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Date of Issue: October 01, 2008

Two-wheelin' to Turkey Day

/10-1-08/detour-bike.jpg
The writer on a not-so-scenic leg of the Bike Across the Magnificent Miles of Illinois trip in 1982. Islander Photo: Mary Neff

I fell into fall without a resolution.

I came to Anna Maria Island from Chicago, a place with four obvious seasons – cold, real cold, sometimes cold and cool — and I often marked the arrival of each new season with a resolution for self-improvement.

Here in Florida, without keeping close watch on a calendar, marking the change of seasons becomes difficult — it isn’t as if with the arrival of fall on Sept. 22 we switched to a heavier cotton blend in our shorts and T-shirts.

So, I’m post-dating a resolution for the fall and committing to spending more time on two wheels, bicycling to and from assignments and obligations, bicycling to take care of tasks and chores, bicycling to enjoy the sunshine and salt air.

I could make an argument that this resolution is intended to take my car off the road and help other motorists through the 45-day closure of the Anna Maria Island Bridge for repairs. The contractor with the Florida Department of Transportation took the bridge out of service to regular vehicle traffic on Sept. 29 and the plan is to keep the bridge out of service until Nov. 13.

But truthfully, this resolution is intended to take my car off the road and help me through the 45-day closure of the Anna Maria Island Bridge.

My plan is to pedal past the car-bound on the outside lane that’s by law reserved for me and other two-wheeling enthusiasts. I’ll wave to those I recognize and try not to smirk. I’ll nod to the trolley drivers, who logically should be transporting much higher numbers of passengers over the next month compared to last month and the month before.

My payoff for pedaling over motoring?

I’ll save some change on gas, avoid traffic, put recreation into my day, maybe save time and even help to curb pollution. If everyone who lived within five miles of work left his or her car at home just one day a week, nearly 5 million tons of global warming pollution would be saved every year, according to the Environmental Defense Fund.

I became a bicycling enthusiast in 1980 and I’ll admit that “Breaking Away” — that heartwarming 1979 film about an Indiana teen obsessed with an Italian cycling team — had something to do with my taking up the sport.

I’d been a “Rocky” fanatic, but realized fairly quickly and still at a young age that I would never become a heavyweight prizefighter.

Then I saw “Breaking Away,” and while I knew I couldn’t aspire to becoming a southpaw boxer from Philly, I could race my bike on the hilly highways of the Midwest.

I started to ride my Raleigh road bike to work after school. I started to ride long distances on weekends, building from 10 miles to 25 miles, from 40 miles to 65 miles. I took part in Bike Across the Magnificent Miles of Illinois — a multi-day trek over many miles in the Land of Lincoln. And I became a cyclist.

To ride was not exercise, not work. It was thrilling to race on the straightaway, to coast down a hill, to ride the wind into a turn.

Over the years, through college and newspaper jobs with long hours and little free time, bicycling became work. I didn’t bike because of the weather, because I didn’t want to lug my bike from my second-floor apartment, because I didn’t have enough time between appointments. I didn’t ride because I didn’t want my ride stolen. I didn’t ride because my bike, after too many potholes and rocks and curbs, had become clunky.

The Raleigh is long gone. So is the pretty but oh-so-delicate Peugeot that replaced the Raleigh.

I now have a purple, battered beach-cruiser bike purchased at a yard sale in Bradenton. I can’t hit high speeds on my Murray, but I still sense the thrill of the ride. And I expect that with my new resolve, after 45 days of pedaling, I’ll be a cyclist again — and I’ll keep on riding, through Thanksgiving, into December and on to another seasonal resolution.

Lisa Neff reports on Bradenton Beach, Holmes Beach and environmental issues for The Islander. Share how you’re coping with the bridge closure. Write to lisaneff@islander.org.

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