It all started with a dusty, old bike buried in the back of my garage.
“Well, it looks like this is how you’ll be getting to work, Sofie,” my dad told me a week before I was starting my new adventure.
I was interning at the Colorado Springs Gazette this summer, and I was offered free housing downtown, a few blocks from my internship. It made sense, my dad said, for me to bike myself to work.
Up until this summer, I needed fair warning before I would go for a bike ride. I had to be prepared the night before my dad came knocking on my door at 5:30 a.m. if I was going to join him on a bike ride through my small desert town in Arizona.
Now, I’d be biking 15 minutes a day just to get to work.
It felt like kindergarten all over again, learning to ride a bike in the city. But this time, instead of tying my shoelaces and remembering to bring my sack lunch to school, I was buckling up my helmet, zipping up my bright yellow backpack and adjusting the seat to my new whip.
I whizzed past the mountains and didn’t bother to give them a glance. I passed a few people, too, but I was sure I didn’t have time to say hi. I was on a mission: get to the Gazette office, greet my editor, write for my editor, say goodbye to my editor, repeat.
My assignments proved me wrong.
I wrote about Gene Kranz, the flight director of the first Apollo moon landing. I wrote about famous country singers, like Josh Turner.
I wrote about people who ski on the Fourth of July, and legendary cowgirls from Wyoming.
The composer and Juilliard professor I interviewed said he felt like we were lifelong friends, and I even made plans to get dinner in New York City with a philanthropist who started an arts festival in a Colorado mountain town.
It was after writing these stories that I realized something: My bike rides gave me an invitation to meet fascinating people too.
The mountains I whizzed by, the people whose names I didn’t know, the buildings that seemed empty: I had been biking to the stories, without realizing that I was biking right through one.
The stories I wrote in the office inspired me to look outside of myself, and my daily bike ride was the first place to start.
When I biked past the mountains, I now thought about the people who were climbing them, soaking in the natural world. At stop lights, I looked to my right and made friends with the people crossing the street.
Some conversations were quick, but we knew we’d see each other at the stoplight the next day. Other encounters turned into something much more long-term, like the friends I ended up hiking with, and whose kids I would eventually babysit.
Instead of wheeling my bike into the Gazette office one morning, I stopped and talked to a shy mom trying to manage her four little kids. She said she and her family had moved to the city just four days ago. I told her I’d be their new friend.
She jotted down my number, and a week later I received a text from them, asking if I wanted to go hiking that night. I had made a friend the old-fashioned way.
Often times, I’d look at the buildings around me downtown as I biked to writing assignments, and think about what was happening inside them. Which athletes stopped in to the Olympic headquarters on Tejon Street today? How early did the bakers show up at my favorite coffee shop? I engaged with these stories that I would’ve missed altogether had I been driving in my car.
There was a certain beauty to my old, grey bike. I didn’t need a key, a parking spot or even a seat belt to go on an adventure.
All I needed was a helmet and a couple of wheels.