My Revolution

Revolution. The word itself elicits an emotional response. Change, unease, fear, excitement – and maybe hope – all conjure up expectations for the future. The Latin root of revolution means to turn; to turn back. This is my revolution.

I was five when I got my first serious bike. By serious, I mean without training wheels, but with glitter streamers exploding out the end of the handgrips, a white basket securely fastened to the handlebars, and best of all, a banana seat. Ohhh yeah. Living smack-dab in the middle of the city, the 70’s-style bubble font on my bike proclaimed I was now a “Country Girl.” It was my bike, and the love I felt for it was not dampened by the fact I didn’t know how to ride a two wheeler.

My brother, three years older and infinitely wiser, saw to my bikeducation. The first time around the block, he ran beside me, holding onto the seat while I wobbled and shook on two wheels. The second time around he let go, bit by bit. Each time, I would get stuck, until he push-started me again. I remember looking down at my pedals, frustrated. My brother pushed a pedal to the top of the sprocket and told me to start from that position. I pushed down. The magic happened, and I was pedaling. The third time around that block he just ran along beside me as I pedaled, both of us grinning like Cheshire cats. My heart felt like it would burst with pride.

My bike represented independence and freedom in my young life. We rode through the Arizona heat to cool off at the public pool; we shunned the bus to ride to school; we got out of school to bike to orthodontist appointments; we escaped to the movie theater on our bikes.

At sixteen, I hung up my bike for a set of four wheels, only to get back on my bike, after a serious car crash left me too shaken to drive. But the complexity of the rat race captured me  with a new job, a new house and a new car in the driveway, my bike was demoted from transportation to recreation. I sold it at a yard sale. I can’t remember when or why. Maybe I had grown up.

And then last year, it happened. Strolling through the local department store we turned down the bike isle.  A quick look at the members of my family, five strong, and back at the bikes and there was a glimmer there, a playfulness waiting to be explored. These were the value-version of the better bikes sold in bike stores. But for the price of one good bike, we outfitted everyone in our family with a set of two wheels. Not only did I have my own bike to love, so did my husband, my eleven year old and four year old. The baby got a double bike trailer that would also serve as a sag wagon for the four year old. We figured if we “stuck with it” we could always upgrade later.

Week by week, opportunities arose where we could take our bikes and leave the car parked. It was quicker to hop on the bikes and pedal the mile to the grocery than strap the kids in their car seats and try to find a parking space. My daughter asked to take the “mini-car” (aka the bike trailer) instead of the car. My inner tree-hugger happily calculated each mile pedaled as one less gas-burning mile in the car. The time between petrol fill-ups stretched from every five days to every two weeks. And then one day we turned back; we began our revolution in earnest. We sold the SUV… with intentions of replacing with a smaller, more fuel-efficient car…only we didn’t…

Sometimes I feel it: that uneasiness that “revolution” conjures up… but mostly I feel excitement and hope, fresh possibilities. I relish that our wee family is a band of rebels, joined together on this car-free adventure. Each time I set one pedal to the top, I turn back to simpler times. I feel that Cheshire cat grin growing on my face and familiar tightness in my chest when I see my five year old pedaling wildly around the block. Maybe she won’t grow up so fast; maybe…I didn’t after all.

Out of the Box

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I figure I’ve spent most of my life in a box. Boxed up in a house, in a school, in an office, in a store or in the glass, plastic and metal confines of a car; it’s all box time.

The transition to car-free living is like being mounted on a spring and catapulted out of the box. Every day, whether on foot or on our bikes we must venture out. The days of vacantly transferring our corpse-like bodies from work to school, to car to garage, to box to box are gone.

The morning was rough as the pothole, pocked and cracked roads we ride. My three children were in rare form, being both rambunctious and as slow as molasses on a cold day. Getting them out the door I assumed my usual role as the octopus drill sergeant, juggling backpacks, rain jackets, lunchboxes and children while barking orders to the troops.

The barometer was pitted against me; the forecast: cold, wet and windy. My shoulders constricted up to my ears, the tension settling into my face, to call me dour would be a loving compliment. I get the two little ones buckled in the bike trailer and my oldest I take to our bikes and pedal out. Outside.

