With gas topping $4 a gallon and summer in full sway, I have recently embraced bicycling over driving. To be honest, I don't have much choice these days. My son Tim's vehicle gave up the ghost several weeks ago, and as he and his small family need a car more than I do, I loaned them mine. Charlie, ensconced in a distant project, has our truck. Working at home with biped or two-wheeled transport, I am charmed by my new status.
Our Indiana farm borders the town of Bloomington, a mere five miles south, and biking back and forth for groceries and other errands has become a daily ritual of infinite variety. The two givens are to descend the steep hill from our ridge top to Cascades park with a liberal application of brakes – and to walk my steed up said hill on the homeward journey.
Aside from that hill, the lay of the land is conducive to leisurely biking with a few shifts in gear. Cascades, with its rippling and now swollen stream, waterfalls, and hidden springs (one of which I first heard from my bike) rewards open-air transport. From there, I can pedal up a rise to a favorite northside grocery (how one notices topographical nuance under one's own steam) or continue to the town's center and beyond to join friends for dinner at their home. They offered to pick me up, but I felt like earning that meal.
Like the water that has inundated our region and state recently, I sought paths of least resistance, which brought me through new as well as deeply familiar neighborhoods, then the lovely old woods of the Indiana University campus – as well as countless puddles.
Coming home the next morning (I have no lights, and these are truly welcoming friends) was better yet, as it became clear that there is more downhill coasting from south to north. I fairly glided to that final hill, and walked up it in fine fettle.
Here on Bethel Lane, I can bike to see neighbors whose plots are overflowing with greens (and who will later benefit from our own garden patch), whose needs for haying equipment we can meet this winter if needed, and who just might have a used car for sale.
So, who doesn't benefit from this energy-saving mode of transportation? Ask Ben and Buck, our draft horses, who vacuumed up the last of the grain with their thick lips four days ago. I regale them with carrots, caresses, and excuses when they come to the barn for their daily ration.
But their beseeching and expectant eyes turn more accusatory each time I don't deliver. I can't explain to them the conundrum of delivering a 50-pound bag of sweetened oats on a bicycle. Tim has one more errand on his list tomorrow.