When I was a boy growing up in the small eastern Washington town of Brewster, one of my favorite things was to ride my bicycle across the smooth, flat, expanse of concrete that sat outside every apple-packing shed.
We called them slabs and they were a kind of parking lot where big apple-hauling trucks would sit while smaller fork trucks unloaded them. The slabs had to be perfectly smooth because the fork trucks had no suspension and the slightest bump or imperfection could cause one of the Hysters to rattle out of control.
There was something intensely satisfying about the feeling I got from gliding along the slab on my 3-speed Murray, cutting figure eights and describing big swooping dream-inducing circles. It was almost like flying. That's not to say that the slab was the only place I rode. My bike and I were inseperable. I rode it to school, to the store, to go swimming in the next town 6 miles down the road—my buddies and I even rode around the hills. We were mountain bikers before there were mountain bikes.
As I grew older, I parked my bicycle and got behind the wheel of a car. Busy with girls, street races and dances at the Union Hall in Omak, I forgot about the great sensation that comes from riding a bike. It wasn’t until years later that I rediscovered the joy of cycling. At first it was a hobby; something I did once in a while between hiking, climbing, running and skiing.
I cycled on and off for a dozen years until finally I got back into serious touring. Now I’ve come full circle. I don’t have a car; my only transportation is my bike and I love riding it as much as I did all those years ago on the slabs of Brewster, Washington.