I Should Have Kept The Bike

 I Should Have Kept The Bike

So I was riding some where north and east of Platte County one Saturday afternoon. The day had started with a ride up through St. Joseph, continuing north along the river, and included a bit of gravel road exploring. I had been out a while and was ready to go home so I had my new gps turned on to find a route in the right direction. There were numerous detours as the spring rains had been heavy, causing many roads to flood.

I rode into a really small town, the kind of farming community you see all over here. Usually a short main street, some dusty brick or wood buildings, a gas station, a bar, and a few old houses. If there is still some life left in the old town there may even be a church. This town’s main street ran perpendicular to the road I was on,  and right at that intersection there was a large crowd gathered. As I got closer I could see it was an auction, and by the looks of it everyone in town was there. I needed to stop as the battery was getting low on my gps, so I found a spot on the side of the road. As I was parking a man walked by carrying a couple of five gallon buckets of paint, no doubt the results of a winning bid. He wasn’t tall, but stout and weathered. He carried those pails like someone who was conditioned to work that was heavy and awkward. I pegged him as a farmer by the overalls he wore, and the sea of pickups he waded into that I assumed his was amongst.

I was standing next to my bike, trying to route a cable to the battery in a way the wind wouldn’t catch, when I noticed the farmer coming back my way. His eyes were on my bike, and his face had the look of a man that got bikes. He said to me, “I used to have one of those….” he paused. Then he said “But it wasn’t as nice as yours.” By now he was smiling and we talked a bit about our bikes. His, like mine, had been a BMW but he didn’t say the model. I asked him what happened to it and he shrugged his shoulders. He told me that other things had come along, things that left him little time to ride. I imagined things that made him happy, sad, and were really important. I imagined things that maybe weren’t so important in the long run too. I imagined Saturday mornings full of so many things, none of them riding, and not being to remember what many those things were years later. I imagined being able to remember every ride, or believing I could, no matter how many years have passed.

After a bit, he fell silent. He looked at my bike one more time then said, “I should have kept the bike.” With that he wished me a good afternoon and walked off to the auction.

Edited 11/21/2010 Chris Smith