I loved riding my bike as a kid. From the time I got one when I was 6, I would ride the streets of my neighborhood on my own or with my family. We would go to the park or to Boot’s Burgers or 7-11 for slurpees. Many times on my bike were spent pondering life and talking to myself, occasionally bursting out into spontaneous song. I loved the wind rushing through my tangled hair, the feeling of freedom it gave me.
Those moments of wild abandoned were what childhood was about for me- getting messy and sweaty and doing what you felt regardless of what others might think.
It makes sense that my last memories of riding a bike are when I was 11 or 12, just as the social concern and conformity of my teenage years was setting in. Life became centered around rides to friends’ houses or the movies. And soon after, I’d have a learners permit. Eventually a car became the only reasonable way to get around. As an adult I never gave a thought to another form of transportation.
And then we moved to Israel.
Out of economic necessity and for various functional reasons, Rami and I would be transitioning from being a 2 car family, to being a car and bike family. And with Rami’s work being centered around his truck and trailer, the bike was to be mine.
Not just any bike, mind you. After realizing this would be my new form of transport for the foreseeable future, I had a few minor stipulations. The proper purchase should be a quaintly-framed, thin-wheeled, brightly colored bike with romantic charm and a basket in which I could rest bouquets of flowers or fresh produce along with my hopes and dreams.
This is how we all bike shop, no?
Hear me out. When you leave your familiar, and start your life over, little beautiful items and moments can make all the difference in accepting your new reality.. to me anyway. Or as I so eloquently put it to my husband, “How can I have Eat, Pray, Love moments WITHOUT A CUTE BIKE?!”
This is an Eat, Pray, Love moment for those who don’t know.
Look at Julia Roberts’ face in the top photo. Do you see the existential bliss radiating from her being? Can’t you tell that as she pedals through Bali, she’s becoming who she was always meant to be?
This is what we’re going for.
And thus, when we entered a Tel Aviv bike shop one day in March, and Rami spotted the turquoise bike with the brown leather seat and handles, he walked straight to it, picked it up and with a reluctant yet acquiescent grin said, “Let’s go.”
The man knows me.
And my bike has been one of my most constant companions and sweetest pleasures ever since. At first I would just ride short distances to the supermarket or up the road to spend the morning at my sister-in-law’s. Then out of necessity I began to ride the two miles to my Hebrew school. And eventually I was riding it 17 miles every Friday to all my closest English students.
In a season when I craved the independence I’d once had in America, my bike gave me a sense of control. It increased my traversable radius. And quickly, what would I had considered as an adult to be an inconvenient form of travel had again become one of my greatest joys. Pedaling through crowded streets, ducking under low-hanging branches, I felt so connected to the world around me. And the simple fact that two wheels and two legs could take me miles and miles made me feel so alive and capable of conquering anything.
Each completed journey left me with a sense of accomplishment, and unearthed a new layer of myself that I had almost forgotten was there. The convenience of quick and reliable car transport had no longer become expected or necessary. I rediscovered a long forgotten pastime and with it, a sense of courage.
The tenacious, raucous little girl that used to climb trees and ride her bike and put on performances in the living room isn’t just someone I used to be. She’s still every bit a part of who I am now. And a change of pace and scenery has help me become reacquainted with her. I once again pedal fast and sweat hard and ignore what people may think.
And sometimes I even sing.