time I found one I was interested in, it was “out of stock.” Between the desire for alternate forms of transportation and bunged up global supply chains, bikes were not easy to come by. And they certainly don’t give bikes away! Before I started looking, I was thinking $100 bike from my ShopKo days would do the trick.

Ha! How little I knew. (And how old I am!)

I quickly realized that if I wanted something a bit nicer than the ones put together by 16 year olds in the back of the department store, I was going to have to raise my budget. (Having been an 16 year old working in a department store, I am well aware of the backroom shenanigans, and while fun as a participant, I’d rather not trust my commute to those yahoos.)

After looking online several times and then getting annoyed at the options, the prices, the overall hassle, I had mentally walked away and given myself over to another summer of rolling on the red shared bikes in DC. Until, the spouse of a friend and former middle school teaching colleague posted a BEAUTIFUL bike she recently got and I was back in the game!

It wasn’t going to be cheap, but since I don’t have a car/insurance payment, I decided to chalk it up to transportation needs and make her mine.

After much consideration (okay, mostly whining to friends on Facebook and WhatsApp), I finally took the leap and headed over to Spokes Bikes in Ballston. Almost decided, but not quite ready to tap the card, I watched the exact same bike wheel out the door while I waffled. It’s a lot of money and I was feeling like I needed to be all in our all out. The pressure was on. Until, the lovely salesman (who instantly knew the author of the quote tattooed on my forearm, so bonus points) said I could put a minimal hold fee down and have two weeks to consider it. This is exactly what I needed to ease my mind. I knew my pretty bike wasn’t going to go out the door (she was the last one!) but I could also go home and sleep on it a few more days. Needless to say, as I walked home that afternoon, the sale was already made. The shop impressed me with their customer service and openness to a new bike owner- there was no elitist aura like I had felt at other shops.

When was the last time I owned a bike? Maybe middle school! Definitely before high school when I was given the keys to the glorious Bedrock that would be the wheels for all three McDaniel kids. But, I was probably as thrilled with rolling my bike out of the shop at 40-something as I was with getting handed the keys to high school freedom at 16!

So, I’d like to introduce you to Petunia, my blush pink Specialized Roll Sport bike. As she is quite photogenic, I plan to bring you pictures of her summer adventures as we wander the metro DC area together. Join me here for regular “Petal Power” posts and she and I putter our way around town.

(Also, feel free to share your biking advice for this newbie! I only have about a quarter of an idea about what I’m doing when I’m out there “petal-ing” around.)

Introducing Petunia and the new Petal Power tag!