I like to walk. I love riding a bicycle.
When I was a little boy, my father worked days and would catch the green dragon—a Chicago Transit Authority streetcar—on 91st and State streets, a half block from our house. I could see it from our porch.
Some days I walked with him, pushing my bicycle, the first one I remember. It was yet another thing I was expected to grow into, and I couldn’t yet get started without help. So Pete would hold my bike steady while I climbed aboard, and just before he got on the streetcar he’d give me a push off toward our house. We lived in the Big Circle, a kind of cul-de-sac with shrubbery in the middle. I would ride around and around and around our circle for what seemed like hours, until I was too tired or had to go to the bathroom.
When I got a little older, I could spend all day riding around Westchesterfield on my bicycle, by that time a black Schwinn Tiger. I rode a bicycle until I got to high school, when I became too cool for a three-speed and couldn’t afford an English racer.
There were few options for transportation when I was growing up—no rollerblades, no skateboards. Until I made 16 and got a driver’s license, I walked. When I started driving, I more or less stopped walking farther than to or from my car or my motorcycle.
I started riding a bicycle again in the late ‘70s, and I haven’t really stopped since, though I haven’t been riding much lately. There’s something about being self-propelled that still appeals to me. I like being able to get around on my own.
My car is small, and yet it weighs more than 3,000 pounds, which seems excessive even for hauling around my fat ass. A heavy bicycle is still less than 40 pounds, and I like that kind of ratio of device-to-payload.
I moved to Minnesota in the mid-1980s partly because the cycling was so much better than in Chicago—lots more bike paths and way more hills, which I sought out in those days. When I left Chicago, I was commuting 23 miles each way through the heart of the city to work at a bike shop on the North Side, and Saint Paul was idyllic in comparison.
I knew nearly nothing about Chico when we moved here, other than the heat, and its stature as a cyclist’s town was a pleasant surprise. Now I’m finally easing back into a cycling life. I bought a backpack for my computer, and I’m thinking of getting out my trailer for groceries and whatnot.
At this stage of my game, I don’t look for hills anymore and I don’t expect to go fast, except downhill, but every time I get on a bike I remember how much fun it is even now, and I kinda miss my old man giving me a push.