A few years ago, my college roommate, Lee, lived in Southern California for a couple of years while she earned an advanced degree in creative writing at UC/Irvine. She could’ve stayed another year, but the woods of Western Massachusetts beckoned.
Her last day here was a frantic one. As she packed up her life and loaded it into her Honda CRV, she realized her new mountain bike wouldn’t fit in the car. She also discovered that she had no idea which box she packed her bike lock in.
So before we made our good-byes, I made a quick detour to Performance Bikes to find the cheapest bike rack I could find. I also brought my kryptonite bike lock. I remember watching her frantically assemble it in the alley before she headed out for her 3,000-mile drive home. Her new Boston Terrier, Hunter, waited patiently on a baby blue felt blanket in the front seat.
When Lee arrived home, something perplexing happened. The kryptonite bike lock was stuck. (Oh the guilt that my lock malfunctioned.) She couldn’t unlock it. She managed to get the bike off the rack by removing the front wheel. But the back wheel and the frame were inextricably fused – for YEARS.
Lee lives on the fringe of a state park. She hikes miles every day with her dogs. (She adopted a deaf Boston Terrier, Quinn, later that year.) Mountain biking eluded her. Her Jamis had sadly become what she called “a shed ornament.”
Every spring and summer, I encouraged her to free the bike. Every year, she dutifully tried. She went through an entire can of WD-40. I mentioned this story to 734’s Dad a few weeks ago and he said, “Try cooking oil.”
On the last day of my visit with her, I said, “Let’s give it another shot. Go get your bike.” I was on a mission. If I couldn’t help her stack all her wood for the winter due to the rain, I at least wanted her to free her bike. After trying many times over the years, she was skeptical. Me, not so much. I’ve seen 734’s Dad work on bikes.
I grabbed a can of Trader Joe’s canola oil spray. She grabbed the shed ornament. I was surprised to see how rusty the chain had become. Lee sprayed the lock. Waited a minute. Turned the key. Nothing. She looked up and spotted a raven flying overhead. I looked at her with eager anticipation as she explained, “See this is what always happens.” “It’s gotta work. Try the key,” I said. “All right,” she replied. She blasted the key with some more oil.
She inserted the key slowly and gave it a turn. Low and behold, the lock popped open. “I LOVE 734’s Dad!” she squealed. We laughed and jumped up and down.
The utter delight of that moment reminded me of so many other occasions we’ve shared over the years. The time we escaped arrest at Stonehenge for hopping a bobbed-wired fence trying to get a good sunrise picture. The time we spurned a Brit because he thought he could date both of us – on the same night. The time we made the two-mile trek from the grocery store with arms full of bags in a whiteout blizzard with snow up to our knees by the time we got home. And the time we realized that maybe it wasn’t such a loss that our other roommate, Ida, a budding fashion designer, hadn’t designed us a formal gown complete with a wand. Yeah, we were thrilled. Ride on Lee!