A few months back, somebody stole my old, dumb, slow bike, and I decided to replace it with something that has a bit more pep.
That’s not to say I’m a peppy bike guy; put me on a sleek street bicycle and I tend to look like a bulldog on a balance beam. But I wasn’t looking to join a racing team; I was looking to get out and enjoy fresh air and exercise.
I wanted a bike with character. “With character,” it should be noted, is another way of saying “vintage.” “Vintage” is another way of saying “old.” So I found an old French bike on the internet, a sweet little orange-accented number from the early Mitterand years. It’s a Peugeot Bordeaux, and for the first couple months I kept confusing the “Bordeaux” part with other French wine-producing regions or completely unrelated foodstuffs. The guy at the bicycle shop was patient when I explained that I needed parts for my Raclette.
The ol’ Malbec had some obscure problems too, so I sent it to a friend who’s also a bicycle maestro for some fixes. By the time I got it back, people were talking a lot more about going for bike rides.
By the time I got it back, we were in the time of social distancing.
Now, the bicycle means more. Now it’s how I see the community I miss.
I’m not a big many-miles cyclist, but I’ve got a little central Fort Lauderdale route that’s become something of a go-to. From my home on the Arby’s end of Victoria Park, I head southwest to Flagler Village and Sistrunk. I head west through Dorsey-Riverbend then south across Broward and the swing bridge. I do a big loop through Riverside Park, head back across the swing bridge to Sailboat Bend, across SW Seventh and past the Broward Center and MODS (ah friends, someday we will meet again). From Himmarshee I head over by the river, which I take to Las Olas and then back into my neighborhood.
I love the route because it takes me through some of my favorite Fort Lauderdale neighborhoods, and because it takes me by the houses of a few people I know. Standing in the street and talking to somebody in their yard is something I never would have given much thought to three months ago. It’s a new appreciation of, and a new perspective on the community I love.
These are still hard times for that community, and we don’t shy away from that in this, our community issue. But we also tell the stories of the people coming together to help others get by. I came away from writing this month’s long feature clear-eyed about our community’s problems, but so impressed by the people trying to create solutions.
I’ve seen a lot of Fort Lauderdale over the past couple months, both from the seat of an old French bicycle and from talking to the people who live here and understand that right now, we need community. And I’ve got to tell you, I love what I see.