19 May 2009


Today I rode my bicycle to work for the first time this year.

I'd wanted to start doing that when school let out and Abelisto would not need to be hauling books and papers back and forth. But between the weather and other things that were going on, it did not happen until today. I almost did not do it today. I was running later than I like for biking. I like to go early enough that the traffic is less (and early enough to take a shower before sitting down to work).

I am always amazed as I start biking each year, at the intimacy with your surroundings that bicycling brings to you. You're intimately aware of the wind - it's either helping you or holding you back (and it always seems to be blowing down the hill as I ride up to the university). You're intimately aware of the surfaces around you, the textures and colors. You're especially aware of the gravel and sand since those things can cause you problems.

You notice sound and smells - cars driving up behind you, kids yelling and laughing and crying, sirens wailing, some nearby construction, newly mown grass, vehicle exhaust, the city swimming pool, french fries and grilled burgers at the local pub.

You are intimately aware of your vehicle - you notice the smoothness of the shifting (or the roughness, perhaps), the feel of the brakes engaging, the sound the chain makes running over the gears and derailers, that strangely compelling tick-tick-tick that multi-gear bikes sometimes make. You actually notice the energy drag that improperly inflated tires create. You notice the placement and comfort level of the handlebars and seat. You notice the relationship between sprocket size and ease of pedaling and speed and distance covered with each rotation of the pedal crank.

You become intimately aware of your own body - burning muscles, tight breathing, sweat trickling down between your shoulder blades, the tenderness where your posterior meets the seat, the trembling muscles in your thighs and calves, the giddy disconnect of exercise endorphins, the feeling that you are powerful and sleek (even when you're not).


A few days ago I told Abelisto I'd like to live in a car-free town.

Winona is small enough that you can get around on a bike or walk - at least most of the year (it's a bit rough in the winter when you've got either lots of snow or a bitterly cold wind chill or both). Unless you need to go up on the bluffs it's fairly flat riding/walking, something easily done even if you're out of shape.

If the neighborhoods had more of a mix of housing and commerce you could actually live without a car at all. Some of my kids have done so, one is doing it now.

We have bike bags on our bikes. Between Abelisto and I, we can get probably 6 or 8 bags of groceries on our bikes. Someday I want to get/build/rig up a bike trailer so that I could do more of my intown shopping on bicycle.

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