It is at times stressing, and definitely more exerting than driving a car. I have heard of the many advantages of riding over other means of transportation, and the best will have to be how it may help to protect the environment by reducing the amount of gas fumes in the atmosphere. And it’s healthy. With sufficient nutrition, the rider exercises his muscles and his mental alertness in a way that is not found in other vehicles like plane or car trips. The bike rider definitely lives in every second of the stretch, exercising his lungs as he takes in the breeze around his head. Besides this headache that I feel in my head as a result of yesterday’s daring long ride, I think I actually enjoy this new experience of cycling.

The bike trails in Edwardsville are some of the most advanced in this country, and they form a very beautiful network of tracks of tar for both runners and riders. Yesterday was my first long distance journey out of the campus by myself since the last time I’d made a similar effort about a week after I got my bike. That time, I didn’t go too far. I’d gone to the boundaries of the University, and returned when the signs began to read new names. But I had planned to return on another one of those trips whenever time permitted. The SIUE campus has been reputed to be one of the largest in the country in terms of land area, behind only a few other universities, so venturing out to the ends of the campus boundaries was something of a start. Yesterday however, I went out of campus – through a different route – into town for a visit.

IMG_0193But it was while returning, alone, at night that I had another one of my travula moments. I got to a traffic light that showed red, and I brought out my camera to immediately capture the contrast of the colours against the darkness of the night, only to hear some voices from inside a car on the road, also waiting for the lights to change, screaming in my direction.

“What are you doing?” Apparently they were concerned. For what, I had no idea.

My hand shook from the startling noise, and the camera moved. I had missed my target shot, and I looked back at them. From the distance, I couldn’t see who they were in the car or how many they were. There must have been at least one man, and a few other girls – most likely from the university, and most likely coming from a party. They sounded African-Americans, and the voices I heard were the girls’.

“I’m taking pictures,” I shouted back.

“What for?” I heard again.

“Why do you care?” I retorted, with a shrug. I just couldn’t understand their right to question my priceless appreciation of something of beauty even though, in my mind, I knew that their surprise must be one of these things:

1. That they’d never seen anyone on a bike at night.

2. They’d never seen anyone on a bike at night, taking pictures.

3. They’d never seen anyone on a bike at night, taking pictures of a traffic light!

They became quiet for a little while, and then the light changed. They must have then resolved the doubt within their murmurs, because I then heard: “Okay, have fun taking pictures,” and I said “Thank you” with a thumbs up gesture, before they went across the t-junction towards the university. In my surprise, I didn’t immediately move across the road myself, nor return to get another camera shot of the traffic lights, but later on the way home, I couldn’t immediately decide as well whether that was an awkward moment, or not.

PS: Today, I’m signing up for membership of bicycles-for-humanity.org and bikesfortheworld.com, two non-governmental organizations whose aim is to find unused bikes in North America, Europe and some other western countries and send them to spots in the world where they’re most needed, and where they might change someone’s life by providing an effective means of harmless transportation. Join them if you can. You might be helping someone, somewhere.

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