Opinion Columns & Blogs

Happily cycling through the dog days of summer

Riding a bicycle is a circle of forbidden, liberating and exhilarating experiences. Perhaps it is partly because my mother forbade me from riding a bike when I was 10.

This was one of the early moral dilemmas that I have had to face as a child. Should I go against my mom’s express prohibition, or should I obey her and remain a “good girl”?

My mom considered it dangerous for me to learn how to ride a bike in the narrow streets of my hometown while freewheeling drivers of public forms of transportations such as jeepneys and motorcycles with sidecars (we call them trimobiles in Naga City, Philippines, where I grew up) go zipping by.

Well, I thought, I’ll just learn how to avoid dangerous situations.

Aside from the moral dilemma of flouting my mom’s wishes, there was also that practical issue of not owning a bike. I solved the problem of not having money to buy my own bicycle (my mom would not buy one for me, of course) by putting up a u-pick mangoes sign outside our gate and, from the proceeds, renting a bike. After that, it was just me, a friend or two, endless streets and summers of adventure.

It was on a bike on my own that I explored and discovered my hometown. Now, it is still on a bike – on my own or with my family – that I explore my neighborhood here in Parkland.

On dog days when even the dogs – tongues lolling out from the heat, panting and too lazy to move – think that their day has gone to the dogs, I love to catch the breeze by going down the hill on Eighth Street. Wheee, that makes for a perfect day.

It has been a pretty quiet neighborhood. In the past few years, more pets than people hang out in the yard. Cats glance at us, and dogs excitedly bark and attempt to chase as we ride by. We are certifiably the highlight of their day. Even though it seems that all the dogs now know us, they still bark at us, especially when I bark back at them.

Of course we know our friends’ dogs: Karma, who likes to chase possums, and Bubba the fat beagle. As for the neighborhood canines whom we have not formally met, we have given them nicknames: Mr. Ugly Voiced Dog for his energetic, super-parched bark that sounds more like paper that’s being torn; Mr. Yip, a Chihuahua awitha pit bull complex; Ms. Woof for her deep, gravelly bark (if dogs smoked, she’d have a smoker’s voice); and LionDog because of her mane.

I’d like to think that I’d get to know more of our human neighbors. Summer is the perfect time for this. It seems that a few more people are hanging out in their yards compared with prior years. It seems that a whole clan has moved to a row of houses along 141st; occasionally we see them having parties and, on regular days, the kids shoot hoops.

The other week, I stopped to listen to a band of folks in their 50s play ’70s music. That was fun – my first garage concert! Maybe as we bike around more neighborhoods we’ll get to know more people who are outside, enjoying the day (or grumbling about how hot it is when it’s in the 80s; try the tropics or the desert, folks): bikers, walkers, rollerbladers, loungers, and runners of all shapes, sizes and persuasions.

Here’s to summer: a cycle of having fun, good rest and more fun.

Isabel de la Torre of Parkland, an environmentalist and trained but non-practicing lawyer and journalist, is one of five reader columnists whose work appears on this page. Email her at tribune@isabeldelatorre.org.