When I start pedaling, whoosh! the worries and stresses of the day are gone with the wind, just like that. Yes, they are still alive, back at the office, but they don't travel home with me. It is so liberating.
I remember my first bike - a 20" green Huffy. I distinctly remember the day that my dad took off the training wheels and then let go of the seat as I wobbled off, finally finding my balance. I. FELT. LIKE. I. WAS. FLYING. That feeling persists today - makes me feel like I can do anything.
My next bike was a blue 24" Schwinn. It was my companion throughout the summers, taking me to the pool and friends' houses and shopping centers. One basic gear, foot brakes, no baskets bells helmets or whistles. But trusty and reliable.
I had another bike - a 3 speed I think - when I was in college and grad school. In college, I used to ride it through the Lexington Cemetery and past horse farms - beautiful rides. I also rode it from my apartment in Gardenside over to Eastern State Hospital where I worked, going through lots of traffic and not very safe parts of the city - my dad got worried and eventually offered to sell me what was my first car - a boxy olive green Plymouth Valiant. The car was safe and serviceable and lasted several years, but I still rode my bike.
In grad school in Louisville, I rode my bike through back streets to get to campus. My favorite part of the trip was going through Germantown. In the early morning, all the grandmas would be scrubbing their front porches. The smell of coffee and frying bacon, left over from breakfast, lingered in the air.
For my 40th birthday (almost 19 years ago - yikes!), I treated myself to a new bike, 21 speeds. At the time, I didn't think I was much affected by turning 40, but I do recall that I became uncharacteristically irritable, snapping at service people at the Honda dealer or the grocery store or at the kids (I'm sorry!). The bike was a gift to myself, nurturing possibilities of adventures. I did a 35 mile Mon-Yough ride through small hilly towns, through rain - that was a big accomplishment for me. On his 13th birthday, Michael and I participated in Pedal Pittsburgh which took us through the city and parks. If you know Pittsburgh, you know that this involved many hills. Big ones. The ride was advertised as a 25 mile one, I recall. But Michael, ever the "quant" guy, indignantly noted that, based on my odometer, it was actually closer to 29.5. Michael and I did another ride near Settler's Ridge, uneventful except for the fact that I didn't know where Settler's Ridge was and first landed in Sewickley (both DO start with SE!). We did eventually end up in the right location and joined the group of riders.
A couple of years ago, I discovered Facebook. One of my first experiences on FB was reconnecting with old high school friends and acquaintances. Mary Pat Wheeler, former cheerleader and tennis champ and overall athlete extraordinaire, had posted photos from 1976, the bicentennial year, when she rode her bike from Wyoming (I think) cross country to Kentucky. By herself. Carrying her gear and camping along the way. There were more than big hills on this trip - there were BIG mountains. MP told me that she told her parents back in KY that she was doing the ride with a big group of people, so that they wouldn't worry. I think she has since 'fessed up. Anyway, MP's photo story inspired me - made me dream new dreams, made me ask myself - what do you want to do in this life? what big challenges lie ahead? if not now, then when? why not now?
I am still asking these questions, and have made small inroads in a few new directions that have stretched me and added meaning to my life, if that makes sense. I am hoping to ride from Pittsburgh to Washington DC next summer over the Great Allegheny Passage. And next week, I will be leaving for the Mountain Justice Summer Action Camp in Pipestem, WVA, where I hope to LEARN. Period.