I grew up in the SF Bay Area and traveled by bike religiously throughout my childhood. I would ride to friends' houses, the grocery store, school, and to run errands for my parents. I have two older sisters and when I started riding a bike, I was given their hand-me-down bikes.
I was so excited to have their old bikes - it was a rite of passage to have their bikes handed down to me. The first bike I was given was a clunky, old, rusty-blue bike without handbrakes, which made a clattering noise as I rode it. My dad had to tighten the screws so it wouldn't fall apart.
My parents saw that I used the bike a lot, so they decided to save their money and buy me a bike for my 8th birthday. My parents didn't have much money, so this was a big deal, and I was so surprised and excited to see my new, beautiful, avocado glitter-green stingray with a banana seat, a sissy bar, and ape style handlebars!
I was in love! I rode that bike everywhere. I learned to repair the tires and grease the chain after visiting our local bike shop. I was rarely off that bike and was always willing to run an errand for my parents - although carrying bags of groceries always seemed to be a challenge, so my parents bought me a basket for the front of my bike.
Once I outgrew my precious stingray, I was back to a hand-me-down bike of my sisters'- a red, 10-speed with hand breaks. I felt like an adult on this huge bike, but it wasn't half as fun as my cool stingray.
Later in life, I got married, moved to Sacramento, and had my children. My husband surprised me with a very comfortable hybrid-mountain bike and again, my bike riding increased as I taught my children to ride their bikes. We would go on long bike rides in the neighborhood, then on trails, with a backpack lunch, and take some of the neighborhood children with us. It was so much fun!
After the kids left for college, my daughter's bike was stolen from her dorm, and she asked if she could "borrow" my bike. Of course, I said yes. The next time I visited my daughter at the dorm, my bike was nowhere to be found. I had promoted to management at work by this time and was busy working 50-hour weeks, so I didn't bother getting another bike for a decade.
I'm not certain why it took me so long to realize that while I was doing really well at work, my fun time had dramatically declined. Just before I retired, I got another bike and started riding again. The first time back on a bike, I felt the pang of freedom that I felt as a child. I had forgotten the gift of the open air hitting my body, the ability to see, hear, and smell everything around me, the experience of being in complete control of the bike and my journey. I could go anywhere and stop to look at a bird or the lake at any time. It felt completely free and exciting again. I wondered why I ever stopped riding since being on my bike was always so much fun.