Monday, October 11, 2010

B is for Bicycle

I bought my current bicycle approximately 10 years ago. It's starting to show some potentially irreparable wear. But we are still good friends who enjoy going out to play.

I don't remember my first tricycle, but I do remember that first time I pedaled down the sidewalk of Wesley Avenue in Evanston, Illinois, the summer of 1966, on TWO WHEELS. My father was chasing behind me - or so I thought! As I glided into a grassy yard to make a calculated crash landing, certain that my father would catch me before I tipped over, I put my feet down and managed to avoid crashing all by myself. I turned around to see my grinning father half a block behind me clapping.

MY HEART SOARED! I was a big girl now and knew the personal thrill of riding a two wheeler, all by myself. All my hard work and the coaxing and encouragement of my Dear Old Dad had finally paid off. Next lesson, applying breaks and turning corners. I was ready to move on.

My first big girl bike was a blue banana bike with red streamers at the ends of the handle bars. I failed to put it away in the basement within weeks of acquiring it and sure enough, it was stolen, never to be recovered. There were many tears over that expensive lesson. My next bike was a far less glamorous garage sale bargain. But it was a two wheeler and it was mine.

I am still in the midst of my lifelong love affair of pedaling a bicycle. Having moved to Galena, Illinois, when I was 8 years old, I learned the challenge of pedaling or walking my bike up some pretty steep hills. But once you're at the top of said hill, the thrill of coasting down has got to be the next best to thing to personal flight. (Yes, I love skiing on snow and water, too!) I bought my first 10-speed from Allison Gillies for $50. That bike lasted me through high school and most of college.

At Macalester College in St. Paul, Minnesota, my best friend and I bought an old school tandem Raleigh that we named Mrs. Finch. We had grand times riding her about. It was good fun terrorizing boyfriends by insisting they sit in the back and pedal while I steer. Dale once wrenched the rear handle bars clean off when he was sure I was steering us into a tree. For the record, we did not crash and I laughed long and hard at how certain he was of my inability to steer. I think he still regularly scrapes the foot pegs on the motorcycle while turning as a method of payback for that incident.

My current velocipede was purchased when I was still working at St. Luke's in Hastings. We live about seven miles from church and I decided to invest in a bike rather than a health club membership. I actually did ride my bike back and forth quite a bit. I rode that particular patch again yesterday in honor of the 10/10/10 Global Work Party Day to make my personal contribution to reducing carbon emissions in the world. 

I felt good about making my personal contribution to the global effort, but I also remembered all the other benefits of using this basic method of personal transportation. In spite of traffic on the highway, it's still a very peaceful means of movement. I like the technical challenge of trying to maintain a steady rpm by using my gears and my muscles and breathing. I thoroughly enjoy seeing evidence of wildlife, especially when I spot a critter that hasn't succumbed to roadkill.

I find that riding is rhythmic and eventually I am lulled into a reflective if not meditative and prayerful state of contemplating my life and the world. It is a good place to think and pray.

I am thankful for my bicycle. I hope I can remember the benefits and be intentional about riding more often, at least while the weather holds!

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