A rental bike station has always stood invitingly at the corner of my street, beckoning me for an urban outing. It was a strangely warm day of autumn and one of the last nice days of the year before winter set in for good. I approached the bike station with my meticulously-packed backpack and water bottle. I was wearing a cute outfit to commemorate the day, too: my newest crop top and floral skirt over leggings (gals, the skirt ended up being a mistake).
By the way: I’ve never been a biker. I casually circled around the neighborhood cul de sac when I was younger, but once I outgrew my bike I hadn’t ventured on one since. Until a dorm floor trip to Valley Forge: breezing through the historic rolling hills has been one of my favorite memories of college so far. I loved the wind in my face. The allure of urban adventure and the need for a new fave physical activity suddenly made biking make a lot of sense.
This trip was a test run. I had no destination in mind except that I knew there was a strip to bike on alongside the river, past 30th street. Maybe I’d study in a nearby coffee shop. Clueless and tentative, I walked my bike for a solid block before casually boarding it and entering traffic — like it was nothing — and immediately entered a hellish experience.
Biking in a city is stressful — until I realized that drivers really don’t want to get sued. Still, once I got off my bike, I was walking with trembling legs.
Then, I followed a woman’s directions for the bike path and found the most beautiful place on Earth.
I discovered this leaf-strewn, peaceful park, bustling with racing children and pets. There was a community garden on my right; a basketball court to the side; and a dog park ahead of me. A. Dog. Park. I wondered if a car had struck me and sent me to heaven.
I walked through the park, bike by my side, in an awestruck trance. I thought it couldn’t get any better until I saw the view of the river.
Screw the coffee shop. I sat at a park bench and fiddled with my computer program. I absorbed the sights of carefree children, cuddling couples, and adorable DOGS. I got up to stroll through the garden, stopping fondly at the familiar plants and flowers.
I felt so alive and content. Hands-down one of the best things I’ve ever done.
As it turns out, I’m terribly physically unfit and the biking made my entire body sore the next day. But I’ve rarely felt so independent, alive, and content. I feel closer to the person I aspire to be. Hands-down one of the best days.