Yesterday I rode at a new flatland spot for the first time. Actually, it’s the same old spot I have ridden for seventeen years. It’s the top corner of a supermarket parking lot. The difference was that the store had changed owners so I could no longer say I was going to ride at Genaurdi’s. As of three days ago it is now Giant. This is the second time the store has changed owners but the first time the name has changed.
During the renovations, there were big trucks and refrigerated trailers parked at my corner. I was more than a little stressed about this as the temperatures were around 100 degrees all week. Fresh blacktop, serious heat and heavy trucks can seriously damage the smooth surface I ride on. Once the trucks were gone I went over for a good inspection. There were some new divots and dimples but the biggest problem was a large oil stain right in the middle of the flattest part of the lot. I went straight out and got a bag of kitty litter and dumped it on the oil. After a day, I went back to sweep up my spot first thing in the morning. Gotta protect my riding area.
With new management come new people at the store. As expected, my spot was full of cars. New management always tells the employees to park as far from the store as possible. This happens to be where I ride. The new hires and transfer employees kept me from riding during the day so I headed out last night after dinner hoping most of the cars would be gone.
When I got to the spot, there were several cars still parked but I had just enough room to do my thing. I picked up some trash that had accumulated and then got down to riding. I was doing a nice flowing combo into an upside down trick. While my feet were on the pegs, my mind was on the new management. I know the conflict is coming. New management means new people who don’t know me. They will eventually tell me I’m not allowed to ride there. I’ve seen it happen before. They don’t know me or my riding history in this parking lot. Looking from the store they see a kid and a liability risk. They don’t know that to the locals I’m a fixture in the neighborhood. Often I get recognized as “Hey, you’re that bike guy!” The local police have discussed the benefit of me riding there to the old store owners. I keep the area clean, am a presence that keeps cars from being broken into, keep the teenagers from any hijinks. It’s a good thing to have me there and it does them no harm.
I watched the employees come out of the store and walk up to their cars. I saw them litter and flick their ciggy butts on my parking lot as they got into their cars. The guys in the stiffly pressed, white shirts didn’t seem to notice me but I know they are the ones who will tell me I have to leave in the next week or so. Even though I was riding, my mind was busy working on my defense strategy.
“I’ve been riding here for seventeen years.”
“You are the new guys in the neighborhood and need to understand.”
“I’m a 45 year old father and homeowner, not some punk ass teenager.”
“I’m not creating havoc and I wear headphones now and am not blasting a boom box anymore.”
“I keep the area safe and clean. I even repair the damage to the parking lot.”
“I’m a professional rider and know what I’m doing so I will not cause any property damage.”
“I live across the street and spend a lot of money here feeding my family.”
“I’m just doing tricks on the ground and not doing anything dangerous. I’m not going to get hurt and sue you.”
And then it happened.
I was spinning into a move on the front wheel when my foot missed its contact point on the tire and the bike rolled forward out from under me. My foot was on the front peg, the rear wheel was up in the air and turned 90 degrees to my left. My legs were on either side of the handlebars with nowhere to go as I started falling over backwards. I swear it was one of those cartoon like falls where you seem to hover in the air for a second before you slam down to the ground, You pause and know it’s coming but you can’t do a thing about it. I landed flat on my back still in the same position I had been in. Somehow, I managed to keep my head up and avoided a concussion. I think I felt every vertebrae crack from my tail bone to my skull. My neck muscles that kept my head up got a jolt of whiplash. I sat up and kicked the bike off me and they lay back down on the warm asphalt. After a moment I sat up again and realized that I was ok. Quickly, I looked around to see if anyone from the store had seen me. Whew, nope. I was in the clear.
In BMX we don’t like to talk about certain things. We don’t talk about crashing, getting hurt or even flat tires. We especially never say “I’m going to try it one last time” because without a doubt that is the attempt that will take you out. These superstitions keep us in a positive place when we ride. Our fear (or better sense) gets pushed aside. That is how we accomplish things. We focus on what we want to do, not what can go wrong. As I picked up my bike and went over to my water bottle I laughed to myself. Here I was imagining a conversation between me and some guy in a suit that there was no way I could get hurt doing ground tricks in his parking lot. It almost serves me right that I ate shit. Shoulda been thinking about what I was doing not some possible scenario that may or may not happen.
So now I am sitting here typing over my morning coffee with a stiff neck. What’s the point to this story? Maybe it has something to do with staying focused on what you are doing. Maybe it’s about not jinxing yourself with negative thoughts. Maybe it’s just another silly experience from BMX. All I know for sure is that today when I ride I’m not going to be stressing about the new management coming to give me “the talk”. I’m going to be in the moment and secure that yesterday I found out my old ass can still take a punch. I’m going to pull that trick too.
Ghost riding the whip in 1999 and the recently defunct Genaurdi’s grocery store.