Santa had it right

Martin Wallace - New York, NY

Santa had it right

One Christmas morning, when I was about 10 years old, the most amazing gift appeared underneath the tree. Little did I know how enduring a gift that would be. My parents had taught me how to ride a bike one year when we were visiting family in Sun River, Oregon, and I took to it like a bird on its first flight. Yep, right over the handlebars and face first into a rock. But, I learned how to ride and never looked back.

However, I lived in Roswell, Georgia, one of the drivingest places you can find on this green earth, and my parents weren't about to let me ride any farther than the subdivision in which we lived. So, I rode a LOT of miles in a very small area, but I was not deterred. As I grew older, like the other kids around me, I craved a car because I wanted to be able to go and see my friends and have some independence. No buses or other transit as an alternative existed where we were, so I switched to the car and my bike gathered dust in the garage for a number of years. 

The time came that I needed to head off to college in order to improve my chances for a good paying job that could afford me a house, a car, a wife and all of the things that were expected for a young man of my pedigree. So, off I went.  The first two years I was without a car, but my third year of college I drove my dad's Buick Convertible up to Minneapolis. I majored in music and minored in psychology, so any chance of a good paying job, house and new cars were not in my future. Instead, I worked crazy low-paying part time jobs, found a way to afford a used car in addition to the convertible, and dug myself into an existence that I imagine is not much better than the one that many students and recent graduates are living today. However, not too far into this disaster, I began to do some thinking - ah yes, the stuff that a college degree and $20,000 worth of debt can stimulate - and I was also given a BIKE! 

Here began a new chapter in my life! Santa, that magical elf, had foreseen this rocky road and the spirit of my bike returned. I began taking more of my trips by bike. Grocery shopping (oh yes, I also started volunteering at a food co-op); visiting friends; work - the bike was perfect! And all this in Minnesota, the land of snow and ice, -60 degree wind-chill. I finally sold BOTH of the cars, and learned how to use public transportation.

But this was just the tip of the iceberg. I moved to Portland, Oregon, to be closer to friends and both of my grandmothers. Portland, AKA Bike Heaven on Earth! It was in Portland that I learned that the bike could be used for practically EVERYTHING! Moving; Camping; Shopping; Work; Exercise; Fun; Romance. I went on my first long-distance trip from Portland to Seattle to go and visit friends there, and ultimately decided to move there. 

Here's the best part. Biking had become a major criterion for choosing who to date. And, lo, one month after moving to Seattle, I met my true love. A fiery Italian woman who didn't even have a driver's license! What, no driver's license? It was like she was from Mars! Who doesn't know how to drive in my life? Nobody. 

This is a love story that started when I was 10 and is still going. Now I live in New York City, so a LOT of people I know either don't know how to drive, or just plain don't drive because it's too crazy to own a car here. In fact, we have a son who started riding with us on our bikes when he turned one, and now he rides on his own bike. He's named after his great-grandfather who used a bike as his only means of transportation all his life, and who also repaired bikes. 

So, thank you Santa. Thanks for seeing my need before I even knew that I had it. I only hope that you'll help a bunch of other kids in the coming years. Get them bikes, and give them places to ride. They'll thank you for it, and maybe they'll even find their soulmate while riding.

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