With spring coming my mind turns to bicycles…

In cities you see few homeless on bicycles because they get stolen, cost a pretty penny, and the homeless tend not to be the exercise type. Their primary activities are recycling cans and dumpster diving, where the classic carrier is a purloined shopping cart. A bike doesn’t suffice to haul their treasures. They have plenty of time on their hands, and feet, so walk, or take a bus, usually at reduced welfare fare. Bikes in the northern climes are impractical, and so are a summer investment.

The homeless life in the city isn’t bad at all – I’ve rubbed elbows with street people coast to coast in hundreds of cities, and could have chosen it as a personal lifestyle, with a bike. However, each time I get close to chucking society and going over to Cannery Row, I reverse for having so much down time with nothing to do except things that require money. After talking in a circle of buddies, and reading endless pages at the library, you end up sitting on a park bench watching the pigeons, and falling asleep.

But if you know how to hop a freight train that’s a different story. It’s a free ticket out of town… to another, where you face the same monotony everywhere, and end up becoming a hobo.

There is an exceptional place. California, where all the fruits and nuts from the east roll downhill to make life interesting. One may pick and eat breakfast under an orange tree, and sleep beneath the stars at night. Particularly in the coastal and desert towns, many of the homeless utilize bicycles.

In Blythe, Ca, where I sub taught and used a recumbent bike to commute from school to the Colorado River, bicycles are to the homeless as cars to the well-heeled. I estimate that half of the forty homeless have bicycles they pedal to collect cans and scraps, and to three squares at the Free Kitchen. Then they pedal six miles east on a rural road to the Rio Colorado to little camps and gardens along the river.

This is the type of life many executives work toward in retirement.