Freedom of Wheel
by John T. Baker

Since the terrorist attacks on September 11, everyone with a keyboard has felt compelled to write what it meant to them, and analyze the consequences for America. Far be it from me to think that I could add to that which far greater minds than mine struggle to comprehend. And yet, I have to think about it….

Lately, I can't swing a leg over the bicycle saddle without thinking how lucky we are for the freedom we enjoy. And I'm not talking about Freedom with a big F, necessarily. Freedom, with a big F, is really just a bunch of little freedoms (with little f's). And I'm completely blessed with the freedom to get on my bike and ride wherever I want to.

Just a few days after the attacks, a friend and I packed a change of clothes into a backpack and rode to Atlanta. We took three days, staying in little fleabag hotels and eating cheeseburgers at roadside quicky marts. (We ate boiled peanuts too…well, Jim did. I can't quite get past their booger-like consistency.) We saw small town America at its finest.

We had a blast. People stared at us from the prisons of their riding mowers and their bodies made immobile from a lifetime of convenience. (I choose to believe they were jealous.) Nobody asked us for our papers. We didn't have to show a passport to any authority figure. We weren't harrassed by anyone (except for six rebel babies in a Neon just south of Ellijay). We didn't have to ask permission to go. We just up and went. If that's not freedom, then I don't know what is. And any one of you could do the same thing tomorrow if you took a mind to it. And you know what? You should.

The ability to travel freely is one of our greatest freedoms. And anyone reading this has the greatest traveling device ever created sitting in their garage. The media, politicians, pundits and loudmouths have said that it might become necessary to curtail some of our freedoms in an effort to make our country more secure. Perhaps that's prudent. Maybe it's for the common good. But when the day comes that I have to get a permit to ride my bike, when I have to file a ride plan with some government agency, when I have to show my papers to the bicycle police...well it's just too depressing to think about.

I'm not saying I think that day's coming. To the contrary, if the government ever paid more than lip service to bicycles or bicycle causes I'd be stunned beyond the capacity of words. What I am saying is that the horrible events of September 2001 have made me appreciate this greatest freedom that I used to take so for granted.

I hope by these words, maybe I'll encourage you to take your own bicycle freedom quest. Look at your calendar, pick a place and time, write it down, and go. Commit to it. You will not regret it. I promise. Exercise some of that freedom you have lying around unused.

John T. Baker