It happened last week, but it felt like thirty years ago.
I had hosted a local theater event and indulged in a sip or two of whiskey to loosen the tongue—and because it was free. Relieved to have the evening behind me, I pedaled my bicycle up a gentle hill toward home.
The ride is only a couple of miles and overlooks Breckenridge below. There was no traffic, and the recent rain had produced a smell of floral ozone.
I was in no hurry to be inside but knew my mate would be waiting up, and I was excited to see her. It might have been the fatigue, the bourbon, or the lactic acid, but I felt a sudden, vivid sense of déjà vu taking me back to a night over thirty years ago. Not a remembrance of many rides, but one night in particular.
It was July 4, 1976, America’s Bicentennial. Most summers back then, I’d leave Colorado to work at beach resorts. While July 4 at those resorts was a huge celebration, my mountain town had yet to become a summer destination. When I called my old restaurant on the beach, just before I left the quiet Breckenridge bar where I worked, they were too busy to talk. I could have been there with them that summer, but I was in love, so I stayed in Colorado.
Her name was Andrea. She lived at the top of the hill. She was my first love. At almost twenty-seven, she was an older woman, smarter and nicer than I, but a terrible judge of character. She wanted a husband and family, but in those days, my idea of commitment was to buy the family-size pack of toilet paper. It took her almost a year to realize I wasn’t husband material, and she dumped me.
The town then was less than half of its current size, and summer was off-season. I’d recreate all day, work nights at a near-empty bar, and pedal to Andrea’s house.
While cruising up that hill last week, I felt much the same as I had at age twenty-two. (Living in a ski town can retard maturity.)
Looking down toward the lighted hamlet, it struck me that what had changed most was the town, not me. What was once a small cluster of lights has morphed into a Milky Way of activity. The bar I worked that summer was bulldozed to make room for a high-end resort. Even the small house my old girlfriend rented on a waitress/ski instructor’s salary was rebuilt and sold as a third home to some guy from Dallas.
Much money has been spent to improve our no-longer-so-little town. Wider roads, bike paths, Victorian street lamps, and luxury lodging have replaced dirt streets and wooden sidewalks. We now have symphonies, recreation centers, ice rinks, and river parks. We truly have something for everybody, even people who don’t like crowds.
As I rode my bicycle home, I was reminded of how much I still love where I live. True, if I could have had my way, the town would be as it was when I had young legs and no wrinkles. But we all have different opinions on what makes a place special. Some say it’s parks, amenities, and luxuries. For me, it’s a quiet night, a deserted road, and a bicycle ride home to someone I love. It is tough to improve upon perfection.
Jeffrey Bergeron, under the alias of Biff America, can be seen on TV-8 and read in several newspapers and magazines. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.