Tuesday, January 20, 2015
Last Friday we registered for the city’s free bikeshare program, EcoBici. This is how it works: you pick up a bike and have an hour to ride before getting to any station in the system to renew or return the bike. We went to the station that's three blocks from our apartment (staffed by human beings), gave a copy of our passport, registered in the system, and went for a lovely bike ride across the river to the Reserva Ecologica.
The program doesn't operate on weekends. Today we plan a route that will take us to a string of beautiful parks in the Palermo neighborhoods. The plans include a visit to an ACA office – Argentina’s AAA – to get some maps and advice for the road trip we are going to take when Ari comes to visit in February. We know that the estación EcoBici near our apartment might not have bikes available, so we plot on our map where some others are within walking distance.
Sure enough, our local EcoBici is bikeless. Twenty minutes later we arrive at the next one – we’re in luck! Strangely, they have lots of bikes. We approach. This estación has “no luz” – no power, can’t use the computers to give out bikes. On to a third – no bikes, but along the way we stop to watch tango dancers in a plaza (a common sight) and happen upon a vegetarian buffet with good, healthy, tasty food that is a bargain even by Argentine standards. My kind of place – quotes posted around the eating counters from philosophers, writers, scientists from antiquity and down the ages on the merits of not killing and eating animals. Yoliz, in San Nicolás, at Suipacha 529, between Lavalle and Tucumán. Write it down.
Third EcoBici estación – no bikes. Fourth – no bikes and no computers. Not no luz this time, but no computers on the premises. We are directed by a friendly staff person to our fifth – this one near the river, on the promenade that goes along the redeveloped piers. On the way we pass by a shaded bench with a back rest and sit for an hour and read novels on our phones – Linda is reading En Busca de Klingsor, by Jorge Volpe, and me Wonder Boys by Michael Chabon. We are gently interrupted by a young troubadour with a guitar who offers to give us a private recital. ¿Porque no? Two lovely songs later we give him 30 pesos (about $3) and he is on his way.
Shortly thereafter we find ourselves at our estación numero cinco – no bikes. We continue along the promenade to the last station – number 6, which is only several blocks from our apartment and, guess what? No bikes! We walk back home through our neighborhood, pick up some fruits and veggies at local verdulería, and discover a dietética – a health food store – a block and a half from our apartment, which has lots of items in bulk that we use regularly. We are happy.
Here’s the thing: we didn’t have to be anywhere at a particular time, we were together, and the EcoBici stands, without our intending them to be so, became stations on a leisurely (5-hour) ramble on a beautiful day in one of the world’s great cities. The songs were a bonus. When we got home I sat down to write this.