In my blog post, Bicycle Love (Part 1), I shared that my brother Kevin used to put on bike races when I was a kid and how much I loved racing on my beloved Schwinn Stingray. I was very much a tomboy and loved racing against all of the neighbor boys on this bike...and often times winning. It was not only the thought in my head that it was the power of the bike, but my dogged determination to be just as good as anyone I raced against.
As I grew older and entered high school, I outgrew my stingray and I put away my childish love for riding my bike. The second bike I purchased was a bright yellow, step-through, more grownup style bike. It was a 5-speed bike. This bike did not scream, "cool," to me. It wasn't fast. I don't even recall the brand of bike it was because I was not smitten with this bike at all. My interests in life were changing as I was maturing. The bike served me well for the time being and was solid transportation to and from work and the occasional bike ride I took with friends. Most of my friends and I were all driving by this time in my life so riding bikes was not the only way to get around town. Racing bikes with my friends was no longer a passion.
When I went off to college, "Old Yeller," stayed in the garage at my parent's home gathering lots of dust except for the occasional outing my mother would take her on. I attended a small school where I could easily walk from my dormitory to work and to all of my classes. I didn't really need a bike at school nor did I have a place to store my bike in my dormitory. My father was a runner. When he was out training for a marathon, my mother would fill up a glass jar with water and put it in the basket she attached to the front of my bike...making my bike even less cooler. She would meet my father out on the course he was running that day to give him a drink of water. A glass jar. No bike helmet. No safety concerns at all. Maybe you gathered that my mother was not an avid bike rider. I used to tease my mother..."I bet if the church was doing a fundraiser and sold bike helmets and water bottles...you would have many to choose from!" She did not always understand my sense of my humor.
The small college I attended reminded me so much of my high school experience. There were cliques everywhere...just like high school. Many students were from small neighboring towns and would go home for the weekend. I wanted to move away and go to college and find myself. I longed for adventure and to live in a larger city and attend a larger university. I wanted anonymity.
I am the creator of my life so when I was a junior, my dream came to fruition. I finished most of my general education and then I transferred schools and moved to the Twin Cities to attend the University of Minnesota-Minneapolis/St. Paul. There were campuses in both cities. I moved to St. Paul and I was roughly 5 miles from the Minneapolis campus where the majority of my classes were held. My transportation needs changed and had gotten very real. I could not afford to purchase a car, but I could afford a new bike. I could ride the bus to school in the winter and I could ride my bike in the fall and spring.
Tuition, books, and the cost of living in a larger city were going to be a lot more than I was used to. For the first time in my college career I needed to take out a school loan. I used some of the money from the loan to purchase a new bicycle. I felt this surge of energy coursing through me once again...the same I felt as a child purchasing my first bike. I was an adult now. I had more money and different transportation needs. But the love for biking and the freedom of movement it inspired in me once before in my life, that had been lying dormant for a few years, was reigniting in my soul. I was getting ready for my new beginning and my new existence.
I went to a bike store near the campus and met a lovely salesperson. I explained my transportation needs and how much money I could afford to spend on a bike...that could last me forever! Is that too much to ask? I didn't think so at the time. After all, I was living on a budget. The salesperson steered me towards a gorgeous, red and black Peugeot 10-speed that was made in France. Oui!
This new ride was built with a lightweight frame and had a detachable front tire that I could either carry with me or I could lock it up with the frame. I also purchased a Kryptonite bike lock because bikes are a very popular item to steal, especially on a college campus. This bike was fast, sexy, and screamed, "cool" to this young coed starting out on a new adventure in her life. I had fallen in love again with a bike, having my own transportation, and bike riding. I was back baby! Oo la la!
My apartment was on the second floor of the building I lived in and there was no elevator. The lightweight frame made it easy for me to carry the bike on my shoulder as I ascended or descended the steps. I was really getting in shape. I felt strong, vibrant, and ready to take on my new existence in this large metropolitan area. I lived on the very busy corner of Cretin and Grand Avenues in St. Paul. I lived near St. Thomas University and their Seminary School was across the street. I was surrounded by college students. I had a beautiful 5-mile bike ride from my apartment to the Minneapolis campus. I would carry my bike down two flights of stairs and hop on it and head towards Summit Avenue.
