How to Ride a Bike (as told from the notes on my phone)


By Chiara Kim —

last edited on July 3, 2019 at 2:41 AM

(taken from a collection of inside jokes)

“Chairs [my nickname] was born in 2002 during the peak of Paris Hilton’s reign.”

My friend Ella announced this in the crowded backseat of a 2017 Toyota Tacoma as it crawled across the uneven path of the White Rim trail near Moab. It wasn’t quite dark yet, but the sun was slowly dipping past the top of the red rock canyons. The Tacoma followed the road that carved through the deep valley next to the Green River. The rock walls towered over us, and by towered I don’t mean the way someone describes a tall building. I mean the way that something so immense makes you feel really, really small.

Chiara Kim (front) and a friend. Photo by Chiara Kim
Chiara Kim (front) and a friend. Photo by Chiara Kim

The way going to a planetarium feels. Looking at all the stars and the galaxies and the universe that is constantly expanding but what’s outside of it? Is it just white? Is it blackness?? How can everything that exists be extending into what does not? How can something that does not exist still somehow… exist?

Earlier that day, when the sun still splashed across the desert, I walked my bike on a rounded corner and looked down onto a hill. It was steep, with rocks jutting out every so often, threatening to catch onto my tire and send me flying across the sand. Coerced by peer pressure (from Ella and my dad) and my own fear of not overcoming my fears (spiders and being alone and biking down hills), I climbed on my bike and started down the mountain. I rode the brakes all the way down. Then I abruptly hit a patch of sand and slammed into the ground. That’s where I got one of my only scars, red sand stained with blood.

I remember most of this hill so vividly, the jagged wall to my right, the path pressed down by the weight of cars. I remember how the descent became a long stretch that you could fly across if you didn’t crash. But I don’t remember what was to the left of me. It was probably a cliff.

last edited on July 3, 2019 at 2:41 AM

“Sadie with butter pecan”

(taken from a collection of inside jokes)

It was the second day of our school interim trip to the White Rim. We rode about 33 miles a day for two days (hills including but not limited to the one that I had fallen on a year before). The scenery was so vast and the canyons so deep, but I barely noticed because I was so focused on constantly pressing my feet into the pedals.

When we arrived at our camping spot, we lay on the curved edge of the rock that hung over an unbelievably high cliff. Have you ever kicked rocks over the edge of a cliff and watched them fall, and they fall for an insane amount of time and you think about how small the rocks are in comparison to the cliff and, subsequently, how small you are in comparison to the cliff and to the earth and to the 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 other stars?

Later that night, my friends and I laid in a tent for hours looking at the stars through the mesh fabric skylight that filtered the atmosphere into our eyes, pockets of darkness with pinpricks of white light. I stepped outside the tent to look at the enormous sky. There’s something about Southern Utah, in how the sky is an impossible black blanket dusted with light.

When I was little, I used to whisper a chant I learned from Dora the Explorer: “starlight, star bright. First star I see tonight. I wish I may, I wish I might, have this wish I wish tonight.” I was so excited to find that first star, the one that would make all my dreams come true. Luckily, I could only see a few stars every night because of the light pollution of the Salt Lake valley, and so I didn’t contemplate the vastness of the universe.

last edited on May 21, 2019 at 4:49 PM (taken from a list of good things in life)

“Things that make me happy: Hugging! Apparently biking”

A year later, on the same school trip, I went to Montreal. We took a bike tour around the city. The tour was led by my French teacher, who “felt like a 16-year-old again” as he sped away on a cherry red electric bike. My bike was pale yellow, and it jostled over uneven cobblestones. After hours of crossing bridges over the Saint Lawrence River and winding through city streets in designated bike lanes, we reached the park at the base of Mont-Royale.

Recalling the feeling of diving into the red sand that blankets the White Rim mountain biking trail, I hesitantly began to ride up the mountain (my French teacher said it would be worth it). My tires rolled over the asphalt unraveled in switchbacks up the mountain. The ground crackled under the wheels as they ran over dried leaves.

It started drizzling as I got closer to the top of the mountain. My teacher had said the view was stunning, so it was disappointing, to say the least, when I got to the top and the only thing besides the trees and me and some of my classmates and the raindrops was a cell phone tower (or whatever that green pole on a cement base was).

I went to the wrong place, obviously. I had passed the designated viewpoint twenty or so minutes ago, when a classmate told me to turn left rather than right at a fork in the road. So, as the sun began to stream onto the mountain, I rode down a rocky path to an enormous cross made of silver metal and lined with white incandescent bulbs. The cross was elevated on top of a structured base, which was guarded by an otherworldly shelter, metal and somewhat transparent and hard to explain. The monument itself looked like the metal bars above a stage, the ceiling dancers see when they release their heads to look to the starry bulbs, polychromatic lights interlaced between the cold metal. I stared at it for a while because it was fascinating and grand and strange. Someone said, “it’s kinda ugly though” and I agreed. Some things are too incomprehensibly big to be considered beautiful.

A few days earlier, we had visited a planetarium. We sat in a semi-spherical room, leaning back on the seats to watch a film that encompassed our vision, accompanied by French narration. I caught about 10 of the hundreds of words the narrator was saying, but I think I got the main idea. The universe is unexplainably big and Earth is infinitesimally small and we are smaller, thus we are the equivalent of flakes of stardust.

From the cross, we rode down to where the real view was, a panorama of skyscrapers beyond the treetops. The city was big and there were so many people in it, so many places to be. All of it under the boundless azure blue sky. It was worth it.

The road was wide and lined with trees whose leaves fluttered in the breeze. I rode the carving turns down the mountain, flying over the crackling pavement with the wind brushing my shoulders and running through my hair. And it felt like I was letting myself be hugged by the terrifyingly never-ending stars from the planetarium. It felt like I was exhaling after a long time of holding my breath, like slowly relaxing my fingers and releasing the brakes.

July 27, 2019 at 1:20 AM

(taken from a note of various understandings and epiphanies)

“So much in life is connected.”


(Visited 287 times, 1 visits today)


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here