A few years ago, I walked into an office, bike in tow, looking for a friend. The place was empty, except for a woman I had never seen before. She looked sort of like Nancy Drew, if Nancy Drew spent regular time behind an enormous computer monitor, rendering architectural plans.
“Hello,” she said. “I’m Kristin.”
“Hello.” I said.
“Nice bike,” she said. “Do you tour?”
A lot of people were asking me this lately. I had just bought a new bike, for the first time in my life. My quest had been for a workhorse that I could load up with enough groceries to feed an entire dinner party, ride over gaping potholes without fear, carry up and down stairs easily, and fix by myself. I had found the perfect bike -- on sale.
What I hadn’t realized was that most of the people who bought my particular model were the kind of hardcore cyclists who rode their bikes across America. I was the bicycling equivalent of someone who buys a high-clearance off-road vehicle and then just drives it to the mall and back. And even after I finished scraping all of the decals off with a hair dryer and a credit card, people still recognized the frame and started trying to talk shop and compare components. It was as if I had accidentally joined a secret fraternity -- literally, because they were all dudes (until Kristin, anyway).
“No,” I said. “I’ve never actually ridden this bike out of the city.”
That usually ended the conversation. Instead, something interesting happened.
“You should start,” she said. “Come on a trip with us.”
And so it began. My bike had become my destiny.