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Branching Out

For the first year I lived in Kansas City, I hardly knew anyone.  Just a couple buddies from college we moved down here to be nearer to, and I knew some people from at work. Our social life was pretty slow. We were broke. I hated my job. Todd was out of work. We lived in a nastiferous apartment on 38th & Main which had a horrible recurring cockroach problem. I was re-writing my dissertation and suffering depression. Good times were not had by all.

In actuality, during about the first four years we lived in this town, we didn’t hardly know anyone. I knew a couple of people from message boards, folks I liked but didn’t see very often.

Last year…only just last year, it occurred to me that there must be a way that those groups of cyclists I’d see riding around town together got to know one another and agree to rendezvous at point A and ride. Being the dork that I am, I figured I’d ask Google about “Kansas City Bicycle Group” and found some fairly official stuff from KCBC, and bookmarked the pages.

Then, one of the shifters on my Trek broke, and I limped it on down to Midwest Cyclery in Westport to have it replaced. While I was there, I noticed they had a sign stating that they closed early on Wednesdays for a group ride. I asked if anyone was free to tag along, and was assured that this was encouraged. So, one Wednesday afternoon last Spring, I showed up at Midwest and rode out on my first ever group ride, the only girl, the only person on a mountain bike, but, being a daily rider, and being a tenacious cuss, I managed to hang well enough, and found that group rides are, indeed, big fun. Then, I finally tracked down that “bike shop run by a couple of ladies downtown,” that being Acme Bicycle Company, and went on one of their Saturday afternoon rides. That day, it was just Christi, a woman named Flo, and me, and away we went. Flo went home early, but Christi and I both felt like riding some more, so we did. At one point, we were riding up Broadway toward the River Market, and we both just looked over at each other, cheese-eating grins pasted ear-to-ear, and I knew I’d be back to ride with Christi again. She’s one of few women I’ve ever met who likes to ride as much as I do.

Ever since last summer, I’ve gone around town, trying out different riding groups, participating in Alleycats, and getting involved in a social network, a community. I’ve made a few really good friends, met a lot of people I’m happy to party with, and know quite a few people around town to say “hey” to, if I see them someplace. It wasn’t until last summer, when I started hanging around with the Acme crew, and meeting other folks t First Fridays, Critical Mass, alleycats, and other group rides that I started really feeling any kind of connection with Kansas City, any reason to hang around here.

It took quite a lot of brass for me to take that initial plunge, to show up to a ride amongst a bunch of strangers and say “hi, I’m new here, can I ride with you?” I’ve done it dozens of times since, and it gets easier. When I’m on my bike, I’ve got a place of being, a quick reference as to part of who and what I am, and an instant link of commonality with all the other riders who showed up to ride. There’s a different “scene” among different groups, of course, and I’m definitely happier to ride with some groups than others, but I’m finding it hard to find a total stranger on a bicycle.

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