March 17, 2014

en vélo

I'm not a very athletic person. Actually, scratch that, I'm not at all an athletic person.  I hate sports. Watching them, playing them, listening to them. And  I really hate doing them. I'm the girl sitting in a corner reading a book during the Superbowl. Even then, I'd rather not even be in the same room. So it's been a little bit of a shock to find that I love to bicycle.

It's not that I've never bicycled before. I've had a bike almost all of my life. And it shouldn't come as that big of a surprise. I biked all the time as a kid. Around the neighborhood, in the snow, to school and back again.  My first bike was a purple monster of a thing with a long white banana seat that my parents found at the church rummage sale where I think it had once belonged to a succession of minister's children. It took me a long time to learn to ride it. In fact, I was so chicken of falling off of it that I traded it for a little while to a friend who loaned me her smaller (read: lower to the ground) bike until I was ready for the big dog. But once I had it mastered, I flew. It was a source of freedom, a way to go beyond the walkable limits of the invisible boundary that marked the difference between the known and the unknown. I rode it like a demon to my school one day to tell the parent of a teenager who had wrecked her car in front of my house what had happened (she was fine and I felt like a super hero). I fell off it trying to ride without hands and jammed my thumb so badly that I can still pop it in and out of joint on command. And when I outgrew it I got a shiny red 10-speed for Christmas which is probably second only to my cat old Nicholas in the category of Best Christmas Present Ever.

I rode my bike a little in college, and then later here and there in my adult life. But somehow I lost that love of biking. I'm going to say it has to do with that lack of athleticism I mentioned earlier. I don't like to get all hot and sweaty with exercise. I wish I did, but I don't. So the hills and heat and ice of the various places we've lived have turned me off to biking up to this point

But now I remember. I remember that old feeling of freedom. I know most people get that when they learn to drive but I hate driving. Even as a teenager I didn't like it. It feels like a chore rather than an escape. But on a bike?

I can ride here. Everywhere. Portland is a bike town and although I knew that, I never really got that before. Bikes are everywhere, and in so many different and weird combinations you almost can't call some of them bikes. It's not flat, not totally. But it's doable. Oh sure, I thought I was going to die of exhaustion the first time I rode up the hill to our house from school. It still takes my breath away, but I'm getting better. And even with the work, the fun of riding is worth it. I've ridden in the glorious spring sun and the typical Oregon rain and I'm sure the summer heat will make it harder but I plan to keep on biking. I see the city in a way I never did in a car. I see the stars and the bridges and the bright houses with their Tibetan prayer flags on the porch. Last night I rode down a street lined with blooming plums, so many that the scent was almost dizzying. When I have to get back into the car to drive somewhere further than I'm ready to bike (yet) I find that I'm grumpy and irritable. Who wants to be in a car? Give me back my bike. Beast-like, heavy as hell and (once again) purple, it's cheap and the gears suck and at some point I should get a *real* bike, but it has a basket on the front for my yarn and my book and it takes me where I want to go, or at least as far as my legs will carry me. Bike On.