“I’m riding through olives, mom! Now some squished cherries!”
It’s May. It’s Bike Month in Sacramento. Camilla has pledged to ride 30 miles this month and I’ve pledged 50. Were it not for Bike Month–the push to quantify and examine things that are important to me: my carbon footprint, my health, my together-time with family–I would not ride my bike. It’s that simple.
Riding is difficult for me because it involves a complete re-orientation. To slower speeds, to allow time for tire inflation, to re-pack essentials into more compact bags. And to evaluate routes based on bike lanes, trash pickup days, noise, and general aggravation.
“Where are we?” Camilla asked as we crossed to the left side of the street to use the pedestrian crosswalk. (At some intersections we “act like a car” and take the lane; at the busier ones I still feel safer using the crosswalk.)
“A brown grass ditch,” I reply, dismounting awkwardly and nearly bringing the bike down on myself with the hem of my jeans hooked over the seat. At least, that’s what I tell her I said when she asks me to repeat.
Camilla has to re-orient to seeing me do slapstick. I say the awkwardest things all the time but my physical movements, while not always graceful, are usually dignified. Once we re-mount she recognizes the intersection. “Oh yeah, we always come this way to church!”
When I get past my re-orientation blocks and just start riding, the rewards are immediate. For instance: yesterday morning on the way to school my daughter and I enjoyed the wide speed bumps like we never can in the car. Whee! That amazing cool breeze I’ve come to treasure in a Northern California May morning–it filled our nostrils and faces and made us cough for water and goosebump down to the ankles. Ahhh. Remind me why we don’t do this every day?
As I headed home I heard a bird. Couldn’t see it in the tree but it was big. So close. If I had been driving by with the windows down I would have heard it, maybe tried with my mental dichotomous key to identify it (though there’s a pretty limited database of birds in there). But cruising slowly underneath on my bike I could hear–no, feel somehow–its lungs contracting inside its ribs.