Pedaling Passion: Love of a Lifetime
By Janet Lyn. @WriteOnRideOn
copyright/October 25, 2009.
Something very special about bicycles.
Pedaling passion. A passion for pedaling. That’s what a lot of my life is about.
It’s my longest-lasting, truest, true love of a lifetime. So far.
I have loved bicycles ever since I can remember. I still do. Some of my favorite people, favorite places and favorite times involve bicycles. Even now, those memories make me smile from way down deep inside.
It may come as a complete surprise to anyone who knows me well ~or even those who have just met me~ that I tend to be passionate, feisty, adventurous and even probably too independent for my own good. I know, try to recover from the shock.
Thus, it must have been destiny from the start that some of the best moments of my life would involve life on the road and life on two wheels. Powered by my own two legs.
Oh, sure, I did the tricycle thing. But three wheels was one too many. Even a really savvy, sophisticated toddler knows that.
And training wheels? Please. I may be a girl, but I don’t need an extra set of wheels. Well, at least not on my own bike. Now, an extra set of two wheels on another bike beside me? Well, that’s a different story. A story for another time. *Smile.*
I first learned the joys of riding a bike about the time I learned to walk.
I started out life in New Mexico, aka Nuevo Mexico, near the Sandia Mountains of the beautiful and beautifully-nicknamed Land of Enchantment.
My parents were very young university students when they met, married and had me, in that order. (Several years ago, I discovered they married because they were having me…but again, a different story for another time. *Sigh.*)
Bicycle transportation and universities go together like ramen noodles and university student budgets. Only in a much more fun, beginning of a lifetime love kind of way.
My dad built a small seat behind his seat on his bicycle so we could ride around campus.
I like to think that’s when I first realized:
1) How incredibly fun life on a bike can be.
2) How riding a bike encourages people to have fun together.
3) How full of sheer, unadulterated, simple, profound JOY a bike ride can be.
4) How incredibly cute you can look on a bike even when windblown.
5) How incredibly cool it is when someone else drafts ahead of you to block that wind.
California~Here I Come
My life on the road got off to a quick start too. We moved to California when I was one.
My views from a bicycle ~and the sights, sounds and smells that accompanied our rides~ went from high-altitude mountains named for watermelons, juniper, cedar, green chile and Grandmas to Candlestick Park, San Francisco Bay, fresh lobster and crab in huge barrels along Fisherman’s Wharf, cable cars on really steep hills, the Golden Gate Bridge, swimming and playing in the Pacific Ocean, playing in the sun on the sandy beaches near Santa Cruz and the campus of Stanford.
I remember lots of trees and bike paths. I remember I loved being on a bicycle even then.
Most kids get their first new, shiny bicycle for Christmas. I’ve been told I wanted a bike right away and couldn’t wait till Christmas because I was too excited about the thought of riding my own bike. Who, me, too excited to wait? I know, try once more to contain your shock.
So before the kindergarten school year began, I suddenly became a girl set free. A girl with two wheels of her very own. A 5-year-old girl setting her own bicycle path to her destiny. By the time that Christmas rolled around, it was like I was riding in the Tour de France and my uninitiated “newbie” friends on new bikes were barely getting the training wheels off. (Oh, have I mentioned I’m very competitive, too? I know, pick yourselves up off the floor, people.)
Riding bicycles as a way to learn about endurance in life and sometimes ride away the cares of this world started early for me too. Along with my occasional aversion to certain motorized four-wheeled forms of transportation.
Driving back to California from a visit to grandparents in New Mexico one Labor Day weekend when I was 5-1/2, my dad lost control of the car. He lived through it. My mom Barbara, who was 26, and my sweet brother Craig, who was 2, were killed. I survived. With a few injuries and scars on the inside and out.
At least I had my bike. And I still loved to ride. It wasn’t the same as when Craig would eye my tricycle and then my bike and I would take him for a ride in our little red wagon instead. But riding a bike brought me back to glimpses of joy in a world where sometimes you have to remind yourself…and each other…to remember to breathe.
I had a new love soon, too, to add much joy to my life. My lifelong love of languages began in earnest in the 4th grade in California, when I began to take French lessons. Ooh. La. La. J’aime beaucoup parler en francais. J’aime beaucoup la France!
Only much later, did I discover that my Mom’s side of my family comes from France and Czechoslavakia~the area formerly known as Bohemia. How fitting, n’est-ce pas?
My life as a gypsy world traveler began at an early age, too. So learning new languages began to open up even more of the world to me. Allez! Allez! Allez!
Next Stop~New York
I graduated to better bikes as we moved from place to place. Next stop was New York, where a fast-flowing creek ran right through our big, wide-open backyard and rolling hills offered panoramic views of the colorful countryside just outside “The City.”
My friends and I lived on wheels. Bicycles, tricycles, skateboards, roller skates, anything with wheels. When we weren’t swimming in the creek or fishing in the creek or lying on our stomachs catching frogs on the creek banks or pretending the sandy beach along the creek was our own deserted island or playing baseball in the big neighbor family’s field next door, we were all about life on wheels.
