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Falling in Love with Bicycling

Mari-and-Gerri-w-cliff-cropped1

Bicycling West Cliff Drive, Santa Cruz with my friend Gerri Dayharsh.

How did I come to love being on my bike?

Here’s how it all started….

Since my youngest years, I have loved biking. When I was born, my family farmed near Chestnut, Illinois, then later moved to the nearby small town of Mount Pulaski. I could easily bike its entire length, and did.

On summer evenings, as darkness neared, Dad’s familiar whistle would call me home from the park where I’d be playing with neighborhood kids. That was when I’d fly home on my bike, loving the thrill of bouncing over various curbs and embankments along the way.

I remember my first tricycle, and my first two-wheeler, a used bike. After Dad fixed it up, Mom painted it a shiny dark blue—a stand-out color, as in clearly not a new bicycle.

What stands out more in my mind was Dad also fixing up another bike at that time for Mike, a fourteen-year-old boy who walked many miles into town to deliver the Grit newspaper. Dad had delivered papers himself as a young boy and probably remembered that a newspaper bag got heavy. Mike was pretty darned happy when Dad surprised him with the bicycle. But that’s another story!

Later, the summer I was twelve, I was thrilled when Dad brought home for me a brand new Schwinn. That bike went off to college with me five years later. I was bummed when it was stolen outside my university dorm, although the bike was locked. Thankfully, the campus police recovered it.

Santa Cruz, where biking won my heart

After moving to Santa Cruz, I purchased a used bike. One day I left it unlocked in my apartment’s carport for less than five minutes, which was all it took for someone to steal it. This time my stolen bike wasn’t recovered.  

I decided to spring for a new bike, a red Univega that I purchased from the Bicycle TripI was both fortunate with this bike and faithful about using a lock. 

I put a lot of miles on my Univega until I got a used Giant hybrid in 2010. The Univega became spare wheels for guests—including Sarah Factor, shown above on West Cliff Drive in 2011—until I passed it along to an East Salinas resident without a bike in 2013.

In Santa Cruz, my pal Gerri Dayharsh and I worked together at Well-Being magazine. Its editorial offices were on the west side of Santa Cruz, until the magazine was sold to NYC’s Vegetarian Times. At lunchtime Gerri and I sometimes biked to the taqueria across from the foot of the Santa Cruz Wharf. Or coworker Sharon Kenny and I would head to the nearest beach off West Cliff and take a quick dip.

Another favorite was playing hooky with the publisher and biking up to Davenport. I still love that north coast ride. (Ask my daughter, who’s had to wait for me en route to San Francisco—she’d drive while I biked partway.)

Mari and Sharon

The biking West Cliff photo in this post was published in Well-Being in conjunction with a feature Gerri wrote about cycling. And thanks to my parents, I found it in a box of mementos.

They’d kept this issue of the magazine too, with their daughter on the cover. That photo was taken on a break in the workday, when the publisher said, “Wanna go up to Bonny Doon and see some yurts?” When he started shooting photos as we hiked along this stream, I didn’t realize his plans.

I lived a car-free life for a few of the five years I lived in Santa Cruz. After Well-Being moved to NYC, I worked for the Elvirita Lewis Foundation in Soquel, which made a nice 15-mile round-trip daily commute to work from my Santa Cruz apartment. Sunsets on weekdays usually found me biking to Natural Bridges off West Cliff Drive. And weekends were meant for biking to Capitola, with beach stops at Twin Lakes and Sunny Cove en route.

Santa Cruz is where I really fell in love with bicycling. How could I not? Biking on the sunny side of the bay, knowing the power of my own legs, feeling so free….What’s not to love!

Technology competes for my time

The numerous Bicycling Monterey projects, including this website, require a lot of hours at the computer screen. Ironically, as the Bicycling Monterey projects expanded—e.g., launching HER Helmet Thursdays in November 2009—I found myself spending fewer hours on my bike and more hours at the computer.

While the projects are satisfying, the computer time is not my favorite part! I really am a Lead Pencil Girl Gone Techno.

What I enjoy most is being out on my bike, and chatting with other people on the bikeways. That’s how Bicycling Monterey got started.

So what’s the Rx? I am acquainted with an IT wizard who spends many hours of tech time each week, barring vacations. Yet he is visibly in optimal health and living a life of great joy. I asked him one day how he stayed so in balance, in spite of his work requiring so many hours steeped in technology. His secret? Staying faithful to regular time outdoors—in his case, kiteboarding, surfing, bicycling, and more.

Sometimes we find ourselves pulled into intense periods of work in order to accomplish a goal. As an infrequent occurrence, that may be okay, as long as the overwork habit doesn’t set in.

It’s important to remind myself: Bike advocacy needs are met, year after year, by many people here  and beyond. That means…

It’s more than fine to take that ride

Every time I think I have to stay at the computer screen, even though I’m no longer enjoying tech tasks, I can tell myself it’s more than fine to postpone it. As my 103-year-old neighbor, Harold Lewis, told me: “No matter what happens, the world keeps spinning.” And the world will keep spinning even if my bike advocacy tech tasks wait another day.

What can’t wait is more and longer bike rides, for it’s my love of bicycling that inspired and fuels this project.

When you see a pause in my online activity, know that I’m taking out more time for reconnecting with nature, and myself, on two wheels.

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Contributions to the Bicycling Monterey work

are meaningful and appreciated.

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Photo credits: Top photo of Gerri and I biking West Cliff Drive was taken by our coworker at Well-Being, Kevin Woodward. The Well-Being cover photo of me was shot by the magazine’s publisher, David Copperfield.

This post was first published in 2010.
  1. Mary Davis says:

    Great article, Mari. Your story reminds me of my first bike too. What a great experience! I wish everyone would write an article about their first bike, don’t you?
    I am available to help in any way that I can–but, at the moment, I am not mobile. Old age-arthritis-whatever! I can do many things from home though. Let me know how I can help so you can have a GREAT SEPTEMBER!

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