Traverse City Bike Life: Shea O’Brien

by Shea O’Brien

As I was walking passed the old city library, you know, the one on sixth street near downtown, I had this moment of nostalgia that forced me to write. A moment that opened up some clarity into why I love riding my bicycle.

I have such a deep flowing memory of when my Father was a stay at home Dad. I had just learned to ride my bike, only after falling many times, and my sister was walking and talking. My dad put her in the child seat on his bike and we set out on an urban adventure.

Now, 2 miles obviously isn’t far, but to a kid who just started riding without training wheels it’s on the other side of the world. We rode down Fern street and crossed Eighth street, what was my father thinking?! But he had the confidence in me which caused me to be just as confident. I was always such a cautious kid but that day I threw caution to the wind.

I remember riding through all the neighborhoods, my sister’s long hair blowing in the breeze and the birds singing a song of summer time. The sun warming my face, causing me to freckle. It was all so exhilarating but also kind of centering, meditative. I was in a zone. Cars gave us plenty of room as we hugged the curb. I never feared that anything bad would happen. My dad rode fast, I kept up. He slowed down, I did too. We all talked. We all laughed.

We arrived at the library 20 minutes later, a bit sweaty but, who cared? I had just ridden my bike, by myself for what seemed like an eternity and I felt so cool! We spent the day loading up on books and headed for home. The sun was low, dusk had somehow crept up on us but, again, there was nothing to fear, we had gotten here, we can get back. Dad took us on a completely different route, through downtown on State street to the neighborhood, up to Rose and through the trees at Traverse Heights to home again.

I learned so much that day. How to ride “long” distances, where the library was located, how to be sure of myself, that all roads lead home. And so many other life lessons I hope to instill in my children someday.

In this moment of clarity I realized when I’m out on my bike, I’m chasing that meditative state I felt so long ago. Some days it’s as simple as a quick ride to work. Others, I find myself having ridden to Sutton’s Bay. All to attain a feeling of cool confidence, assuredness that everything is just fine, you are exactly where you need to be.

Biking is transportation for so many. Biking is sport for so many. But for me it is one of the purest forms of nostalgia, getting back to my roots, being childish and having fun. It’s a way for me to express my idealist thought that life is meant to be lived, not worked for.

So, to that end, let’s all get out there on our bikes, on our feet and live.

You can follow Shea’s adventures on Instagram at @shea.m.obrien

TC Bike Life is a story series featuring ordinary people doing ordinary things on their bicycles in Traverse City aims to create awareness for the growing presence of people on bicycles in Traverse City, one story at a time.

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