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I love my neighborhood...

It’s fascinating how one person’s seemingly innocent gesture can affect another person in unknown and unexpected ways.

There’s a house on the northeast corner of Robinson and First in my neighborhood. Two-story light grey siding with white trim and minimal landscaping. Multiple people come and go through its’ lovely shade of turquoise front door.

It could be a rental, or an Airbnb property; I watched as the pair I assumed to be the owners bring it to its picture-perfect condition during the pandemic.

A writer never knows where an inspiration will come from, but I knew enough to slow down for the first observation and then to circle around the block for a second and a third.

Recently on a sunny San Diego afternoon, as I pulled to the stop sign preparing to turn left onto First Street, I noticed a burly, hairy guy come out the front door of the gray house carrying a bicycle. Bearded and muscly, he wore a tank top with a brazen graphic design on the front. There is a term for this apparel, but it’s politically incorrect terminology. But you get the picture.

Where was he going with that bicycle I wondered? I had to know so instead of turning left, I turned right and then right again and then right again pulling up next to the corner of the house with the guy and the bike just in time to see him set it down and tape something to its cross bar.

As he turned to go back into his house, I went around the block again. This time I double parked, got out my iPhone, and snapped some pictures. Before pulling away, I took one last look at a scene that registered emotionally with me.

The bicycle, white with turquoise wheel frames, was an exact replica of the one my parents gave me for my eighth birthday. I think it was a Schwinn? Referred to now as “vintage.”

Dad added a basket and a bell on the handlebars. At first glance, I loved my new bike. But when I overheard my dad tell his friend that the bicycle was secondhand, I was devastated. Already at that age, I felt my father would have preferred me be a girl so I could learn to play golf and watch football and camp overnight on the Continental Divide, which my brother got to do. I didn’t. Getting a “lesser-than” bicycle as a birthday present registered negatively for me I’m embarrassed to say now. It did.

As soon as I was able to eradicate such stupid two-wheeler memories from my head, I stared at the bike in front of me leaning slightly against a large sandstone rock in front of a wooden fence. Perfectly placed for viewing from all directions.

The sign, hand-printed in large black marker letters on white paper, said FREE.

Since spotting the free offering, many thoughts have crossed my mind. As my friend and I walked on Second toward downtown for dinner last night, the bridge over the freeway was congested with tent encampments. I noticed many had two-wheeled bikes alongside.

Would a person without a home stumble on the free bike at First and Robinson first?

Or would some young nurse working at Mercy Hospital nearby pick it up to commute back and forth to her shift?

Or would some dad, strapped with budgetary issues, grab it for his young daughter’s birthday present?

I am sorry I don’t know what happened to the bicycle. But in a way, I’m glad though because the possibilities are endless and make for good story ideas.

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Love that photo of you! I didn't get a bike of my own until I bought it myself decades later. Hand-me downs and borrowed from my sisters. Still I got my share of bike-riding in, especially those adolescent years we lived in that small country town. Then it was pretty much on foot or four wheels until after Tom died when I bought my own bike--Annabanana (bright yellow) and rode her on those country roads in Jamul. (It was still pretty much country then) and cruising around the beach. Good memories. Thanks.


Love this post. As I love bikes and their stories. My first trike came from the dump where my dad snagged it. Ironically, I was gifted two more brand new trikes that year from grandparents, and at the ripe age of 3 felt rather wealthy with my fleet of trikes. And bikes have always been my escape, my friend when no one else was, and my exercise. I guess I still feel wealthy. Thanks for sharing your stories.

~Amy Wallen

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