Nothing beats the smell of bicycle chain grease in a Maine winter. My hands are charcoal colored, a byproduct of my work and play from the afternoon. I look around me and I see over thirty bikes, some in good condition, and others in need of repair. This bike shop at Chewonki did not exist a year before, until my current Natural History teacher, Peter Sniffen, thought that it would be a better use of his basement of his house to convert it into a bike repair shop for the entire community. Yes, nearly the entire faculty lives here on campus, a characteristic that opens up so much more opportunity for student-teacher relations and fun weekend activities. Anyways, I spent almost seven hours of my time in the bike shop this weekend because I had just gotten cleared by bike aficionado Peter to work in the carefree basement whenever I wanted to.
My passion with bicycles did not start here but Peter’s effort into his bike shop has instilled a new love of bikes in me. Today when I was working on bikes that are lent to students to go on casual rides around the Neck and to go to Shaw’s, I could not help but thinking how much I was learning while working on these bikes. I educated myself about the kinds of brakes different from my own brakes and I admired the simplicity of some retro bikes that Chewonki owns. And that is what this place is all about: learning because you want to.
The most liberating moment of the day was when I fixed a cantilever brake on a decade old Schwinn. The day before I had looked over the brake and played with the parts for twenty minutes, deemed it was not fixable, and moved on to other bikes. Today, Peter encouraged me to look at it again, also not knowing if the brake would ever work. He left me to my own devices and I stepped back to take a general perspective. I soon deemed that I could adjust the brake in a way that I had never thought of before. The Schwinn is in perfect working condition now. I hope that my efforts will give others the chance to experience the feeling of self-empowerment these bikes have given me.
-Callum McCulloch, Woodside, CA