Bliss on Two Wheels
With all the politicking that has attached itself to cycling, it’s easy to forget this is not just a Cars Vs. Bikes issue, it’s about the freedom and bliss that comes from hopping on your bike and hitting the open road (or bike lanes or trails, as it were). Cycling isn’t about politics; it’s about joy. With that in mind, let’s reconnect with the simple pleasure of seeing life on two wheels.
Before cycling became a political hot potato, it was something that kids, teens and adults did with abandon. I practically lived on my bike when I was a kid. Between it and my skateboard, I was a creature of perpetual motion. I would spend my days exploring my world on two wheels, seeing how far I could go and what new adventures I could find. To me, my bike was like a horse. It wasn’t a thing. It was a friend.
As a kid living in Halifax, I would ‘saddle up’, grab my best friend, George Taylor Munro and, together, we’d set off on great adventures around the neighbourhood, sometimes pointing ourselves in one direction and riding until our legs were rubber.
I explored the incredible local coastline with my friends—all of us cycling up a storm from one beach to the next.
I recall one of these adventures that found us on the highway leading out of Halifax County to our ultimate destination: Queensland. There, we found a beautiful beach, great crashing waves being dodged by stealth sandpipers vying for a seafood snack at low tide. George and I frolicked in the waves—yes, kids frolicked back in those days. We splashed and played until we were exhausted. And therein lay the problem.
As we mounted our trusty bikes, I realized I was completely out of energy, food and the will to pedal. With miles to go, George and I pedaled, pushed and prodded each other to complete the journey home. By the time I arrived at my door, I was shaking, dizzy, crying, and then passed out. Turns out I had heat stroke. Sometimes best friends and their bikes can be a little bit too ambitious.
I moved to Vancouver in the mid-70s and augmented my life on wheels with a lime green skateboard I got in Seattle. There wasn’t a street, or steep hill I couldn’t master. I learned how to do all sorts of neat tricks on my board, including how to wipe out at 30 mph without breaking anything. Of course, my bike was never far away and I explored the incredible local coastline with my friends—all of us cycling up a storm from one beach to the next as more frolicking ensued.
I have pedaled hundreds and hundreds of kilometers around Toronto over the years, exploring new and different areas.
By and by I found myself living in Toronto. The city provided new trails and vistas to encounter. Like clockwork, I would finish my dinner then hop on my bike to explore my new neighbourhood and different parts of the area. I would cruise around looking at houses, finding new routes and new areas I hadn’t seen before and didn’t know existed. I learned the lay of the land on my bike. Why watch TV when you can be an explorer?
Well into my adulthood I still have an almost symbiotic relationship with my bike. We hit the roads and trails and just fly. I have pedaled hundreds and hundreds of kilometers around Toronto over the years, exploring new and different areas. I have covered almost every inch of the Leslie Spit, arriving at the lighthouse and sitting quietly with the birds soaring overhead while watching sailboats drift by on the gentle swells of Lake Ontario. The vantage point from the lighthouse to the city is magnificent.
Cycling has been my escape and my saving grace over the years. It has given me a way to see my city, clear my head, exercise my body, and refuel my soul.
Of course, no bike ride would be complete without a visit to the Toronto Islands. With no cars and a view to take your breath away, the Islands are an amazing getaway right in the city. It was while quietly rolling through the paths on Wards Island that I saw my first trillium.
I’ve traversed the trails from one end of the city to the other, being cooled by the breeze off of Lake Ontario on steamy summer days. I’ve found myself at horse stables near Sunnybrook while exploring the Don Valley Trails and relaxed under a tree with a great book while swans drifted peacefully around me on Grenadier Pond in High Park. Simply bucolic.
Cycling has been my escape and my saving grace over the years. It has given me a way to see my city, clear my head, exercise my body, and refuel my soul. And while some forces out there want to harsh our bike bliss, I just hop on my wheels, press the pedal and escape into the city. Destination: Anywhere.
photo credit: ! ramblinworker
Tags: Andrew Vail
, Don Valley
, Grenadier Pond
, High Park
, Lake Ontario
, Leslie Spit
, Toronto Islands