One of my favourite things to do is travel by bike. Nearly every trip I have taken has brought me something unexpected and often beautiful. Some people cycle for the environment, some cycle for health but as for me, I cycle because I never know what will happen.
Even a short trip like the one I took with Daegan last night can hold some surprises. The stated purpose of our trip was simple: we wanted some of this:
Just an hour’s bike ride north of us is Hot Spicy Spicy, an amazing Sichuan style Chinese restaurant. To get there we were able to travel almost entirely off-road on tree-lined paths along the Don River. On the way up we rode past a group of kids playing cricket in the park. Seeing us they got excited and started chasing us shouting “Hitchhike! Hitchhike!”
Occasionally we had to go through industrial areas including one kind of sketchy looking place underneath a large bridge filled with bare earth, shipping containers and some construction equipment. There are faster ways to get there but here we could ride side by side and chat most of the way there.
The food was as good as we’d hoped and having had an hour long bike ride my usual over ordering of food didn’t happen. Apparently we were never over ordering, we were under cycling. After dumplings, noodles, and the amazing beef soup you see above, we got on our bikes and headed toward home.
This time, as we headed home, back toward the sketchy under-bridge area we heard some music. If I didn’t know any better I’d have thought I was about to join an augmented reality Super Mario Bros game like this guy made. But it wasn’t. Instead, at the far end of the area under the bridge we could see one of the shipping containers had been opened. Two guys were next to it and they’d set up some steel drums. And there they were having a fantastic steel drum jam session in a neglected corner of the city. I would be lying if I said I didn’t bounce to the music a little bit in the saddle.
As we approached our neighbourhood, there were more people walking in the park. More people on a shared pathway means we had to slow down a lot. And slowing down means you get to overhear parts of people’s conversations. Most weren’t memorable but one did stick out. A man was talking to his partner and noticing us I overheard the words “Saikil Chalaanaa” (“to ride a bike”)
I’ve been studying Hindi now for several years. The challenge has always been vocabulary. Learning one on one with my teacher I find many words hard to remember. But when I have more of a memory to attach it to, it’s easier to remember the words. I remember all of the Hindi curse words I’ve been taught because I still remember sitting with colleagues at work who were laughing at the hilarity of getting me to curse like a sailor like teaching their toddler brother to curse. For a long time I kept forgetting the way to say “for me” – something that should be simple but wouldn’t stick. All it took was my trying to talk to my autorickshaw driver in Mumbai and saying it the incorrect way to forever remember it. I said it, he laughed and corrected me, and that combined with the sense of riding at speed, smelling the exhaust and weaving through traffic made it stick. And now I will never forget how to talk about riding a bike because instead of my teacher reminding me, I now have a memory of a day where I got to ride my bike with my son, eat delicious food, hear a private steel drum concert and pass by people talking about us with the sensation of the wind on my face and joy in my heart.
And this is why I love stepping outside of my usual routine: it always leads to places like this.