It started on our honeymoon in Costa Rica. Most tourists rent a car, but we chose not to, because our beautiful rental house in the jungle came with two bikes, and they became our main mode of transport.
Every day we’d take a quick ride into Manzanillo to pick up the day’s provisions of Heineken and avocados. Or we’d get going at sunrise and ride to the unbelievably beautiful and deserted beach called Punta Uva. Or we’d head up to the Chiquita Cafe to check our email, stopping for an early dinner at Pita Bonita and riding home in the pink-turning-purple dusk.
We rode to the Jaguar Rescue Center where I held a bebeh mernkey. We rode to Aquamor Dive Shop, where we rented snorkels then swam out to the coral reef to spy on all the fishes. We even rode with all our stuff on our backs to Le Cameleon, a fancy hotel where we had a mini-honeymoon-within-a-honeymoon, our dirty red faces standing out starkly against the all-white surroundings.
After I got over my initial terror of traffic and got a little fitter, I found that the ride to wherever we were going was always at least as fun as where we ended up. We saw giant blue butterflies, we heard the hilarious monkeys howling their hearts out, and we smelled the dirty sweet smells of the jungle. I got good at not running off the road while flicking off bugs who tried to hitchhike on my person. And I came to believe that nothing can ever taste as great as a cold Coke from a glass bottle, downed in one after a long sweaty ride.
Over our month in Costa Rica, I realized that riding a bike is one of the most fun things that we get to do as human beings! Wind in your hair, feeling like a kid, singing at the top of your lungs FUN. A major benefit of having a body.
And super pragmatic as well, as I learned on the day I walked to Punta Uva instead of biking. How slow those miles seemed to go! And how much I missed my own self-generated breeze in that hot Caribbean sun!
So, when we got back to Pittsburgh, even though it was already November and gray, I went and got a bike of my own. (At Thick Bikes, which is where you should go, too, if you are in this neck of the woods — they are so great!) And I had a blast riding her to work several times in December. But then there were other things to deal with like a dislocated shoulder and weird spells of vertigo and UNENDING SNOW.
Finally, last week, health problems sorted and snow all melted away, I got back on! Wednesday I rode the 6 miles to work, then met up with my friend Matt for dinner and The Book of Mormon (which was hilarious, btw).
Matt had his bike, too, so after the show we zoomed past the snarl of downtown theater traffic — later suckers!! — across the Smithfield Street bridge, and down the South Side trail to his house and my bus stop. This was my first night ride, and it was pure magic. Like we traveled through the back of a wardrobe to a secret Pittsburgh where the lights of the city dance on the river and dozens of bunny butts glow white in the darkness as they hop across your path.
I’ve ridden into work a few more times since then, and I keep noticing more wonderful side effects. Like this morning, when as soon as I turned onto the trail I was greeted by a herd of young daffodils nodding hello to me in the breeze. Or when I found myself singing as I rode underneath the highway along the edge of the Allegheny River. Or when I got to work, and my colleague came to talk to me about a big hairy project looming over us, and I noticed that it didn’t stress me out at all. Not a drop!
And, also, I feel extra cute! Have you noticed that? How, even if your body is exactly the same body as yesterday when you felt gross, doing something physical makes you feel hot again? Amazing!
I have to give thanks to A+ financial blogger Mr. Money Mustache, whose post What Do You Mean You Don’t Have A Bike?!?! face-punched me into buying one and also helped me get over my wussiness about riding it in Pittsburgh. Yes, there are big hills and lots of potholes and many, many dickhole drivers. But also! Bunnies and daffodils and riverbanks and the complete lack of stress that comes after a good hard sweat!!!
And there’s something more, too. As MMM says,
A bike-based lifestyle is an all-encompassing change for the better. It’s like rolling back the past hundred years of humanity’s clueless paving-over of the surface of the Earth, without having to sacrifice a single benefit of modernization. It’s like shedding all of the stress and responsibility of adulthood that have crusted over you and going back to being eight years old again… without losing an ounce of that golden power and freedom that comes with being an adult.
A bike is actually an automatic life balancing machine, passively creating harmony in your life better than even the bossiest life coach could hope to do.
I can’t say it any better than that.
When I first got my bike, a friend asked me if I was going to become one of those people who gets in your face and yells, “Share the road, asshole!!!!” Which is hilarious to think about, but no, that’s not me.
I think I’m just becoming someone who gets to fly down a hill at 25 miles per hour singing at the top of my lungs whenever I want. It feels exactly like this song sounds:
Anyway, do you have a bike? Do you ride it? WHY NOT YOU TOTALLY SHOULD!