Yesterday, I rode my bicycle northbound across the I-5 bridge from Oregon into Washington, for the first time. It was terrifying. The bridge has a few hundred feet of elevation in the middle and then descends, which sounds fun except that there is barely enough width for your handle bars and you’re going maximum speed. To your right is the mighty Columbia river, to your left is the smoke and scream of traffic, and every so often the path narrows even more where the bridge buttress things stick into the trail. I had no idea what it would be like, but I followed my friend who had. By the time it was done, "terrifying" became "exhilarating."
(Below is a video clip by Portland Metro, about how to ride the bridge, which I edited for this piece.)
I am so, so grateful to ride a bike. First, thanks to my brother, whose hand-me-down late-80’s mountain bike is my current ride. Second, thanks to my friends who let me tell my dark, vulnerable secret: I’ve always been afraid to ride bikes, and I didn’t properly learn to ride one when I was a kid. I avoided it because it scared me. Somehow as the youngest of eight kids, by the time I would have been riding, a lot got assumed. It was taken for granted that some sibling or friend somewhere somehow would teach me, and that I’d be interested enough (and not terrified) to try. I remember other hand-me down bikes, and a few tries with training wheels, but I never got into it. By the time I was about 11 years old, a terror hit me when I learned we were going to move to Scotland for about a year. I got it in my mind that everyone in Scotland was always on a bike. So I secretly took someone’s bike from the garage, and practiced alone, enough that I could basically stay upright on a bike. Newsflash: I never rode a bike in Scotland. It wasn’t until I was living in Portland and about to turn thirty that the panic hit me again. I’m going to be thirty. Thirty! This seemed just altogether too old to be afraid of bikes. So again, I borrowed a bike and practiced my turns in the park.
A friend lent me an old steel root-beer colored Schwinn I started making my way around town, solo, my heart racing every minute. And now, over a decade since, I’ve become a regular Portland cyclist. I still have my secret and not-so-secret fears about riding, but mostly I can’t believe how much I love it. The feeling of freedom and speed—I could ride all day. And perhaps because it’s a gift I discovered later in life, it always feels like a secret pleasure to me—not just another way to get around.
#IWantToRideMyBicycle #AloneAndConnected #gratitude #gratitudediaries #gratitudegrows #NovemberGratitude #WhatYouAppreciateAppreciates