Melancholy is incompatible with bicycling. — James E. Starrs
I’m in love with my bike. Though I’ve always had a bike, recently it has become like a new lover. I want to be near it, talk about it and dwell upon it during every moment of every day. I want to get on my bike and ride off into the sunset forever. I want to gaze into distant horizons and whisper sweet nothings into its handlebars.
That’s the special thing about riding a bike: you don’t need a place to go because bike riding is essentially flying through the air at ground level, just like we do in dreams — but real. The endless exhilaration of freefalling towards nowhere is the destination.
On my bike, pedaling through Melbourne city, I see features that I’ve never noticed before, even though I’ve driven down the very same streets a thousand times in my car. Perched on a saddle with my leg powered vehicle, I’m transported to a city that I’ve never been to.
Along Melbourne’s tiny streets and laneways, I zigzag, taking in an exhibition of art that has been splashed and pasted to walls and telephone poles. Old art peels at the edges to uncover layers and layers of self-expression. Tiny sculptures hide in tucked away places — little artists’ gifts to strangers who have the patience to look for them.
On one street, a super-sleek mansion towers above a ramshackle townhouse that is sinking into its foundation, skewed like it has fallen down Alice’s rabbit hole. These streets are as eclectic and exciting as a trash and treasure bazaar, yet somehow I’ve never noticed that before.
I see houses for sale, houses being sold and young couples moving into their new home. I’m not a fly on the wall but a traveling fly, zipping by unnoticed as the couple balances lamps and floppy tartan couches, lugging a clash of furniture into a new nest, beginning their lifetime together with elated smiles.
Odours of cooking garlic arrive in delicious explosions. People’s homes each have their own unique arrangement of smells: cedar wood, blooming flowers, fresh laundry, chip bark, and sometimes children, animals or annoying in-laws mixed into the olfactory stew. Sometimes, even though I see nobody in sight, I smell a sweet perfume that has traveled on the breeze like a piece of fine silk from a faraway place.
It sure beats the old sock funk that pours from my car’s air conditioning vents.
When the sun goes down and the street lights come on and everyone scurries off into their homes, I want to carry on charging into the darkness just to feel the burn of cold air on my cheeks.
Dear bike, I love you. Love Torre.
Whimsical house with a hidden sculpture (bottom right, near the weed).
Hidden sculpture up close.
Author’s bio: Torre DeRoche faced her fear of the ocean by island hopping across the Pacific for two years aboard a humble boat with a man she met in a bar. She has written a book titled Swept – Love With A Chance Of Drowning. Follow her on Facebook or Twitter.
Torre DeRoche is the author of two travel memoirs, Love with a Chance of Drowning (2013) and The Worrier’s Guide to the End of the World (due out September 2017). She has written for The Atlantic, The Guardian Travel, The Sydney Morning Herald, Emirates, and two Lonely Planet anthologies.