The Biking Bond

Steven - Champaign, Illinois
Entered on November 26, 2008
Age Group: 30 - 50
Themes: nature, sports

The Biking Bond

I believe I have connected with Nature through bike commuting.

I couldn’t drive my car one day, so, instead, I pedaled my mountain bike into the countryside to a meeting. Corn-sweetened air caressed my face as I rolled down tarry country roads. I gasped when a surprised coyote slipped into a green cornfield. “I never would have seen THAT from a car!” I thought.

A few years later, I gave away my old Buick Le Sabre and became a permanent bike commuter. On laundry days, I strapped a basket of clothes on my bike and rode to the mat. On grocery days, I stuffed my baskets with cereal and cheese and pedaled home—sometimes with plastic bags wagging from each handlebar. Although I disliked the wobbly rides, sometimes the harder days afforded me new glimpses of Nature.

One winter night I pedaled home on a tree-lined country road, enjoying the caress of cool, piney air. Suddenly the trees ended and stars filled the sky like marbles spilled from a giant hand. They gleamed with a bluish-silver light I only seem to see in the winter, and stretched for miles above the brown-stubbled farmlands. “You don’t get THIS just for the asking” I told myself as I gazed and pedaled, and it became a favorite saying of mine whenever Nature whispered a secret she only tells those with numb hands and frosty breath.

Of course, Nature was always speaking, I just didn’t hear her as clearly when I was commuting in the safety of a car. Exposed on my bike, however, I have learned to listen better. Leaves skittering south tell me a cold front is coming through and I can expect a blustery ride. Pregnant humidity warns me to slip on rain pants and a red parka. One morning, the strange crackle of my jacket informed me it was especially cold; I was proud I knew it was near zero before I saw the bank sign reading “5 degrees.” These days, I still listen to the weather report, but I don’t rely on the weatherman to act as my sole interpreter. Nature can speak more directly to me.

Sometimes I don’t like what Nature says when she stings my eyes with sleet or shoves me back with an infuriating 40 MPH headwind. Other times I love her when she tingles my lungs with cool air or kisses my eyes with blues and oranges of a sunset. When I was car commuting, I was safer behind the steel and glass, but also more detached from the pleasures of air and sky. On my bike, exposed, a bit like a tree bending in the wind or a coyote loping home at dawn—I am more closely connected to Nature.