It is by riding a bicycle that you learn the contours of a country best, since you have to sweat up the hills and coast down them. Thus you remember them as they actually are, while in a motor car only a high hill impresses you, and you have no such accurate remembrance of country you have driven through as you gain by riding a bicycle. ~ Ernest Hemingway
I was almost always outside when I was young—like most kids—unless I had “my nose in a book.” We played games, climbed trees, built seasonally appropriate forts (tree or snow), and kept ourselves occupied from dawn till the fireflies and our mother’s gentle whistle called us home.
At some point, I stopped climbing trees, and roller skating, and playing kick-the-can. Jumping rope isn’t as fun anymore, nor is my hula hoop.
But I still love to bike. I first learned how to maneuver a two-wheeler with training wheels on a little red Schwinn. When my father took off the training wheels and gave me an encouraging push into the back yard, I surprised him by running myself into a tree. The tree, I should say; there was only one, and he hadn’t pushed me towards it.
He revised his thinking and decided perhaps a wide open space would allow room for practice, so off we went to the acres of Washington Park, where, for a time, I ran into every tree he didn’t push me towards.
When I was eight, we lived in another town, and I attended another school and wore another uniform. I came home after my third grade Confirmation, where I’d agreed to be a “soldier of Christ,” (and had dreaded for weeks the “blow to the cheek” that in reality amounted to a playful tap) and was surprised to find a shiny new blue Huffy wrapped with ribbons and bows…
The bicycle has done more for the emancipation of women than anything else in the world. ~ Susan B. Anthony, 1896
Eventually I mastered biking, and I continue to feel a joy that pulses through every cell whenever I head down the road or trail on my bike. I no longer agree to being anyone’s soldier, but I’ll always associate biking with sacrament. Now I ride a Trek, a brand of bike designed (and formerly manufactured) a few miles from my home. I don’t race and I’m not out to do anything but get into the zen of lovely, rolling, bi-pedal meditation. Once I start, I can go for miles.
After your first day of cycling, one dream is inevitable. A memory of motion lingers in the muscles of your legs, and round and round they seem to go. You ride through Dreamland on wonderful dream bicycles that change and grow. ~ H.G. Wells, The Wheels of Chance
I have collected 18 years of trail passes from the Glacial Drumlin Bike Trail. It’s near our home and named after one of the land formations the glaciers formed as they rolled and crushed their way through our part of the state 25,000 to 10,000 years ago and then retreated, leaving behind lakes and land formations known as moraines, drumlins, eskers, kettles, and kames. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Glacial_landforms)
How could a land not be magical with those kinds of names given to its ridges, hills, and depressions? Biking 10 miles or so, I can see almost all of these, along with 2 rivers, a lake, and a wildlife area. (http://dnr.wi.gov/org/land/wildlife/wildlife_areas/lakemills.htm)
There are many wonderful books about cycling. One of my all-time favorites is Miles From Nowhere, by Barbara Savage. (http://www.amazon.com/Miles-Nowhere-Round-Bicycle-Adventure/dp/0898861098)
When the spirits are low, when the day appears dark, when work becomes monotonous, when hope hardly seems worth having, just mount a bicycle and go out for a spin down the road, without thought on anything but the ride you are taking. ~ Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
There is a freedom and lightness of being that I feel when I bike through space and time. I never know who or what I’ll encounter, and I usually bring my camera so I can stop if the flow and scenery seem to invite it. It’s a peaceful and almost silent past time; I have biked my way through losses and healing, and joyful periods of my life, weaving—or reweaving—meaning.
This week, the wildflowers along the trail were lovely: the electric lavender of the wild phlox, the gentle pink of wild roses, wild onions, fading trilliums, deep rosy geraniums hiding in the shadows…there’s always something to soothe the heart and spirit.
Here are just a few photographs from a recent ride, or “a spin,” as my mother called it.
Maybe I’ll see you on the trail: I’m the one with the dreamy expression and camera, not racing and, usually, avoiding trees.
Whenever I see an adult on a bicycle, I have hope for the human race. ~ H.G. Wells