Thursday, July 18, 2013

no everyday experience is too base for the thinking man

My interests in sustainable agriculture and sustainable transportation began at around the same time. I purchased my first commuting bike in 2005. I probably biked to my first workday at Ginkgo in 2007.

As my engagement with the garden deepened, so did my interest in human-powered transportation. In 2009, I bought a bike cart so that we could deliver garden produce to the pantry without relying on automobiles. I will admit to becoming obsessed with the idea of our going an entire season without resorting to mechanized transport. We've never achieved that goal, but we have come close.

A couple of years ago, my shared interests started to converge in crunchier ways. I purchased a fixed-gear bike for commuting and fell in love with what I think is a Platonic ideal of movement under one's own power. After a while, I hitched the cart to my fixed-gear bike for deliveries to the pantry. Even though the stress of pulling a cart loaded with up to 150 or so pounds of produce gradually crushed my rear wheel hub bearing (and sometimes strained my knees), I kept it up, because I was able to pursue two of my favorite activities at the same time.

I wasn't really worried until I added to the mix a pair of overalls that I had purchased at a Blain's Farm and Fleet while on a business trip to Madison. [I have discovered, by the way, that in addition to being quite practical for gardening, overalls allow one to assume a relaxed demeanor opposite to that imposed by blue jeans, as discussed by Umberto Eco in his essay "Lumbar Thoughts."] On a Saturday afternoon some time early this spring, I realized that I was riding around on a fixie in Uptown, wearing a pair of Carhartts and pulling a bike cart of produce from an organic garden. This look of mine had seemingly arisen gradually through accretion; all that I needed to complete it were muttonchops and a bottle of kombucha.

I felt self-conscious for a second as I practiced a track stand at the red light at the intersection of Lawrence and Broadway. I looked like some kind of weird combination of Wicker Park and Some Rural Exurb With "Park" in the Name. Then I just told myself to relax and get over myself. The light changed, and I mashed to get the cart moving.