- Joe Lilly
Two wheels to freedom
From my earliest memories having freedom was important. I received my first bike at the age of four. It was a used, hand-me-down that my older brother and sister learned to ride on. I was so grateful for my very own set of two wheels to freedom. At that age I am not sure what exactly I needed freedom from, but what I remember so vividly was how good it felt to ride as fast as I could down the sidewalk, towards the end of our block. It was as if the wind I was feeling was blowing away my worries and stress. Fifty something years later, I feel the wind of Dalmatia doing the same for me, as I am still riding my two wheels to freedom.
I used to envy people in the french photos with baguettes sticking out of their bike basket. Since we moved out of the US and settled into the small seaside village of Tisno in Croatia, I have been living the life of the people on these photos, incorporating bike riding for pleasure and my daily life activities, like running errands or harvesting herbs.
Some mornings I wake up and start thinking about breakfast, knowing that Laura will be hungry for her eggs and freshly baked bread as soon as she opens her eyes. I am all too happy to jump on my bike, equipped with various bags, and cycle down and across Tisno bridge, to the island of Murter, to my favorite grocery store. If I get there early enough I can still find a loaf of my favorite bread, called peka. Peka is round, like peka - the bell under which people cook meat and potatoes on the outdoor grill, to die for.
Living in a foreign country whose language I speak very little, I am a lot more likely to have interesting encounters when on my bike then driving in the car all the time. Just the other day, I parked my bike in front of the local bulletin board which informs the community of who died, or if the power will be shut off for part of the day. When I came out of the grocery store, an elderly woman stood so close to my bike, I thought she was going to ride off on it. I slowly walked to my bike, intruding her tiny personal space, which prompted her to start talking to me in Croatian. I apologized and explained that I speak very little Croatian, using one of my few handy Croatian phrases. She laughed (in Croatian!) and moved out of my way.
Such unusual social encounters is how I learn about my new culture while riding my two wheels to freedom.