Memories of my youth
(Editor's note: The Bicycle Coalition of Maine reached out to me again to write an article for their magazine, Maine Cyclist. The theme of the just-published issue deals primarily with commuting by way of bicycle. I hope you enjoy my story.)
I finally have a job, albeit part-time, that’s located close enough for the opportunity to commute on my bicycle. For me, this is a big deal.
While doing my best to lessen the impact on our planet Earth’s precious resources — recycling trash, utilizing reusable bags, and even paying more for clothing from retailers who practice my like-minded ethos — being unable to cycle to work never sat well with me.
Throughout most of my professional career, it just wasn’t practical. My last full-time job involved traveling nearly 35 miles each way. Because I had to arrive early, I would leave from home in the dark. My responsibilities were deadline-driven every single day, so it was important to be on time. There was no room for error, so any bike trouble — even just a flat tire — wouldn’t have been in my favor. And to top all that off, my place of employment didn’t have showers.
But these are excuses I can now leave behind. I enjoy riding my bike so much that I even take the long way. While I could walk to work on the Kennebec River Rail Trail, which would be a mile-and-a-half in each direction, my cycling route ends up being seven miles for the entire trip.
The benefits are many. The obvious ones include better health, both mental and physical; it’s one less vehicle on the road; and the feel-good impact I receive because it’s the right thing to do. In addition, there is one other consequence linked to my youth that brings me much pleasure.
It occurs at work, where I often find myself glancing over at my bicycle. That trusty two-wheeled machine leaning against the wall, just waiting to take me home after an eight-hour day. It brings back memories of cruising on my bike to grade school in rural Michigan; a different type of commuting that I believe helped foster my love for riding.
I remember sitting in class, the anticipation building throughout the day; freedom was idling outside at my school’s lone bike rack. When the last bell sounded, I was more than eager to blast off on my bike. I couldn’t run fast enough to feast my eyes on my red-and-white Skyrider.
Jumping on the seat brought pure joy. Joining other kids who rode to school added to the merriment. Leaving behind those unfortunate schoolmates who had to wait for buses, we cranked our pedals so fast our legs could hardly keep up. We dashed through our little farming village, splintering off one-by-one as we each headed to our separate homes.
I lived on a gravel road, so avoiding small rocks and the vibrating chatter bumps was a constant battle. It was hard to pick up any speed. But it didn’t matter. I was on my bike, gliding past corn and bean fields as far as the eye could see. And I arrived at my house long before the bus that I wasn’t on.
I recall that old bike had wide tires, an oversized handlebar, full fenders, and a bulky, heavy frame, but I adored it. And what I was doing probably wasn’t readily referred to as commuting back in the 1960s; I was just riding a bicycle and having fun.
And where is my part-time gig that I now commute to two days per week? At a bike shop. How cool is that!