"I think of my bike as a very small bus," my wife told me shortly after we met. She meant that she viewed it as a form of transportation, and nothing more. That's changed substantially in the years since, and despite my own long-standing affection for all things two-wheeled, I recently needed a reminder from my wife that bikes, before all else, are fun. It's felt like a long winter and I've been pretty pragmatic about my bike. The reminder I needed came in the form of a brief and perfect weekend trip my wife planned to Buckhorn Springs.
We got a leisurely start on a Saturday morning, riding the Greenway south through the valley. The orchards were pink and white, and Bear Creek was flowing fast and clear. By the time we reached Ashland, we were ready for lunch, and we found an open table by Ashland Creek on the first warm Saturday of the year. Any meal is better when it's refueling a recent effort. After we ate, the Central Ashland Bike Path carried us smoothly through town. Beyond Emigrant Lake, we turned off the pavement and climbed into the foothills. The drainage narrowed as we followed Emigrant Creek up toward Soda Mountain, and there was a wonderful sense of enclosure that I miss in the wide Bear Creek Valley. We were the only guests that weekend at Buckhorn Springs, and when we walked our bikes around the gate spanning the driveway, it felt like we were entering a private garden. Our shingled cottage by the creek had been restored not to luxury, but to complete comfort.
The nap we took on arriving was more refreshing than some full nights of sleep at home, well earned as it was. We picked out a lone snag on a ridge for our morning hike and then passed a perfect evening of cooking, talking, and reading to the chatter of a mountain creek in springtime. When we woke in the morning, we couldn't understand the waves of tapping outside until we pulled the curtains aside to find sleet bouncing off the windowpanes. There wasn't a soul around to judge our laziness in climbing back under the warm blankets and settling for a shorter hike, later in the morning. We saved the lone snag for our next trip.
The precipitation returned periodically during our ride home that afternoon, but because it was frozen we stayed perfectly dry. I'll admit we did curse the weather briefly as we found ourselves pedaling hard against the wind even as we descended the hills we'd earned with our sweat the day before.
Approaching home, it struck me what fun I was having just riding my bike, even in the sleet, even against the wind. The next thing I realized was that I hadn't been aware of a lot of fun while riding lately. It had been months since I'd ridden anywhere but work or errands. On top of that, I'd been reading a lot of acronym-laden articles and blogs about how effective and important bicycles are as transportation. Mark Twain wrote that "Work and play are words used to describe the same thing under differing conditions," and biking somewhere to spend money rather than earn it illustrated that to me perfectly.
The first time I ever rode to work was pure play. It was Bike to Work Day 2003, and I still remember how good I felt all day... all week, really. (Incidentally, Bike to Work Day 2009 is Friday, May 15.) But in recent months I had been focusing on my bike as a practical means of transport and forgetting to go play on it. I'd been thinking of it as a very small bus, and forgetting that it's also a really quiet motorcycle.