It’s weird to think that, save for 2 weeks last October when I went back to the US, I haven’t driven a car in almost a year. It used to be such a part of my daily life. I had a Mazda 3, blue, with a stick shift and a moon-roof. I loved my car. I generally enjoyed driving it to work in the morning, when the roads were clear. The drive home, however, was less pleasant.
Nowadays, I get around mostly by bike. I do take the occasional public transportation (i.e. buses, trams, metros, and trains) when the distance is too far, or the weather is too wet/cold. Truthfully, those are the only times I miss my car. When I’m pedaling through the rain, the blast of wind hitting my face (because it seems like in Amsterdam you’re always riding against the wind, never with it), I miss my car. When the snow is falling, making the bicycle lanes slippery and covered, I miss my car. When I want to run several errands at the same time, including shopping at multiple stores, I miss my car (or, more precisely, I miss the trunk of my car).
However, those days are few and far between. Bicycling was one of the things I was looking forward to the most about living in Amsterdam. I thought, “I’ll wake up, get dressed, cycle to a bakery for some fresh croissants, pick up some coffee, and be home in time to start work.” Well, since most things don’t open until 9, which is when I start work, that didn’t really work out. However, I do try to ride my bike as often as possible. What I love about biking is how connected it makes you feel to the city. In a car, you’re in your own little bubble. You’ve got the radio on, the A/C or the heat blasting, and you’re only paying attention to the car in front of you, or the next turn. When you’re biking through Amsterdam, you’re *in* Amsterdam. You can look around at the beautiful architecture. You can hear the gentle waves as you pedal next to a canal. The ding of the trams, the sound of the musicians playing on random street corners. You can smell the bakery as you pass by. (You can also smell the Zoo, but I digress).
I was very excited when I got my first bike. I was pissed when it was stolen a few months later, but my replacement bike is even better. I looked for any excuse I could to ride places. Snowing? Bah, I see the Dutch out on their bikes, so I’ll try it. Need to run to pick up Chinese take-out? I’ll bike there, even though it’s like a 4 minute walk.
As the months have gone by, my enthusiasm for biking has died down. Predictably. Things like this happen throughout my life. I’d get into exercise, and be all excited about it, only to lose the excitement within a few weeks, and stop altogether. I got into wood-working for a while, and built a work area in my basement in St. Louis. I think I built 2 things before giving up.
My diminished enthusiasm for biking was to be expected. It’s sort of like when you get a brand new car. At first, you want to drive everywhere, and you may even go for drives on the weekend with no particular destination in mind just because you enjoy the new car. Eventually that fades, and the car is just something you use to get from point A to point B. That’s what has happened to me. Biking somewhere is no longer new, or novel. It’s just routine. It’s how I get from point A to point B. Do I still miss having a car? Sure. If I want to go to Ikea, it takes me 45 minutes by public transport, and I have to lug my purchases back through the metro and bus. That’s when I miss having a car. The rest of the time, my bike works just fine, thank you. It’s just a part of my life now. If I want to go somewhere, I jump on my bike and go.