I love California winters because I can still take a morning bike ride in shorts and a t-shirt. I’m also slowly realizing that biking may be my saving grace. As Krissy can attest, I tend to get really moody when I don’t feel healthy and active. I have bad knees, so although I enjoy running, it’s not such a good idea. I would love to swim regularly, but we can’t afford to pay $30 or more a month for me to swim. So, I bike – and I’ve learned to love that, too. My bike is amazing – an old blue and white Schwinn Traveler from the 70s. It’s a bit heavier than the modern incarnations of road bikes, but it’s reliable, smooth, and fast.
It is amazing what you miss when you drive in a car. You can drive around and get where you want to go quickly, but you don’t really understand the surroundings in the same way that you do pedaling on two wheels.
I typically bike to the north of our apartment. The roads aren’t as nice and parts of it are uphill, but there is nothing like biking early in the morning past a small Mexican bakery and smelling whatever is being baked, watching tired mothers walking their laughing children to school, or biking past the Argentine meat market and not having a clue what Argentine meat is like. Lawns are covered with colorful flowers and fruit trees. As I bike through, I feel like I am part of the landscape and the community – another color, smell, and face to add to the mosaic of senses. I love the people and the smells – I love this area.
On the way back, I often bike towards the Rose Bowl, entering very wealthy neighborhoods. In this area, children are driven to school, there are no fresh baked goods to smell – only dumpsters and garbage cans pushed into the road away from the beautiful houses that sit a good ways off the road – and I quickly notice that there are no people around. The only faces I see are hidden behind sunglasses and tinted windows. The lawns here are identical – neatly trimmed and sparse. The roads are wide and well paved, allowing a good deal of distance between my old road bike and the expensive foreign cars driving past. In this area, I feel isolated and removed – an intruder without sunglasses to hide behind.
If you really want to get to know your neighborhood or surrounding areas, I don’t know if it’s possible in a car. Bike, walk, or jog through the neighborhoods around you – and leave the iPod at home!
What do you see? Which areas incorporate you as a part of their landscape? What do you smell? Which areas are you an intruder? What do you feel?