Summit Avenue is 4.5 miles long and is famous for being the longest avenue in the country lined continuously with hundreds of gorgeous, well-kept, Victorian homes. No two homes are alike and have been designed and built by a variety of architects. I would ride a few blocks down Summit Avenue heading towards St. Thomas University and turn left. It was a few short blocks until I reached the Mississippi River where the city of Minneapolis meets the city of St. Paul. I would get on the West River Road and head towards the campus and bike along the tree-lined Mississippi River. There are many beautiful homes that run along the river road, too. I was really digging the fact that I was living, working, and going to school in this urban area. I loved the energy, vibe, and differences between the two cities. Minneapolis feels more modern and cosmopolitan and St. Paul is a big city with a small town feel. I loved seeing the skyline of the city across the Mississippi River and the outline of all of the buildings that make up the University come into view the closer I got to the University.
I was nervous and excited to start school. I did not know many people or know my way around very well in this new city. But I was open and willing to try something new. I lived with one of my older sisters who had attended the university and she told me that on the first day of class you can not miss class. If you miss the first day, the professor had the right to bump you out of that class if there was a waiting list. I could not be late. I would not be late.
I set my alarm to wake up early to ride my bike as fast as I could to get to my 8:00 a.m. class on time on the East bank. I am sure that I made quite an impression on the English professor and the entire class coming in all hot, sweaty, red-faced, and out of breath... but I was on time. Whew, I made it. My life was evolving and transforming every day. I felt incredibly powerful that I was moving in a new direction and living the life that I was creating.
My beautiful, red, Peugeot was one of the best purchases I have ever made in my young adult life. It made me feel alive, strong, and free. I loved that bike and I was so very grateful to have it. I rode it everywhere. I rode it to school. I rode it to the grocery store and I could only buy enough food that would fit into my backpack. I was very skinny during those college years. I rode it to work. I rode it to the Mississippi River to sit on the bluffs and watch the sunrise and the sunset. It brought back the childlike wonder and love I had for my first bike. This bike has a special place in my heart.
This bike has been tuned up, grips, brakes and tires replaced over the years. I have had this bike for 38 years and I still ride it. Maybe it will last forever! I have ridden this bike with my husband from when we first dated, throughout our marriage, and I have ridden it with my children. I rode this bike to the middle school where I worked for 13 years. I was a wee bit older and so was my beloved bike, we still made a good team. I always felt great when I could ride my bike to school before the snow would fly. I loved the feeling of and the breathing in of the crisp fall morning air as I pedaled along the path that runs through my neighborhood and winds into the next neighborhood over from mine and on my way to school.
I loved hearing the birds and watching the sun rising in the distance. I loved the energized feeling coursing through my body of riding the 5 miles to work. I felt strong, vibrant, and ready to take on the unpredictable days of working with middle school students. Riding a bike is a pure and simple pleasure. It is a fantastic way to move, stay in shape, and experience life in the present moment. It makes my heart happy in all ways.
I would get to school and have to wheel my bike through the school and park my bike in my classroom. Over the years, I had many students ask me if they could ride my bike. Some students would tell me my bike was very retro. I like to think we are both vintage. Some of my students even suggested they could do a fundraiser for me to replace my bike with a new bike. I would just smile and listen. They had no idea of the relationship I had with my beautiful, vintage, red, Peugeot...it is one of pure love and utter joy. We have experienced a lifetime together.
Feed your passions and find whatever brings you joy. Riding bikes is just one of the many ways I find joy in my life and living on earth more heavenly. It is a kinder, simpler, and healthier way to get around. Give it a try. You will not be disappointed. We have inspired our grandchildren to ride with us. 5 out of the 10 grandchildren we have have learned to ride bikes this summer without training wheels. We are spreading the love.
Angela O'Brien-Greywitt, Intuitive Mystic
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