Free As a Bird: My Blue-Framed Beauty

Before I get into today’s topic, I wanted to announce that I am featured on The Blissful Chef’s blog in a post about the dehydrator (plus recipes!). For those of you unfamiliar with Christy’s work, I’d suggest checking her out pronto. Her dishes are equally beautiful and delicious, and her obvious passion for healthy plant-based cuisine shines through in everything she does. I’m so grateful to her for giving me space on her blog here.
Today is a momentous day because I rode my bike for the first time since I got sick, not only because of my illness’s effect on my endurance, but also because bike maintenance funds have been permanently rerouted to health funds. That means it’s been two years since pedaling around on my beloved bike. I can’t believe it. Recently, J spent one of his off-days in the bike shop and lovingly spruced it up for me. I couldn’t be more thankful to him, and he couldn’t be happier to see the wide grin across my face as we breezed down the river trail!

I used to ride upwards of 30 miles a day between work, school, trips home in between, hanging out in various parts of the city, cruising on late night summer rides with friends, riding in Critical Mass at the end of every month. My muscles would ache in disagreement on any day that I decided not to ride. There was nothing that made me feel more free, more on top of the world than coasting down a winding hill as fast as I could, wind in my hair, my body zigging and zagging in tandem with my bike. It was the utmost accomplishment to push myself beyond the barrier of “I can’t…” and turn it into “I must, I will…” finish climbing up this hill. Screw hopping off and walking. I was stronger than that.

In my early 20’s, I volunteered at a community bicycle program 2-3 times a week. Since I have much more of a “dissect abstract theory” brain rather than a “construct an apparatus” brain, I was proud of myself for learning something out of my comfort zone. During this time, a crazy sequence of events occurred that led me to the bike I have now. My first self-built bike had been stolen by some kids who also stole my friend’s car. I’d called in the cycling cavalry for a fruitless city-wide bike hunt, and I had to scramble overnight to find a replacement for my main – and shall I mention free? – method of transportation. I became the butt of my friends’ jokes because my interim bicycle was a tiny, red road bike. I looked like a circus clown on a toddler’s trike. I eventually found a friend willing to part with her spare bike for a month or two, and I was able to maneuver the city much easier. In the meantime, I kept my eyes open for another bike that I could fix up and call my own.

One day, a friend of mine expressed interest in building a bike. Enthusiastically agreeing to help, I told her we could get started that day. When we got to the shop, I started weeding through the piles of donated bikes. We always received a great number of donations, but many of them were in sorry shape. After years of neglect, parts were stripped or rusted off, wheels were bent, frames were cracked. We’d salvage the parts we could and recycle or throw away the rest. Another obstacle besides the quality of donations was size. We got a lot that were child-sized bikes as well as large men’s ones, but not much for those of us between 5′-5’6. I spied a blue frame among the wreckage that looked like it may fit the bill. I threw some wheels on it and instructed my friend to hop on. This is a glimpse into my mind at that moment, “Crap. If only she were a little shorter it would be perfect. It’s such a cool-looking bike, too. What a shame. But, oh…wait. I’m a little bit shorter than her. Oh. Snap.”

And so, that is how I found my blue-framed beauty. Though it is of little value save the sentimental kind, I love it still. It underwent some major, and I mean major, reconstructive surgery to bring it back to life. As cheesy as it sounds, it is now returning the favor by helping to bring me back to life. Cycling wasn’t my biggest athletic loss due to my illness (In fact, the one with the most severe and lasting impact is something that I have yet to come to terms with losing – intense heartbreak that is best saved for a future time), but I always knew it would be an integral part of my recovery process. Finding an exercise routine that doesn’t leave my adrenal glands sputtering is a real challenge. Yoga has been good to me, but my body loves variety when it comes to moving and shaking. What body doesn’t? Returning to cycling for all that it gives – enjoyment, transportation, and healing – is sure to bring about remarkable progress.

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