Sara Van Donge, left, rides her Faithful Steed on Jan. 20 during the Tweed Ride.
I’m so lucky I live in Walla Walla, because bicycles are my favorite form of transportation.
My dad, Greg, inspired my appreciation for bikes. Last year he and my godfather, Randy Rogers, spent the summer riding their bicycles across the United States. His blog, 2guysbiketrip.com, is full of interesting photos and information. His latest project is a bicycle-propelled food cart, Panada Bike Bites, from which he will sell empanadas at the Farmers Market. Because of his love for bicycles, my family and I have always been the lucky recipients of his expertise.
My first bicycle was a little red banana-seat model with cool plastic streamers hanging out of the handlebars. My older brother, Christian, enjoyed BMX racing at Fort Walla Walla, so he and my dad worked together to convert my bike into a BMX bike. They replaced the long, cushiony seat with a small blue plastic one, the back-pedal brakes with handbrakes and the pom-pom handlebars with grippy blue ones. My bike was now a tiny BMX bike — the envy of older boys at school.
At first I wasn’t so sure; I was attached to the girly look of the original bike. But after riding my speedy new racing bike I was a convert. I loved that bike! Today I ride a 20-year-old Cannondale mountain bike, which I like to refer to as my Faithful Steed because it has carried me to high school, to college classes, to work, over 11 Portland bridges, throughout Walla Walla and on many country rides.
I have modified this bike in ways similar to my first bicycle, though kind of in the opposite direction. When I was pregnant I rode my bike everywhere (much to people’s horror). Because of my added — uh, girth — I needed a more comfortable seat. I replaced my little seat with one called the Chubby Buns seat; what an improvement! Though it is no longer necessary, I still have it because it is so much more comfortable than the original. I have also added a basket and a rack to hold kid seats or panniers.
My dad has always made sure my children could ride bicycles, too. When they were very young I had them on a CoPilot bike seat mounted to the back of my bike. As they got older they both fit into a Burley Bike Trailer, though there were times when they would bicker back there — kind of like a roving fight. I really miss those days. Now they both ride their own bikes, an exciting transformation that gives them a new freedom that I am still getting used to.
The past seven summers my family and I have participated in the Portland Bridge Pedal, a 14-mile bike ride crisscrossing the bridges of Portland’s downtown. The ride is very family-friendly, and my children love it. Last year was my daughter’s first time riding on her own bike, rather than one attached behind someone else, and she was so proud. My son rode on the tagalong behind me and he loved being up high rather than in a bike seat. The Bridge Pedal has become an important family tradition that we all look forward to each summer.
Walla Walla is a beautiful place to ride bikes. Our relatively flat topography, tree-lined streets and quiet roads make biking feasible and pleasant nearly year-round. One of my favorite rides is the Bad Ass Bicycle Ride, organized by Stacy Buchanan and Andy Alexander.
Bad Ass Bicycle Ride
Bad Ass Bicycle Ride is on Facebook
This phenomenon is something best seen because it is just ... incredible. We meet on occasion to wear zany outfits, make lots of noise, have a ton of fun — and all on bicycles. Our most recent ride was St. Patrick’s Day, when everyone wore, obviously, green. January’s affair was the Tweed Ride. What an event! Dressed in fancy tweed clothing we rode slowly through town, ending up at the Marc, where we visited and posed for photographs with Cody Onthank. It was magical.
Sara Van Donge is a Walla Walla native and middle school dual language teacher. She can be reached at email@example.com.