And so it came to be that our rolling neighborhood pack heralded the amazingly good, good news one afternoon after school on the long-awaited, absolutely miraculous day my only sister Linda was born. ‘Twas a little after 3 p.m. that awesome afternoon. The moment I heard the news, I summoned the rest of the team and led the crazy peloton as together, we set out on our bikes, trikes, skateboards and roller skates and literally rolled up to every single house within a several-block radius to announce to the entire world that I had a baby sister.
Like I said, most of my happiest moments and memories involve bicycles. Linnie’s birth brought me bicycle-fueled joy like no other.
Beaches and Bicycles Bring Me Beaucoup Joy
Spending time at the beach during the summer or on warm spring days became another favorite place to ride bikes. I think the seashore is probably one of the places I am happiest and most at peace in the whole world. So me on a bike near the sea…well, that makes for one very, very happy, smiling, contented girl. Life can be so sweet. *smile*
There is nothing like the sea. Nothing like the ocean. Nothing like the sand. Nothing like the shore. Nothing like the surf. Nothing like the sound of a seashell held close to your ear. Nothing like feeling the warm sand between your toes as you search for beautiful seashells, both those intact and those that are broken. Nothing like the sounds of the seagulls flying overhead. Nothing like the soothing sounds of the waves rolling back and forth along the sandy shoreline. But I digress. Ahhhh. Okay. Back to bikes. And riding through life. Life on a bike. Life at the beach. Nothing better. *more smiles*
Ciao Bella Italia~Moving to Milano
During my 6th and 7th grade years, we moved to Milano, Italy. Right near the Italian/Swiss Alps and the gloriously gorgeous, absolutely breathtaking Italian/Swiss Alps Lakes Region. Lago Lugano, where we went for Sunday picnics. Lago Como. Lago Maggiore. The one area of the world I promised myself as a girl that I would revisit as an adult. If you’ve seen the photos, you’ll begin to understand why.
Milano, Italia became a very special place to me for many, many, many reasons. Best of all was that my beloved, amazing, loyal, smart, talented brother Dave was born there~Ciao bello bambino! A dual citizen of the U.S. and Italy. Another true miracle in my life for which I give thanks every single day.
I loved so many things about living in Europe, especially the wonderful Italian people who embraced me so warmly. Speaking French and Italian with my friends, with all the shopkeepers and at school. Traveling every weekend to experience amazing art, cool culture and living history in Florence, Venice, San Marino. Spending August seaside with friends near Genoa. Watching professional soccer and international cycling.
In Europe, cycling is valued the way it should be:
1) As one of the greatest joys in life.
2) As a well-respected sport.
3) As a commonsense, commonly-used form of transportation.
4) As a tool for socializing.
5) As an art form.
6) As a really wonderful invention.
Somewhere along the way, I fell in love with professional cycling as well. Watching it. Feeling the thrill of it. Sighing audibly at the breathtaking beauty of the places they rode along the tours in Europe, like Basque Country, the Pyrenees and L’Alpe d’Huez. Admiring the riders. Purely for their athletic abilities and cycling skills, of course. (I can hear you laughing. It’s okay. I’m a girl who loves cycling for many, many reasons.)
Feeling the anticipation growing the closer it gets each year to my favorite “Three Weeks in July.” “Trois Semaines en Juillet.” Le Tour de France. J’adore Le Tour de France!!! Much more on that later. It is, after all, the cycling love shared ‘round the world. Allez! Allez! Allez!
Yes, always, for as long as I can remember, I have loved to ride a bike. Always and forever. Like I said, it’s a lasting, lifetime love. Guaranteed to make me smile. And I hope leave you smilin’ as well. And hopping on your bike to ride. Pedal with passion!
So enough writing for now. Time to ride! Plenty of next chapters up around the bend: From Italy back to NY, NM, CO, TX and NM again…and many more beaches and mountains and other places in between. Long-distance bike rides. Long-distance love. Bike riding friends. Riding for fun. Riding for a purpose. The people you meet while riding. The friends who help you get back on your bike~no matter what life brings. Riding solo. Riding Centuries. Riding to live. Riding to love. Loving to ride. And learning to live and love to ride all over again.
What’s up ahead and down my road? More bicycle rides, more friends and more travels…planning for a return to France in 2010 and my first time live at Le Tour de France; a return to La Bella Italia and my much-loved, beautiful Italian/Swiss Alps; and a first trip to Spain, learning more new languages…and spending more time on many new sunny beaches with new beautiful coastal views and my toes in the sand.
Always keep dreaming…and moving toward your dreams, my friends. It’s part of what makes life so sweet…
In the meantime~Live and Love passionately! Live with Hope in your heart. Laugh whenever you can. Love as hard as you can. Be grateful. Look for glimpses of Joy. Keep the faith. Choose Love. RideOn!