by sara dykman
So there I was, back in high school, doing what scared me most in high school: standing up in front of the class and giving a speech. Only this time, standing in front of a familiar classroom, talking to one of my favorite teachers and 20 high school students, I wasn’t scared. I was excited. I was excited to return to a familiar place changed; to picture myself eight years earlier unaware of the paths life would lead me down. Biking to my hometown and presenting to my old schools was a real highlight of bike49 for me.
As we rode through Kansas City the roads became more and more familiar the closer we got to my parent’s house where I grew up. We took a route through the city that I had cycled many times before on a commute to a summer job. There was none of the normal stress of a city. Not only did I know where we were going and how to get there, I knew the best roads. We traveled through Kansas City to my parent’s house pointing out childhood haunts, landmarks they had heard about from stories, and soaking in that feeling of being on familiar ground, of feeling at home.
We arrived at my parent’s hours earlier than I had expected. Turns out a mile in middle school or even high school is not as far as a mile now. Perspective changes as you ride more and more miles. What was an epic nine mile commute to work is now a few more miles that you don’t even think about.
My parents pulled out the red carpet for us. We ended up staying six nights, the longest of our trip. They organized a reception, so family and friends could come, visit and meet the rest of the gang. My mom cooked mountains of food, and aside from the award for longest stay, my parent’s get the award for the most home cooking. It was a real treat to be pampered, and take a break from our camp stove meals.
Of course I don’t really know what to do in cities. Exploring a city to me is usually going on long walks or bike rides to nowhere. So, I showed bike49 Kansas City like only I would. We biked through different neighborhoods, visited the local bar and grill to play shuffleboard, took the neighbor’s dog for a walk, bought candy from the popcorn store I use to work out, and went shopping at the local thrift store. And then to really make the Kansas experience complete I took them to my elementary school, middle school, and high school.
Speaking to the next generation of students at my old schools was especially rewarding for me. Not only was I exposing some kids from Kansas to the mountains of Alaska and the Swamps of Florida, but I was proving to them that even kids from Kansas can grow up to see those places for themselves. As I spoke to the classes I looked out and saw myself 8,12,20 years ago listening to a guest speaker and dreaming of the adventures I would have.
The guest speaker I particularly remember spoke to my elementary school. I don’t know his name, but he came every year and told my entire school about the exotic places he had been and showed pictures of the animals he had encountered. Sitting cross legged in the gym, feet falling asleep, I began daydreaming about when I would get to see the animals of the world. That man opened a door that has lead me to where I am now. I hope our presentations in Kansas have opened doors to the next generation.
I spent the first 18 years of my life in Kansas. I learned to ride a bike in Kansas. As bike49 pedaled through Kansas City to the house where I grew up, we rode the roads that first molded me into a biker. We passed several of my early commutes where I learned how to find good biking roads in a busy city. We passed neighborhoods I had gotten lost in, have crashed in, and have struggled to get too because I thought they were so far. It was in Kansas that I became addicted to that feeling of accomplishment and independence that comes with going on a long ride or getting somewhere with your own power, and to return on my bike after so many miles was a triumph for the little kid in me still learning to ride no-hands around the block.