Our family loves biking. When we lived in Indiana, our only deterrents were lack of bike lanes, freezing weather for part of the year, and those less than enthusiastic motorists who insisted on yelling insults at us or revving their engines as they drove by. I used to joke to my husband that I was going to make myself a shirt that read "I'll be alive and biking long after you're dead." Sounds vindictive, I know, but I was completely mystified by the pleasure those drivers found in pointing out that we were not in a car. Biking is a wonderful way to exercise, good for the environment, and a lot less expensive than driving. The most ridiculous response we ever received while biking was having water balloons thrown at us. Once we began having children and added a bike trailer to the back of our bikes, Indiana drivers showed their kinder side and stopped harassing us for the most part. I regularly carted the girls around during the non-snowy months for trips to the grocery store, library, farmer's market, etc.
When we were planning our recent move to California, land of eternal summer, I seriously considered the option of selling our '87 Camry and relying solely on our bikes for transportation. My husband vetoed that idea right away. It was a good thing. That first evening as we drove to our new home in Family Student Housing, my heart sank as we started up a hill, and continued our steep ascent... up and up, on and on. Our apartment was at the top of a steep hill that stretched on for a relentless two miles. I'm sure the more intense bikers out there would ridicule my reaction, but the thought of having to conquer that hill at the end of every bike ride was pretty discouraging to me, especially when I thought of pulling my two daughters behind in the trailer.
I did ride up that hill a handful of times, but sans bike trailer after the first attempt with it just about finished me off. The lack of regular riding, of course, makes it increasingly difficult to find the motivation or energy to make the trek, especially since I've arrived at the stage of pregnancy where I feel as though I'm carrying a bowling ball on my lap.
Our four-year-old had her own frustrations with biking in our new home. We moved from a large student housing complex surrounded by a long, level private road. She had watched longingly as other kids biked around and was thrilled when she was finally big enough to ride a non-tricycle. Despite a nasty fall off her bike soon before our move and the resulting missing front tooth, she was still devastated to have to leave her bike behind. After I found her a replacement (bike, not tooth) here, we realized how unbikeable our new home was for our daughter as well. The family student housing is arranged disjointedly on the hillside and is filled with steep parking lots and tiny green spaces with short paths in various states of disrepair. We have to walk for 20 minutes or so before arriving at a place suitable for her to ride.
My husband, however, diligently continued to make the steep commute up to campus every day by bike. Earlier this month, I arrived home to find him showering after a biking accident. His bike had begun to slide on the wet pavement while braking on his way back down the hill at the end of his workday. He toppled off and continued to skid on his knee and side for another 10 yards or so. The result was ghastly. For the next week, his daily routine was to don shorts after work in an attempt to let the bloody mess that was his knee scab over.
Our girls weren't sure how to respond to this new aspect of dad. Our younger daughter simply pointed it out during any lull in conversation: "Daddy big owie knee." Our generally unfazed four-year-old, on the other hand, was surprisingly disturbed by the whole thing and actually banned him from sitting nearby because she didn't want him "blooding all over" her.
The pants he was wearing were obviously quite mangled by the experience. Our older daughter is growing like crazy these days and I have a hard time keeping her in pants. And so, rather than toss his slacks, I decided to memorialize my husband's biking accident and clothe my daughter at the same time.