Back on an Actual Bike

September 5, 2011

Remember at the beginning of my last post when I said that it would be the only post during this long Labor Day weekend?  Well, I lied.  Enjoy this bonus post!

Is it sad that I can’t remember the last time I was on a bicycle?  I mean an actual bicycle – I use the stationary and recumbent bikes at the gym a couple times a week.  But an actual bicycle, with two wheels and the ability to take me places… well, it’s been a long, long, time.

The last bike I owned as a bright yellow Schwinn that I got in middle school.  I had an odomoter/speedometer on it, and I loved it.  I clocked some pretty impressive rides on that bike – going to the movies about 5 miles away, and even, a couple times, riding to Tel-Twelve Mall about 7 or 8 miles away.  I never told my parents that I rode my bike on Telegraph, a major six-lane, sidewalk-free divided road near our house, because I’m sure my mom would’ve freaked out.  But I did.  And since they’re both readers of this blog, they know now!

When I got my drivers’ license and gained access to a car, my bike usage plummeted to pretty much nothing.  My older brother, in college at the time, borrowed it to use on campus, so it went to Ann Arbor, where the odometer was promptly stolen.  I ended up at the same college as my brother (Go Blue!), and we overlapped by a year, so I got the bike back from him when he graduated, but never really used it that frequently.  By my junior year, I had a car on campus, sending my bike usage plummeting back to zero, and when I graduated and packed my things to move to California, I ended up donating the bike to the student-run theater group that I was involved with.

That was 2002.  It’s very likely I haven’t ridden a bike since.  I can’t remember an occasion where I would have.  I didn’t really miss it, either.  I got heavier after college, and had decided that biking, like so many other physical activities, was something best left to other people.  Skinnier people.

Now it’s Labor Day weekend 2011, and my parents and I met up with my sister Laura in St. Joseph, Michigan, right near the shores of Lake Michigan.  And guess what was waiting for us in the garage there?

My parents told me they’d gotten bikes this summer so they could ride around St. Joe, but it had slipped my mind until I saw them.  Laura was down for some biking, so on Saturday morning, we headed out for a ride.

It felt great to be back on a bike, and the old saying is true.  You don’t forget how to ride a bike.

St. Joseph has a really cute downtown on a bluff about 4 miles away, so a round trip would make for a nice 8 mile workout, and that’s what we decided to do.  Along we way we passed…

…nifty old houses…

…St. Joe’s main downtown shopping district, which is paved with bricks…

…and best of all, some of our route was right along the edge of the bluff, overlooking the water…

Laura and I did the 8 miles downtown and back, and tacked on a few miles on top of it.  It took us a little over an hour, and I was tired and sweaty afterward.  Here’s our route, which totaled 11.3 miles (“E” marks where we started and stopped):

Laura left that night to return to Chicago, but since I wasn’t leaving until Sunday afternoon, I decided to take another bike ride, solo, on Sunday morning.  I planned a route ahead of time, and it was designed to take me by a very special landmark:

That’s the house that my grandmother lived in for all of my childhood.  Lots of memories.  Great to see it again.

Here’s my 14-mile Sunday route:

My thighs were aching (in a good way) when I was done!

25 miles of biking in 2 days?  Not too shabby!

Lots of other fun was had in between the two bike excursions.  More family joined us in St. Joe, including aunts, uncles and cousins, and later in the day on Saturday, we headed to the best feature St. Joe has to offer.  I’ll give you two hints as to what it is:

Hint #1:

Hint #2:

It’s the beach, dummies!

I’ve lived in Los Angeles for 9 years, and can count the number of times I’ve been to the beach on both hands, and still have some fingers left over.  I’m just not much of a beach person, normally.  But I don’t think I’ll ever tire of the beaches in west Michigan.  They’re spectacular!  The sand is really fine and rock-free, the water is refreshing, and it stays shallow for a really long time – I went swimming with my cousin and uncle, and we went all the way out to the swimming boundary, and the water was only up to my chest.

We weren’t the only ones who had the great idea to head to the beach:

The beach, by the way, is sponsored by Taco Bell – can you see their ad on the side of the lifeguard stand in the second picture?  Nothing says ‘beach’ like a Crunchwrap Supreme!

One final photograph from my weekend in St. Joe – actually, it’s a little photo montage:

That’s me and my doggie nephew Conrad!

I’ll end by saying that I ate pretty well all weekend long.  I abstained from the cupcakes that my aunt made, ate lots of fresh fruit and vegetables, and drank a ton of water, both flat and sparkling.

Keep it up, David!