John Kelly is a gentleman who will often stop by my little cafe on the trail in the early morning hours. Mostly just for delicious coffee cake with which to fuel his ride into work, but sometimes conversation works it’s way in. A former resident of what I’ll term ‘Little Minneapolis’ in Omaha, Nebraska – he’s found his way up here for work and to see what all the hubub surrounding our fair cities is about. Below you’ll find a lovely piece he sent about his many miles spent getting to work and back. Enjoy!
“For the man sound in body and serene of mind there is no such thing as bad weather; every day has its beauty, and storms which whip the blood do but make it pulse more vigorously.” ~George Gissing, “Winter,” The Private Papers of Henry Ryecroft, 1903
Today was one of those days – a day to be on the bike. While winds were gusting upward of 35 mph, I was happy to be out enjoying the cooler weather. The leaves having just begun their change in color.
I may not know everything about bikes, I certainly don’t know everything about life. It seems, although, that one compliments the other. The two are symbiotic. There is something I get from being an arm’s reach away from the world as it is happening, that is vital to my well-being.
The more I cycle, the more I dislike being in cars.
The more I cycle, the more connected to my community and neighbors I feel.
The more I cycle, the more connected to humanity as a whole.
I should explain a little more; there is a perspective that I gain while riding a bicycle naught to be found elsewhere. I am admittedly biased, but I would venture to say it is a perspective greater than any gained from any other type of transportation. I’ve been commuting full time for the last three years, although this year I will probably ride more than all my years riding a bike combined. In the past year, I’ve experienced some pretty radical things. I have experienced a greater sense of self. I’ve experienced an amazing city that welcomes cyclists with open arms. Just this morning an Audi wagon let me sit in its slipstream while giving me the “thumbs up” in the rear view. Let me tell you, as a recent transplant from Omaha, the bike specific infrastructure in this city [Minneapolis] is fantastic. I’ve met other cyclists on the way, who help to break up the monotony of riding solo every day. There are some with who I have traded pulls with barely a word spoken between. Other’s who have offered up their “life story”. The divorce they’ve gone through their child, and how that has affected their relationship. I’ve seen turkeys, foxes, snakes, hawks (within six feet- just this morning), bald eagles, deer (again, within six feet), raccoons. Plently of squirrels lately (Too close, I might add. Isn’t September National Squirrels in your Spokes Month – what color ribbon should I be wearing?). All of this moving at a metered rate from atop a bicycle.
So why am I so excited about all of this? I think it’s knowing that I will be able to gain this perspective for the rest of my life. There will be years that I won’t be as fast as the year before. Years where I don’t get to ride as many miles, but despite all of that, I will still have the ability to throw my leg over a top tube and pedal to a place that is free of worries. Free of a gas pump. Free of restrictions. Free of boundaries. To me, a bike is the freedom and innocence we had as children. Maybe that’s what innocence is – freedom from the influence of others. The ability to set your mind despite the environment. No one saying that something is right, wrong, clean, dirty, nice, mean, light, or dark. Maybe it is experiencing all of those things at arm’s reach as they happen in the moment. Pedal stroke by pedal stroke.