It's an all too familiar story in Toronto - another stolen bike. But while not wanting to minimize anyone else's pain, I cycled into a life transformation on those wheels, and it's hard to move on.
On a typical Sunday morning earlier this month, I went for a long bike ride and stopped at Tim Hortons at Danforth and Coxwell. With my bike propped against the wall no more than 5 feet away, I stuck my head in the window to place my order.
In the time it took to order and pay for two teas and some Timbits, she was gone. I cried, I wept, I screamed. We spent hours driving the neighbourhood, speaking with police and for days putting up notices. I'll never see her again. My heart is broken.
My Marin experience began in 1994 when my friend Rob Cole was in the latter stages of living with AIDS and invited me to his home to ask which of his possessions I would like when he passed away. I asked for the lovely green leather sofa. At 300 pounds and living a rather sedentary lifestyle, I thought a comfy couch would be perfect. And I could at last give up the old brown one I inherited in the divorce between my brother and sister-in-law.
But after Rob died, no couch was forthcoming. Instead, a friend dropped by my office to give me Rob's gift: his neon green, yellow and white Marin bike, with a note saying "Get active."
I didn't fall in love with the Marin right away. She sat in my apartment hallway for a bit. But one night, under the shroud of darkness, I took her for a spin. I hadn't been on a bike for well over a decade, maybe even two. I couldn't even throw my leg over to get onto her, and had to start from the curb.
But soon I was hooked. Sure, at 300 pounds, I stood out on a bike, but at least I was riding. One day I passed some people sitting on a patio drinking. Thinking he was funny, someone yelled out, "Hey, where's your bike seat?" It took me a moment to process. Didn't I look like a lean, mean cycling warrior on Marin? I sure felt like it.
In 1995 I had a bad year, though. I lost several friends to AIDS, and my mother passed away. On December 1, 1995, I woke up and said to myself, "Today it starts." The "it" was getting active, doing more than just riding. I joined the gym.
Over the next several years, I rode Marin practically every day, year-round, laughing at the "fair-weather cyclists" who came out in droves in May. Where were they in the snows of February?
Sometimes, doing my grocery shopping, I had to make a couple of trips. No big deal, except I owned a car and could have driven. There were, in fact, friends who didn't even know I had one.
Each year I rode more, got stronger and planned more elaborate outings. Over the first two years of cycling plus gym, I lost 50 pounds, and another 50 have come off over time. The greatest compliment anyone could pay me was "I saw you on your bike." What that meant to me was "I saw you living your new lifestyle, where you set a goal and reached it." They finally saw the warrior.
In 1999 I put almost 4,000 kilometres on the Marin. On the day of my wedding, three hours before I walked down the aisle, I rode.
Rob gave me a message about the shape of my life. I could have let the bike collect dust in the corner, like so many pieces of exercise equipment. Don't they say that treadmills make the best clothes hangers? But I needed something to get me out of my rut, and Marin pedalled me out.
Singer John Denver tells a story about finding a much-loved guitar he'd lost some 10 years earlier. He talks about how they spent hours together getting reacquainted, telling each other stories about what happened over that period apart.
I can only hope the same for me. If you see her, know that she is extremely missed.