Tuesday, January 25, 2022

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Joe's Neighborhood

The late winter blues


You’re tired. You’re tired of winter. You’re tired of slogging through another day. You’re really tired of another year silently slipping away. Your exciting job of last fall has become relentlessly mired. And now even the children are acting squirrelly. Spring probably won’t come. Listen, I’ve heard that can happen. We will all just exist in some soggy, in-between time. Grey will be Iowa’s new state color. Leftovers will be the new state dish. Mourning doves, now living furtively on the lam thanks to the Iowa legislature, will be the new state bird.

How to get out of this funk?

I have an idea. When’s the last time you were on a bike? Do you remember the feeling? There you are. Gently turning the pedals. Tall. Upright. Your cheeks blushed by wind. Your ears muted by the whoosh of air. Your eyes wet at the far corners. And your mind focused on balance and movement and the outside. All the while your arms reach outwards to embrace the handlebars and…

Yikes! Shake yourself. Enough of this idyllic claptrap. Get a grip. But… could this “wistful you” of late winter be the real you? In Des Moines, Iowa?

It’s winter in Holland. No one seems to register this fact. In a country where there are more bikes than people, you just mount up. You bike if you’re 4 years old and you bike if you’re 80 years old. You bike to school. You bike to the grocery store. You bike to work. You bike to the theater. You even bike to pick up your Christmas tree. Rain, sleet, hail. Doesn’t matter. You just bike.


joes1Let’s start with the functional. Are you counting the bikes in this grocery store parking lot? Yup, more than 100. And all close to the front door.

And where’s your three-ton SUV to haul home the toilet paper? No problem. The large wooden box shaped like the prow of a ship is the perfect container for groceries, or kids, or even your mother-in-law. It’s the mini-van of the low countries.

joes2And what about family? How can this possibly work when you have to get kids to school, and to soccer, and to piano lessons? Could I interest you in this green model, which offers a handy way to transport five in cozy comfort? Heck, it even has a convertible option. Did I tell you about the gas mileage?

Yes, I admit, it does rain nearly every day in this neck of the woods. And that’s why God invented the umbrella to protect your business attire as you’re biking to meet a client. Yes, you’re going to have wet shoes. So what? Wear wool socks. Duh.

joes3And what about the car’s all important function as a place to make-out with your sweetie? Well, my favorite bike sighting is young couples. The gal usually sits side-saddle on a wooden padded frame over the rear tire, with one arm gently resting against the guy’s back. A soft touch. They chat away as they roll down the street. When they come to a stop, she gracefully alights and stands at the side of the bike with no break in the conversation. The light changes, back up on the cushion, and away they go. I imagine they get to a certain quota of stops, and then one of them just proposes marriage. It’s time. They’ve biked together long enough. The other says “yes,” of course. And 10 years later… the loads gets a little heavier. And the legs get a little stronger.



So, where are the dark enemies of these bikers? You know, the bad guys who complain that bikes are taking up too much of Ingersoll Avenue? Well, since everyone bikes in Holland, everyone is in the same boat. The bike trumps pedestrians by common practice, and the bike trumps cars by strict liability laws. The bike is the boss of the road. Period.


Of course, there has to be evil lurking in this daydream. Its earthly form is the devil-red, all-devouring tram. Everyone gets out of the way of the tram. Although if you don’t, it slows down, rings a soft little bell, and you hop to the side. Hell’s wrath avoided.

So, late winter blues? Go get your bike tuned up. Put on your helmet. Hop up in the saddle. And become the king and queen of all you can see. CV


Joe Weeg spent 31 years bumping around this town as a prosecutor for the Polk County Attorney’s Office. Now retired, his wife is assisting in the prosecution of war criminals in the Netherlands for several months. He’s along for the ride and writes about being an Iowan in Europe on his blog at www.joesneighborhood.com.

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