Friday, July 8, 2011

Spreading the Good Word

Bikes. You've just gotta love 'em. Who doesn't love pedaling around, speeding towards a destination, following a new or familiar favorite line of singletrack, avoiding cars and pedestrians to get to the post office, taking a cruise over to the farmstand to see what's for dinner, or just meandering with no particular goal or schedule in mind? I live for this. I think I know a lot of people who would agree.

I remember my first bike: purple, training wheels, one of those foam cover things over the top of the handlebars, and it probably had some image of princesses or unicorns that girls always adore. I loved that thing! Sadly, it was a birthday present...the sad part is my birthday is in the middle of snowy March. So I zoomed around inside our house; I was blessed with parents who would let me do that! We had a circle of rooms and hallways that I could navigate, and how I never killed a cat or my little sister, or was the cause of my parents losing a toe or major repairs to the house, I'm not sure. I think we even had wood floors - all the better for flying around and peeling out around corners! Seriously: thank you parents.

I am forever grateful to my parents for making sure I always had a bike. There was another bigger pink bike, then a road bike - my first ten speed, and then my first *mountain bike*, a Bianchi timberwolf to which we added a Rock Shox fork. When I was probably about 10, my best friend's Dad took all the neighborhood kids on our first trail ride. I don't think any of us knew what we were doing, and there were like 12 boys and me and Kate, and Kate's Dad. And I thoroughly enjoyed mashing it out over rocks and roots and racing the boys; I rode my pink bike on that trail. And then I kept riding my pink bike on trails. That's when my Dad said "Let's get this girl a mountain bike." I was thirteen, and there was no looking back! I rode Schoolhouse Brook, the Nipmuc Trail, Wolf Rock, White Dot out to Mansfield Hollow, and around the lake. I was amazed at how far I could go in a short matter of time, the distance that could be covered on a bike. And while it was cool to cross the roads as a measure of progress, I reveled in pedaling back into the woods. I used the bike to get to friends' houses, to the UConn campus to drink root beer in glass bottles at Cafe Earth, eat ice cream at the dairy bar (I mean the old one with four stools), and watch movies in the Student Center. Kate and I would ride up and visit her parents at work; later I would ride to my own job, classes, internships.

When I met Tristan, I had just gotten lost trying to navigate my way around the Hollow. "I'll show you" he said. With those long blonde curls, tanned summer skin, and beautiful blue eyes, I said "Sure!" and wasn't really as excited about the biking. But twelve years later, we're still biking together! Bringing me to today, and my current love: my Specialized Safire. There were other bikes: a Hardrock Sport, a Stumpjumper; my Bianchi went away to college with me, but eventually got stolen, along with a heavy old mongoose I had picked up at a tag sale for $15. I learned my new home, Johnson Vermont, by bike with my new biking friend Meghan. Bikes have seen me through my life. They gave me an outlet for my energy and wandering spirit, and they were a constant through tumultuous girl-growing-up years. Still, when I hop onto my bike and take those first few pedal strokes away from my house, my heart is lifted and I feel free, like a kid again. I can't imagine a life without a bike.

Last weekend I had the great pleasure of taking my friend Kate (a wonderful friend I've met in Montpelier, though she has the same name as the before-mentioned life-long best friend of mine!) and her guy Paul out on some new-to-her trails. She has been mountain biking for a couple of years now, and I thought she would enjoy trying out her skills on some new stuff. We had such a good time with perfect weather, the trails to ourselves, and all the time we could need. And Kate was amazing! I was continually impressed with her ability, but so often for women it's not that we can't do it, but that we're afraid to. And Kate jumped in and tried lots of new stuff - her sense of adventure and confident approach was inspiring. I'm so glad to see another woman enjoying her bike.

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