(Updated blog entries on my trip coming once I get to Missoula tomorrow... promise! Spotty internet has lent itself to taking a break from uploading photos and even turning on my phone. It's been HEAVEN.)
When I was 8 years old my family moved 1.5 miles from a utopian, kid-filled neighborhood to the kid-free, contemporary-home street in the woods. The only way to acquire independence was by riding my bicycle. The only option to see my friends was to get on my bike, bike the very fast, steep mile and a half down a few hills and back into the neighborhood my parents took us from. Do you hear resentment? There was a little resentment on my part. But, those feelings passed as I became stronger. Physically strong enough to pedal the full mile all the way back up the steep hills home. And, as an adolescent, I knew I was in shape, good physical shape if I could make it up the driveway without stopping. Their 1/4 mile long, 8-10% grade driveway up to the house.
I can’t remember what age my parents let me bike back to the old neighborhood. Maybe when I was 12? But, I do know my mom trusted me to leave the house shortly after arriving on the school bus, walking the mile up the street, 1/4 mile up the driveway from the bus stop to see my friends. And, of course I’d have to bike all the way home, getting home by dark. By the way, these friends never came to our house - the hills were too steep! However, friends always ended up at our home when we had a dumping of snow- the driveway lended itself to amazing sled races for hours on end.
When I turned 14, I had a boyfriend named Andy who lived about 12 miles away and went to a completely different middle school a town over. We were in eighth grade. On the weekends, I depended on my parents to drive me to see him. The only way I was to see my eighth grade boyfriend was to look at a road map (this was way before cell phones and Google maps!) and figure out how the heck to bike to his house. And, keep the scheming from my parents secret. I think Andy thought I was crazy. But, he loved that I was willing to show up at his house about an hour after I left my home at the top of a very large hill to see him. One of the benefits of taking a 2-hour bike ride to see your boyfriend? Parents weren’t home.
Andy and I didn’t make it more than a year, so many bike trips later we broke up. I went to high school and continued to bike a couple of years until I got my license and first car. I don’t remember biking as much in high school as I did in middle school, however, when I was 15, I was fortunate to go on a teen bicycling trip to Europe for five weeks. I was introduced to bicycle touring. Carrying your gear in panniers, camping at night, cooking food by camp stove or fire, seeing the world behind no glass or partition. I was hooked. I came home many miles later, having biked through Belgium, Holland, France and England and stated to my parents, “I will someday bicycle across the country.”
I recently told my parents the Andy story and my mom couldn't believe it. She had my father get on the phone and made me re-tell it. And, when I finished, my dad chuckled and mom said, "You're grounded. I can't believe you did that!"