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LGRAB Summer Games – Vacation Biking & Book Review

August 2, 2011

I am so excited to be a part of the Summer Games.   I’ve completed two challenges so far and will do more when I return to Chicago and my beloved Michelle.

Challenge: Ride a Bike while on Vacation

I am visiting my family in Massachusetts. They spend their summers at a beautiful campground in woods.  Their site is surrounded by a verdant pine forest.  Only a short bike ride or walk away is a pristine lake. The city is far away. I can hear the sounds of wildlife and breathe fresh air.   I have been coming to this campground all my life.  I am surrounded by memories of racing through the dirt roads and paved paths of the campground with my brothers towels slung over our backs heading down to the beach to spend the day swimming and playing king of the dock on the floating raft.  My mom would send us to the store to buy bags of ice and we would balance one bag on each handlebar–my first attempts at carrying cargo…

I needed to ride (and complete my summer challenge!) so  I dusted off my dad’s old mountain bike and hit the paths and trails of my childhood. Yes I know the challenge says to rent a bike, but why rent when a bike is readily available?   I hope this will still count toward the challenge!

Here’s the bike and a view of the campsite:

It felt so  strange to ride a mountain bike (I haven’t ridden one since I sold my old mountain bike in the spring and bought Michelle), a man’s bike with a diamond frame, and an extra tall bike. I managed just fine though and was soon speeding past the trees, hearing the crunch of rocks under my wheels and the wind (no helmet, I left it in Chicago) in my hair.

An actual hill…imagine!

Here I am with my loaner bike at the lake:

I made a video of the part of the ride but I can’t upload it until I get home because I don’t have a micro SD card reader. Watch for the video this weekend!

Challenge:  Read a Book about Cycling

I lucked out with this one because a book I’ve had on hold at the library for months was finally available for me to borrow, Wheels of Change; How Women Rode the Bicycle to Freedom.

Here’s an excerpt from the dust cover:

Before the bicycle arrived in the 1880s and ’90s, women’s lives were restricted.  Most had no independent means of transportation.  Many felt constrained by a society that imposed high expectations for propriety and standards of behavior. And all were limited by the corsets, petticoats, and ruffles that were part of fashionable clothing.

With the amazing advent of the bicycle, however, a pair of wheels would change all of that.  The bicycle craze swept the nation and allowed women to ride into a new world and all sorts of freedoms.

I knew that bikes were important for women but I had no idea how critical of a role they played in the radical changes that had to occur to bring about equal rights for women.  In fact, there is no greater symbol for our freedom than the bicycle!

In a time when women were confined to the home the invention of the bicycle was a woman’s ticket to freedom.  Suddenly she had a form of transportation that allowed her to see the world on her own.  She could escape pesky chaperones to go on romantic picnics in the countryside with her beaus. She could hold a job and challenge conventions for sports and arts.

As this illustration shows, suffragettes felt empowered by their bicycle. These women bravely stopped Winston Churchill to confront him about his attitudes towards giving giving women the right to vote in Britain.

The bicycle was championed by suffragettes and led the way to more sensible clothing for women.  Today it is still emancipating women from poverty (as spoken about in the forward written by Leah Missbach Day  who founded the World Bicycle Relief with her husband) by providing a free  safe and efficient transportation for girls  (and boys) to get to school in Africa and other developing areas.

Mary Lewanika, 16, rides the first bike distributed through WBR's BEEP Program

This wonderful book by Sue Macy explores the bicycle’s impact on women through history.  It is filled with engaging images, antidotes by women of the times, newspaper excerpts.  I recommend this book for all women, whether or not they cycle because we need to remember the struggle it took for us to gain our equality and to remind ourselves that there are still women suffering.  The bicycle’s role as our emancipator is just as valid today as it was then.


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