My fifth visit to Overland Park, Kansas means pulling out the blue bike I shipped there a few years ago. It has lived in the rabbi's garage, awaiting my return every summer so I can ride it daily for about a month. Then, at the end of my teaching residency, it's returned to the back of the garage to collect dust while the tires go flat for another winter.
It felt good to pull it out and dust it off again this week. The brake pads, which I'd replaced last year, are fine. The chain is filthy but so far it's working, so I may just apply a little oil and leave it for now.
The rabbi is trying to sell this large house. Now that his kids are grown and he's only a few years from retirement, he doesn't need the space -- or the headache of living in a fancy gated community.
When his house sells, my bike will need a new storage space (and, assuming I'm invited back next year, I will need a new homestay situation next year). So far, his house has been on the market over five months and it hasn't had many bites. So, while his smaller house is being remodeled, he's living in the big house again and may even take it off the market while he's here.
In any case, if it's still his next summer I'll be surprised.
But I digress.
The bike worked just fine. I was reminded of the smaller rear cogs and how I have to rely on the largest two cogs to get up basically any incline -- especially after I hook up the trailer.
The trailer, loaned to me by a camper's family during my first year here, is now on permanent loan to the temple for whenever I visit. The camper in question has long since aged out of the program, and her younger siblings are much too big to ride in the trailer; so it just lives at the temple when I'm not using it. I expect I will store the bike at the temple, too, when my residency is finished for the year.
There will come a time when money, my energy level and/or a change of rabbi will determine that I no longer spend every June in Kansas. When that time comes, I can either leave the bike with Revolve KC, the bicycle non-profit; or I can box it up and take it home.
It's not a super-fancy bike; a department store-level mountain bike that's been city-fied on the cheap can be found anywhere in Portland and most other bike-friendly cities. (Its annual reappearance in the suburbs of Kansas City remains a novelty, even now) But I've grown quite fond of it. It fits me better than any of the bikes my hosts have managed to loan me (my primary reason for shipping it here to begin with); and it's comfortable and sturdy and cheap enough to survive the awful humidity of midwestern summers without much fuss. An occasional drop of lube, topping off the tires every couple of weeks, and it's good to go. If I did decide to donate it, I might swap in some cheaper handlebars, or I might not.
In spite of the oppressive heat -- today's high was 93F, with humidity above 40% -- I enjoyed riding to and from the temple today for the beginning of staff week. Turning the cranks after a few days of inactivity felt lovely, and I didn't even mind getting off and walking it up the short, steep incline to the rabbi's house after work.
Biking to and from the temple each day during my residency has become a hallmark of my annual visits. When returning campers see the bike and trailer locked up outside, they know I'm back and it's all good.
So I'm here, and the bike is here, and it's time for bed. I've got another busy day tomorrow.
(Below: evidence of my return, June 2017. Taken at the temple.)