16 at 11 o'clock: Two Wheels, A Dark Canyon and No Lights

It was after eleven o'clock when I finally pedaled my bicycle up to the house. My feet ached from standing at the service station pumping gas and checking the oil on cars since I left high school class.

My stomach grumbled, because I was seemingly on a permanent diet of Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, Doritos and Dr. Pepper. 

But at least I was home. It had been a long walk otherwise.  I was 16 and still had no car to my name.  That didn’t bother me much.  I had a bicycle and my teenage angst to get me the 2 miles up the darkest canyon I ever knew each night after work.  I mean dark! Like can’t see your hand in front of your face dark.

My bicycle had no lights.  I’m not even sure I knew there was such a thing back then, but I knew it was dark.  Having a garage full of automobile headlight bulbs, I fashioned a makeshift head light from a couple of 9 volt batteries, electrical wire and tape and a bulb out of the bin.  With the exception of the 9 volt battery, all parts for cars.  They were going into service to me and my bicycle. They didn’t do much beyond making me feel safer. Better than having nothing.  That kit certainly didn’t light the path forward.  It might have even made it harder to see since I lost my night eyes.  However, it did give me the hope only light can provide.

I left the gas station after my coworker and I finished cleaning the bays, scrubbing the disgusting toilets and locking up.  The toilets were always the worst.  Something about a service station bathroom just brings out the filth in men.

I would put on my headphones from my Sony Walkman.  A prized possession I desperately wanted after seeing my fellow surfing friends with their waterproof Walkmans in the water.  In retrospect, a ridiculous idea, but it had a bright yellow sealed case made of plastic and rubber gaskets that set it far apart from anything else in the market at the time.

Press play. 

Guns N’ Roses Appetite for Destruction cassette tape. Literally the only cassette I owned that was legally procured music. Napster before there was Napster was just called a copy your friend gave you.  I had a couple dozen different punk music mixtapes, but that AFD album from GNR was like my security blanket.  I’d put on to keep me safe up the winding two lane road to my temporary home.

The canyon was always cold.  Cold and dark.  Much like my life felt at the time.  It was my time though.  Time to work out the thoughts and challenges of the day.

I leaned my bike against the porch railing and climbed the steps, taking them two at a time.

Home for the night.  Ready to do it again in less than 7 hours.  Life as a teenager.  Simple, but complicated at the same time.  The bicycle was always the main character in my life.  One that saved me from myself and gave me a future here.