From small town girl to big city cyclist
When I moved to Minneapolis to attend the University of Minnesota I was clueless about city culture. Growing up in North Dakota with six siblings did not prepare me for navigating the life of a single college girl, alone in a metropolis. The Twin Cities, Minneapolis and St Paul are many many times larger than any of the small rural towns I had lived in. I arrived green eyed, eternally hopeful, and way too cute for my own good (as they say). Naive was my middle name. Looking back, I sometimes marvel at how I thrived. Or at least, survived. Thankfully my positive energy attracted mostly good people and I’m creative enough to problem solve most unexpected situations.
As a child my nickname was Min, as in Minnie Mouse, because of my tiny size. I didn’t outgrow it. (Hey, I just revealed the origin of my username, min in the city). Settling into my dorm room, I felt worlds away from small town life, both physically and emotionally. There I was, feeling independent and free, yet directionless. I knew I wanted something more, but what?
My family gave me very little direction and a hearty helping of unnecessary fear. I recall a conversation with my sister about getting around the sprawling campus alone. I said I felt safer on my bike than on foot. Her response was that biking instead of walking wouldn’t keep me safer. A rapist could hide in the bushes, jab a pole into my wheel spokes as I passed, and attack me when I fell off my bike. Thanks for the pep talk, sis. I get it, sort of. None of my family members had lived alone in a city this size. How could I, the littlest? And why would I want to? All they saw here was too much traffic. But I saw opportunity. Stepping out of the little box I was raised in, beyond my comfort zone, growing.
After several years of living at Minneapolis addresses, this city was becoming an important part of my identity. When I accidentally moved to St Paul, it was weird realizing I’d become so attached. The University of Minnesota is immersed in the city and it’s not obvious where the Minneapolis and St Paul campuses begin and end. When my future roommates and I chose our apartment I didn’t realize it was just outside Minneapolis city limits. So, for one year, I had a St Paul address. I never connected, though. No offense STP. My heart is in MSP. My favorite city lakes and parks, bikes shops, restaurants, co-ops, and other local businesses are here. I never felt a strong sense of place as a child because we moved to different parts of North Dakota. Finally, I understand why people express pride in their home city.
Although I wasn’t the passionate cyclist I am today, I loved experiencing city life on two wheels. No need for gas stations stops or parallel parking skills! After years of grinding on pavement with my mountain bike, I met a changemaker. This guy chased me down the Greenway bicycle path. I on rollerblades, he on bike, we introduced ourselves. Thankfully I said yes to meeting for a bike ride several days later. Now he’s my favorite guy. And more to the point of this story, that ride motivated me to get a bike more suitable to riding on pavement. I sold my mountain bike and never looked back.
It seems obvious now, but I didn’t know any cycling enthusiasts until I met him. I didn’t get it. I thought there were bicycle riders like me, and cyclists who wore spandex, clipped their shoes to the pedals and showed up everywhere drenched in sweat. I was NOT a cyclist. I was a girl who rode bikes… I’m so grateful I started exploring various riding styles and began my journey to where I am today. Sometimes I am that cyclist clad in spandex, clipped in, and wiping sweat out of my eyes. Sometimes I commute and do errands by bicycle. Sometimes I go on joyrides to my favorite places. And approximately once per year I saddle up and ride a century (100 miles in a day) just because I can.
Thinking back to small town life when I wanted five children, or my college years when I studied Elementary Education, I never dreamed I’d become a cyclepreneur. Cycling entrepreneur. Sharing my love of cycling and sustainable transportation with the world is everything that girl never knew she wanted.
2 thoughts on “My (brief) tale of two cities”
Oh my gosh I laughed so hard when you said you accidentally moved to St Paul! 😀
Thinking back, it seems funny that I was so disappointed – and unaware!