The magic begins before the garage door has creaked closed. My breathing syncs to the rhythm of bike as the furrows in my brow soften. For the first time in the day, I feel aware. My eleven-year-old son pedals beside me; his cheeks glow rosy from the cold and exertion of the ride. I can’t believe the change in 5 months, transforming him from sluggish and soft to this young man before me. He is strong and lean, confident on his bike. Outside we are equals. Bicyclists.

Usually shy, my five-year-old is singing at the top of her lungs. Outside she is free of inhibition, a happy bird singing her morning song. Her one-year-old brother is nestled beside her. Outside he is content and relaxed. “Content” is an achievement for this non-stop powerhouse.

The streets are quiet; a few poor souls putter by at 35 mph locked inside their boxes. I pity them. Their faces are dour and their shoulders hunched around their ears like mine were in the box. They haven’t had the chance to be outside. We stop short as one wheels in front of us, brushing her teeth furiously, while texting on her cell phone. My son lets out a guffaw. She never even noticed us. Most of them don’t.

“We wouldn’t have seen (fill in the blank) if we had been driving.” Has become my children’s favorite saying. Today it was the circle of Morel mushrooms the oldest spotted by the schoolyard. My five-year-old wonders out loud who planted the hundreds of blossoming cherry, apple and dogwood trees? She says they surely weren’t here last year. At least we didn’t notice them from inside our boxes.

What else did we miss while doing box time? Pushing through the perceptual barrier of convenience and comfort has driven home the adage “out of the box”, and this Jack-is-not-going-back-in-the-box.

Venture out of the box and tell us about it! Join the revolution!

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Why are you riding your bicycles?

A Zen Teacher saw five of his students return from the market, riding their bicycles. When they had dismounted, the teacher asked the students,

“Why are you riding your bicycles?”

The first student replied, “The bicycle is carrying this sack of potatoes. I am glad that I do not have to carry them on my back!”

The teacher praised the student, saying, “You are a smart boy. When you grow old, you will not walk hunched over, as I do.”

The second student replied, “I love to watch the trees and fields pass by as I roll down the path.”

The teacher commended the student, “Your eyes are open and you see the world.”

The third student replied, “When I ride my bicycle, I am content to chant, nam myoho renge kyo.”

The teacher gave praise to the third student, “Your mind will roll with the ease of a newly trued wheel.”

The fourth student answered, “Riding my bicycle, I live in harmony with all beings.”

The teacher was pleased and said, “You are riding on the golden path of non-harming.”

The fifth student replied, “I ride my bicycle to ride my bicycle.”

The teacher went and sat at the feet of the fifth student, and said, “I am your disciple.”

Why do you ride your bicycle? Leave a comment, your blog or website and share your experience.

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The Revolution Begins

iBikeuBike: if I can bike…so can you.

February 14th, 2012
As the rest of America celebrates their love, we were ending a long term, (if seriously dysfunctional relationship.) We knew the day to part was coming…there was outside…interest..

The nights leading up to our goodbyes were sleepless. There were times in the wee hours before dawn when the memories, the smells, the touch and the thought of warm leather on the backside was almost too much to bear. (Oh, the warm leather!) Doubt, insecurity and uncertainty plagued the daylight hours, yet the day came, we said our goodbyes, signed the papers and the sun set on that chapter of our lives together.

Surprisingly it rose the next morning.

The pain and heartache never did surface, in fact it has been so quickly replaced with a new love, a passion that we might yell it from the rooftops!

Give up friends! Surrender your cars and find new love and freedom as you bike with us!!

Join us as we forsake our heated leather seats (Oh, the warm leather!) and climate control, for an in your face exposure to the elements, to sore bums, freezing rain and scorching sun. Come, as we abandon our built in DVD child entertainment players and navigation system for the grit of the road and the grease in the gears and ultimately memories shared and made from the bike lane. Pedal with us, to a future in which we control our speed, our time, our ultimately our destination!

Not ready to say farewell to your car yet?

Follow our family of five and explore the possibilities with us, one pedal at a time as we rediscover our lives from a car-free perspective. We will share tips from the road, gear reviews, advice on commuting, grocery shopping, biking with children of all ages and ultimately our experience of what life is like from the slow lane.

The revolution begins
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We love our bikes and the freedom of our car free lifestyle! What are your experiences? Leave a comment, post your blog and keep pedaling!