I spent most of last week on a work trip that took me from Kelowna to Nelson and back again in three short days.
It's been a while since I was last in the Kootenays, and it was a wonderful reminder of just how beautiful it is there. Nelson is a gorgeous town, ringed by densely forested mountains and filled with old buildings huddling on steep streets that plunge down toward the glacial waters of Kootenay Lake.
Between time on the road and teaching two full-day classes I didn't have a whole lot of time to spare, and the rain pounded down constantly during my visit, but on the one evening that I was able to take a walk by the lake the clouds parted and the sun made a brief appearance before dipping below the crests of the hills.
As I walked, though, there was a profound sense of something missing. I realized what it was when the first cyclist passed me in the park near the bridge, with a happy collie bounding beside her bike.
Walking couldn't get me far enough or fast enough; and driving through the town, as I had on the first evening, got me to my destination far too quickly and without the time to appreciate the scenery around me.
What I really wanted was to be exploring the town on a bike, cruising the smooth gravel paths by the lakeshore and then riding up to the dirt trails that I knew ringed the outer edge of the residential area.
I'd made a spirited attempt to rent a bike when I first got into town, approaching two bike stores (including the amazing Boomtown Sports Emporium, which for a sports junkie like me was better than being a kid in a candy store) to find out prices and hours.
But with an early start back to Kelowna on my last day, there was just no way I could get a rental bike back to the shop after opening and still make my flight home to Vancouver.
And so I found myself by the lakeside with a distinct sense that things weren't quite right. When a bike is your primary method of day-to-day transportation, you become attuned to the world passing you by at a cycling pace. Like a vehicular Goldilocks, nothing else feels quite right. Cars are too fast, walking is too slow, and for a klutz like me a skateboard or rollerblades require far too much concentration to avoid serious injury.
There simply isn't anything else that can substitute for a bike. After flying into the airport late on Thursday, within 12 hours I was back on my bike on my familiar commute across the Burrard Bridge to work. It might not have given me new territory to explore, but simply being back in the saddle with my feet on the pedals was all the assurance I needed that I was home.
Kay Cahill is a cyclist, librarian and outdoor enthusiast who believes that bikes are for life, not just for commuting. Read more at sidecut.ca, or contact Kay at firstname.lastname@example.org.