Cycling Sources #1- ‘The Joys of Cycling by a Middle Aged Woman, Part Two

‘A charm of cycling is the ease with which one casts off all restraint when one becomes indifferent to all remark and criticism. A delightful feeling of ‘abandon’ possesses us, and we almost lose our own individuality in a sense of absolute freedom. Once I envied the tramp who could slip off the roadside into the nearest field and, stretching himself on the green earth, find deep sleep and rest with his face turned up to the open sky; but I envy him his freedom from restraint and encumbrance no longer, nor does the ease of the man in his carriage as he rolls along excite any desire for similar possessions.’

Image from a cycling catalogue (source: http://www.oldbike.eu/emancipation/?page_id=430)

‘I am writing this from a small seaside resort in Cumberland. A year ago we should have been limited to the enjoyment of the shore and walks within easy distances. Now with our wheels we are within reach of places twenty-five miles away, and get delightful inland journeys. Yesterday a ride of twenty miles revealed to us all the grandeur of one of the nearest lakes, and though certainly there were some rough and hilly places, there were also long spells of level, good surface, which made the ride all enjoyment.’

‘We passed cottage gardens fragrant with stock and mignonette and old fashioned country flowers; we passed quiet farmhouses, where we were tempted to stop to look into the byres to see the cows ready for milking; and onto the small picturesque village with its trim hedges and beautiful trees. Leaving our machines on the roadside, we turned aside to the river bank and wandered along its course till we saw the outlet from the lake and caught glints of the river as it made its way through the valley to the sea. The earth was all lovely, garlanded with briars and ferns and bracken; here and there a patch of richly coloured fungi lay like jewels on the grass or encircled the moss coloured roots of some old tree; and brighter light gleamed from gorse and bell-heather as the afternoon sunshine poured its glory around and flooded the mountain tops in a purple and golden glow. All this, no doubt, is a common experience to the general tourist, but to us is part of a new world to which cycling is leading us.’

‘We have had many pleasures in the way of travelling, but we have never yet experienced such exhilarating enthusiasm or such complete recreation. What once was impossible has become possible, and distance is no longer the barrier to the refreshment of country life or contact with kindred spirits. The woman who is neither strong nor young can throw herself free for a time into all that invigorates and renews, and in the midst of a busy life, both of public and private duties, find that contact with nature and humanity which enriches and emancipates. With Walt Whitman, she sings,

‘Light hearted I take to the open road,
Healthy, free, the world before me,
The long brown path before me leading where I choose.
I think whoever I shall meet on the road I shall like, and whoever beholds me shall like me;
All seems beautiful to me.
I can repeat over to men and women, ‘You have done such good to me, I would do the same to you.’
I shall scatter myself among men and women as I go;
I will toss and new gladness among them;
Whoever denies me, it shall not trouble me;
Whoever accepts me, he or she shall be blessed, shall bless me.’

Walt Whitman

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