It’s like breathing

That's lil Mudlips in the center - finally riding a bike!

That’s lil Mudlips in the center – finally riding a bike!

This is where it all began. I didn’t know that at the time, and several distractions would detour my attention briefly, but my career began here.

“Here” is 1970, I’d just moved from a hilly, steep San Francisco suburb to rural Sonoma County and finally, learned to ride a bike.

Based on the numerous photos in my childhood album, I spent many an hour firmly gripping the handlebars of a tricycle from about two years of age on to about five or six. I recall trying to assert my independence on that trike, facing it down our street and pedaling off. I didn’t get far as I lost control as the trike sped downhill. That ended in a crash into a curb and bank of English Ivy. I’m sure I cried. Memories of the incident include several adults rushing to my aid.

I never attempted that hill again. My parents kept me off the street in general after that. So, it’s a good thing we moved before too long as our next home was very bike friendly: a large flat driveway and a quiet, though unpaved, residential road. It took very little time before I was riding my hand-me-down bike around in circles on the driveway, and soon after that racing the neighborhood boys down the street. I won most of those races, sprints they were. I was the only girl racing but a solid tomboy able to hold my own on the bike and on the ball field (our other neighborhood pastime).

As I grew my range on the bike grew too and I roved all over the valley where I lived. I had many adventures, including serious crashes for which scars remain. However, as I got older I rode less and spent more time with friends and horses. A move to Oregon brought long-not-bike-friendly distances to the closest store (10 miles to the south), school (10 miles west) and my part-time job (11 miles eastward). Eventually, I went off to college; my bike stayed parked most of the time in the bike rack outside my house.

Then, at some point during my senior year, I just started riding. I don’t know what inspired me. I just got on my bike and pedaled out into the countryside surrounding my college town. I can still remember those first rides, exploring, getting lost, then finding my way, and loving it. But, graduation brought a return to the SF area and the bike parked again for a year. I thought quite a bit about bicycling but didn’t know how to get around the hilly area where I lived. I just dreamt about cycling…until I returned to Oregon.

I took a job in finance and hated it.  As soon as I saved enough money I bought a bike suitable for longer distances: a Bridgestone 400. Not a fancy bike but still a quality of bike I’d never experienced. My routine back then consisted of going to work, rushing home, getting on my bike and riding to feel some great joy for at least a few moments of the day.

I rode nearly every day, rain or shine. My life away from work started rotating around bikes and bicycling. In winter, I looked for sports that kept me fit for cycling like Cross-country Skiing. The local bike and  XC ski shop got to know me as a regular and eventually recruited me to work in the shop.

The rest, as they say, was history. Since I took that first bike shop job in 1987, I have continuously had bikes in my blood. I’ve commuted, raced, toured, moved cargo, and even rode a bike nearly every day during 5 months of chemotherapy. I get asked-told, “You must love bikes?” quite often.  It’s an odd question to me. I don’t really think of myself as loving bikes. No, not really. Well, at least no more or less than I love breathing.

It’s like asking a writer if they love writing: many will answer, that it’s just something they have to do. When you follow your heart and it tells you to ride a bike, you don’t think about why; you don’t think about the love or passion behind it. You just bicycle. You just write. You just breathe.

No one ever asks me if I love breathing!

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5 thoughts on “It’s like breathing

  1. What a wonderful post! I am sure that enjoying cycling so much must be a deep personality thing. I am no athlete, but I do enjoy a bike ride! Sadly I have a persistent neck/shoulder issue (only on one side) that is aggravated by cycling, and this tends to detract from the fun. I enjoyed this foray into your past!

    • So sorry that pain is obstructing your enjoyment of cycling. I’ve had that too, and know there is a way past it. So, don’t give up hope of pain-free cycling, but do listen deeply to what your body is telling you.

      I am a bit nostalgic this week, found that photo and was inspired. Thank you for allowing me to entertain you with my reminiscing.

  2. I love breathing too. Especially if that breathing involves conversation with my favorite (and ALSO fabulous cousin) regarding life, bicycles, life with bicycles, and what it means to breathe while bicycling. I remember that first house in Sonoma county….and the second with HORSES!!!!!…and the hike we took up Sugarloaf Ridge while your parents were off house-hunting in Oregon prior to your move up here and we were supposed to be acting responsibly while they were away….Ha, Ha. My cousin is involved in many of my absolutely fondest memories, and even if she was a far better equestrienne, cyclist , and athlete than me, I still scrambled frantically to keep up because being with her was like…..breathing!!!

    • That has to be one of the nicest comments ever. We have so many wonderful memories I’m sure there are some yet to inspire future posts. Thank you fab cousin, I’m so glad you are one of my 3 loyal readers!

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