Honk if you love riding bicycles

There's nothing like living in another country to hone your ability to adapt. Since I've been in Spain, I can say with certainty that my tastes, inclinations, and habits have shifted - some with greater ease than others.

Sometimes I'm tempted to feel as though I'm being overhauled like a car. I keep asking if I have to change everything.

For example, I've become pleasantly accustomed to eating a big meal between 2 and 3 p.m., which always includes fresh bread and sweet fruit that melts in your mouth. I've adjusted quite easily to many businesses and shops being closed between 2 and 5 o'clock, which carves out time to reflect or even take a nap. And I've reluctantly accepted that gas stations don't sell fountain drinks with all the ice I want.

But for me, bicycle riding is a must, thank you, and that's not going to change.

You might ask why it should. Where we live in Spain, motorbikes are very popular - mostly with young people - while bike riding isn't. From my observation, the majority of bicycle riders are boys and professional riders.

I've come to the conclusion that it must not be cool for women to ride a bike for I've yet to see a woman out on a bike. Could they be riding their mountain bikes in the mountains? For the most part, I don't think so. But women must be riding at least some of those bikes that I see lined up in bike stores.

As much as I have jumped right in and enjoyed adjusting to the Spanish culture, riding my bike is important to me. It has become my metaphor for a deep, inner constancy and joy that remains in the midst of change. For me, it is a symbol of universal freedom and the pure simplicity of enjoying who you are, where you are, and what you are doing.

To me, bike riding is a reminder of the natural activity of moving with the rhythm of life regardless of the culture you live in.

When I'm riding my bike, I'm always reminded of a two-tone pink and white Ford convertible that my family had in the late 1950s. Let me explain. It wasn't pastel pink, but that bright fuchsia pink that recycles itself every few years in the clothes that are in fashion.

When we were taking vacations, my family would wait with great anticipation to spot another two-tone. Like Jeeps honking at one another, we would honk whenever we saw another car like ours - an infrequent occurrence - and the other driver would honk back.

Both parties knew they were driving something very different from the other cars on the road.

When Jeeps honk - and there are plenty of them - it's because it's a Jeep thing, and, as they say, the rest of us don't understand. When white and pink two-tones - of which there were few - honked, they were publicly announcing that it wasn't a Jeep thing, but a two-tone thing, and we were enjoying it anyway.

The analogy is a little obscure, but when I'm out riding, keeping my eyes peeled for another woman rider, I feel a little as I did when I was a young girl trying hard to spot another pink and white Ford.

While I was walking the other day, I was amazed to see a woman parking her bicycle by the library. And there I was without my bike or my horn to celebrate the moment.

I imagined us honking at each other, exhilarated by a momentary sharing of an understood secret - connected by a delight in bike riding regardless of its cultural acceptance. I felt a strong impulse to go up to her and pour out my thoughts.

While I was lost in trying to translate them in my yet-imperfect Spanish, she disappeared. But now I knew there were other women bike riders out there. I remembered the thrill of waiting to honk at a pink and white Ford, and I couldn't wait to get back on my bike.

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