I have always enjoyed bikes. It use to be a family tradition when I was a child. I still have visions of my mum leading the way, my brother in front of me and we would just pedal away through Krug Park and Lovers Lane with it’s overlying trees and flowers abloom. As I got older, there were no longer any bikes. I mean who rides a bike in the USA unless you are in Seattle or Denver or any other more “earthy” city that appreciates them and will actually construct a bike lane.
My trek to work is not an easy one, I live on one of the largest hills in the city and I work on another intense hill. So it’s a big hill to work and a big hill back home, but going down is always the nice part. A past coworker was moving out of France last June and graciously donated her bike to me, hat and all. The bike was too small for me, had a flat tire, clicked and clacked, but I thought that I could raise the seat and it will get me from point A to point B and this it does quite well.
I started off slow throughout the summer. Building up my lungs, bulking up my thighs and tackled those hills bit by bit. Lidl had a bike week and I loaded up on biking shorts, gloves, seats, you name it, I was able to get it next to nothing. I had a goal in the beginning of twice a week to work. The gas for the car is astronomically expensive, it cost me 60€ to fill it up and will last about 2 weeks if I am lucky. I don’t have a big car, but it is not the smallest and finding parking for it’s size (Peugeot 208) can be quite the challenge. My biggest factor is just facing french drivers or their lack of driving skills. You really have to be driving here to understand this comment. There are no rules and there are rarely manners, but worse off is that the roads are bumper to bumper during peak hours. The French would rather totally side swipe your car, without hesitation, just so they can get to where they need to be and in the meantime giving you the finger as they have just been guilty of bumping your car and cutting you off. Quel culot!!!
With this said, I can bike home in less time than it would be for me to drive home while fighting traffic and my blood pressure skyrocketing. Now comes to what I like to call the revelation. One crisp automne morning, the moon was full and incredibly bright, I had Bananarama’s Greatest Hits in my ears, a fresh cup of delicious coffee running through my veins, not a soul on the road except the market trucks loading fresh produce into the restos, and the same group of older men having 6:30 a.m. coffee at a side café. I was zooming down the hill at top speed (not crazy of course) and I had the most peaceful feeling come over me that I have not felt in the longest time. I made it down to the riverfront and I stopped my bike and just looked up at Fourvière church with the light shining up onto it, the moon glistening off the river, and simply listened to the quietness of the city.
Then one day after work, at the end of an exhausting day with 5 and 6 year olds and back to back meetings, the one thing that I looked forward to was being back on the bike. It was a bit crazy and I thought, “What is wrong with me?” I zoomed back down the hill, I cruised past all the bumper to bumper cars giving each other the finger and honking incessantly at each other. I did nothing but feel the glorious sun on my face, listen to Whitney sing personally to me, and calmly pedaled home. In the beginning, I dreaded my Montée de la Boucle hill. It is incredibly steep, but today I just tackle it with a smug grin on my face and it completely and utterly energizes me for the martini that awaits me at home.
My message in this blog is that something as silly as a bike taught me such a life lesson. To slow down. I see everything now. I know where the smallest of potholes are in the road, I see something different in a building every day, I discover new roads to explore, I find Life itself. In a world that pushes and pushes us, in a society that just never slows down, I found a way to come full circle and appreciate the small things and the beauty of just being alive. Simply through being on a bike. During this sort of metamorphosis I have since quit smoking after many years of socially doing so, I now get in my car, put on Sade and rarely let anything get to me with the mantra of, “I refuse to get frustrated because you cannot drive.” I even come home and now try not to sweat the small stuff that normally I would create silly issues over. I am on vacation this week and not biking much and just yesterday I was thinking, “I absolutely cannot wait for my 6:15 bike ride on Monday. Me, the city, my bike. We just pedal and breathe. Namaste.