I took careful note, on that morning in the waxing months of my fifty-fourth year, of the breeze in my face and the sound of the tires on the street. My breath was coming just a little shorter as I crested the hill and rolled down. I kept pedaling not because I was in a rush. It seems like I am always in a rush to get somewhere when I am riding my bike. I was pedaling harder because I could.
I have been a bike commuter for twenty years, and though I tend to scoff a little at "Bike To Work Day," I am always happy to hear of a friend or colleague who finds a way to make that option work for them. There are a lot of people for whom the idea of getting themselves to work on a bicycle is unthinkable. That could be the climate or the terrain or the distance, but then again there are those for whom the idea is just a little too much work.
I was glad, on that chilly morning, to be able to make that choice. I rode past two individuals, blocks apart, with their smart phones out, looking expectantly into the distance. These are the rideshares, Uber or Lyft or just a friendly co-worker, they stood there in the glow of their screens, anticipating the ride they would get at any minute. It was at this moment that I gave thanks to my wife for the occasions when my health or what I had to carry to work would not allow me to make the two-wheeled trek myself. She has rolled out of bed to drive me through the dark when I was not able to make the commitment that is the norm. I put on my rain gear and ride through the downpours. I pull on my hood a little tighter when the weather dips below our customary room temperature. I await those moments in the spring and fall when I shed a layer and ride with the wind in what used to be my hair.
On this morning I thought about the time that must surely come when riding my bike would no longer be an option. Only for a moment, since I have always imagined that I would retire from teaching before I retired my bike. That would leave me a chance to do what I almost never do: ride for pleasure. Instead of rushing from place to place, home to work, work to home, I could roll leisurely into the middle of a day, showing up somewhere I hadn't been a thousand times for a picnic lunch. Maybe my wife or some friends would come along on their self-propelled machines. Bikes, scooters, boards, skates.
The sound of the wheels on the pavement and the wind in my face.