Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Two-Wheelin' Freedom

I used to ride my bike to school - about 1.5 miles - by myself in 1st grade. I had this little blue bike that had the "petal backwards" brakes. I used to test myself to ride the entire way with no hands, only leaning to turn corners. The quintessential symbol of being a "big kid" was a bicycle with hand brakes and ten different speeds. What a skill those big kids had mastered! How did they not fly over the handle bars when they braked? What did all those speeds actually do? Oh, one day I would find out. I would ride down the street, casually pedaling backwards to a soft "click, click, click, so passerby's would know... no pedal brakes. It's all hand-brakes from here on in, baby.

In second grade, my Nana asked me what I wanted for Christmas from my dad. I couldn't even say it out loud, it was too brazen. It was like asking for a BMW on your sweet sixteen. Instead I wrote it on a paper an gave it to her.... "ten speed bicycle." Well, my dad surpassed expectations by two speeds and gave me a glossy new lavender 12- speeder. Boy I ran that bike into the ground. I was still using it in high school, where I may have been the only kid in LA that was actually biking anywhere.

When I first started to drive, of course the thrill of being able to conquer long distances made bicycles look like kids' stuff. Oh the horse power! I can even sleep in my car (which I did a couple days in college before the dorms opened)....oh the freedom. But after years of sitting in immobile traffic on the way to and from work, the automobile lost it's luster. The thought of getting in the car to go get a carton of milk just turned depressing. Not to mention the expense of it all.

So here I find myself, car-less in Japan, and I find that I don't even really want a car. I've been biking to the grocery store, to the gym, to the beach, to explore. My friend DD called me this morning and reminded me that we would turn 30 in a few months, and it honestly hadn't occurred to me really. There is something about biking to get around that makes you feel like a teenager. Watching those older kids driving past....suddenly they don't look so happy, or so free. My eyes are more open when I bike...I see restaurants an stores I hadn't noticed on the same routes I usually drive. It's a slower way to get around. But I've been racing to and fro for years, and yet I felt my life was stuck in one place. I can finally take it slow and I'm happier than I've been in a long while.


Josh said...

Excellent post! My wife & I heartily concur about biking for transportation here on Okinawa. Although we did purchase a car each (they're so cheap, one was even free), we still prefer to bike as much as possible (which is often), to work or store or base or beach. It's such a wonderful place for it!

Petrone said...

Just stay out of the middle of the lane- that drives me nuts. BIKES ARE NOT CARS.

Ok I'm done. :)

Josh said...

But they are vehicles & as such are entitled to share the road, just like little old ladies on their way to church in their classic sedans at 3.4 miles per hour! At least you said "middle" & not just "road". I'll assume you aren't saying we can't used the road & instead that we should only take up what we're using, a statement with which I agree.

Petrone said...

Yes, as long as I can get around you- that's fine. I'm glad we came to an agreement on this very important issue- maybe we'll see each other at The Summit for Cars and Bikes Sharing the Road International Relations 2008.

Josh said...

See you there! ;-)