1. a house, apartment, or other shelter that is the usual residence of a person, family, or household.
2. the place in which one’s domestic affections are centered.
3. an institution for the homeless, sick, etc.: a nursing home.
4. the dwelling place or retreat of an animal.
5. the place or region where something is native or most common.
6. any place of residence or refuge: a heavenly home.
7. a person’s native place or own country.
I spent my adolescence and some of my teenage years in the “San Francisco Bay Area.” That’s what you tell people that aren’t familiar with The Bay. When you live in the East Bay, which I did- people still want it narrowed down. Living in Oakland and Berkeley is where the cool kids were. Where do you NOT want to live in the 90’s? Concord. That’s where.
I graduated from high school (barely) and promptly got the fuck out of town, hitchhiking at 17 years old to any point East. After 4 years on the road by thumb, bus, bicycle and freight train I found myself in Alaska which is where I am today (having done a couple year stint in Seattle in order to convince my [now] bride-to-be to move even farther north.) Nope, I don’t have much use for California. Too much humanity.
The Bay Area never felt like “home” to me. I was born in Oregon if you ask. I’m not really “from there” either I guess, I don’t have as many memories of it as I do of California- but I always felt out of place in that Golden State of earthquakes and hustlers. It’s a place that doesn’t fit as “home” to me- as dictionary.com defines it and my heart sure isn’t there. Don’t get me wrong- there are a
bunch of few people that I do care very much about in California. It’s everybody else that make me lose faith in the human race. I left in 1995 and every time I return it I have less patience for it.
All that, but California does have one thing on it that can’t ever move out of state. A thing that I will forever be thankful for, which helped shape me into who I am today. California is where I learned to ride a bike.
- Riding my bmx in the drainage ditches of Pittsburg, (before my first foray into wrenching left the thing in a hundred little pieces that my step-dad had no idea how to put back together.)
- Riding my Fila hybrid (if it was sold today it would be called a “gravel grinder”) in the hills off the Contra Costa Canal trail and to school before it was stolen.
- I purchased my first “real” Mountain bike in California, a GT Timberline. The one with the blue splatter paint and a rigid fork. It had sealed bearings and rapid fire shifters! A bike I brought to Cordova in the late nineties and still see riding around.
I have riding memories in Oregon as well, but no where near as many as exploring the East Bay, Marin County and San Francisco on two wheels. Some of my best rides have been in California and I thought of these as I flew down to the bay last week, as a surprise to my good friend for his wedding (second time’s a charm!) I knew in the cargo hold of that 737 was my bike and I knew I was headed down to 80 degree weather on trip that would kill three birds with one stone. Not only would I threaten to spend as much time in the saddle as I did on a barstool, I would see my good friend and my favorite family members.
I wasn’t surprised that the weather was hot and dusty. California is in a drought. I asked some kid at the park how long they’ve been in a drought.
“How should I know? I’m only 12!”
My family unit now resides in Crockett. A town built by C&H sugar and is now sustained by various oil refineries. It’s an odd town, with a couple bars, no grocery store and an $80,000 median income. It’s closest BART station (an extremely useful tool in getting around in the Bay without a car) is in Richmond- 15+ miles away through a handful of towns and a fair amount of climbing. All in all I rode about 200 miles that week in the sun. I got to explore the dirt trails connecting Crockett and Port Costa, another odd little delta front town with a bar worth visiting.
In my week in the Bay Area I got to share some good beers and good times with some of the most important people in my life and ride bikes in places that I haven’t in many years, as well as some places that I’ve never ridden before. San Francisco and the East Bay is really stepping it up when it comes to beer selection and I had a lot of fun rolling around looking for a place to wet my whistle with a fine draft beer.
In all of that I came to realize that “home” means different things to different people. To some it’s where they first saw the light of day. To others, it’s where they had their first kiss, or where they went to high school. Maybe it’s where their family lives, or at least their favorite family. Can you ever go home again? I’m not really sure. I still don’t miss California. Alaska is where I live now, but I’ve lived quite a few places. I’ve come to be the person I am from my experiences down life’s trail- and to me, I guess, home is where I ride my bike.