Spoke Talk: A sense of community, culture in Bike Town USA
November 19, 2010
Steamboat Springs — I'll spend a lot of time this winter thinking about cycling. As the project coordinator for the Steamboat Springs Bike Town USA Initiative, I'm paid to be the head cheerleader, but it's not just a job to me. It's personal.
My feelings about Bike Town USA actually have a lot to do with how I feel about living in Ski Town USA. I've lived in mountain resort towns most of my adult life. Just one year after I moved to Steamboat Springs in 2002, I felt more at home here — and more a part of the community — than I did after many years in other mountain towns.
I have a vivid memory of the evening of Feb. 5, 2010, when I was downtown for the Olympian Send-off. Afterwards, walking back to the car, my husband picked up our 4-year-old son, gave him an especially fervent hug and said, "Do you know how lucky we are to live here and call this town home?"
He was talking to our son, but he was looking directly at me with an intensity that magnified the sound of his words through the noise of the crowd. I knew exactly what he meant.
To me, Ski Town USA isn't about a marketing brand or a rank on a list in a skiing magazine. It's all about culture, community and a sense of belonging. It's the delightful habit our town has of closing off a busy state highway and covering it with snow so we can celebrate our nearly century-old Winter Carnival. It's seeing children learn to ski when they've barely mastered the basics of walking. It's about spending as much time as possible reveling in the wonders of winter.
So, just as I love wrapping myself in the familiar layers of Ski Town USA culture, I embrace the vision of a great biking community that is at the heart of Bike Town USA. Bike Town USA isn't a rank. Nobody claims that we already are the best biking community in the country. It's a compelling vision, a culture, a sense of community, tradition and opportunity.
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My personal vision of Bike Town USA is framed through the eyes of our young son. When he is my age, I hope that his list of fond memories of growing up in Bike Town USA might look something like this:
■ Going with Dad to the BMX track when he was 2 to ride his strider bike on the whoop-de-doos.
■ Singing in the Burley trailer while Mom towed him behind her bike heading to kindergarten.
■ Feeling safe riding to school on his own.
■ Watching and listening to adult riders who taught him the rules of the road (and the trail) and confronted him when his riding was careless or dangerous.
■ The steady waves of tourists and the vibrant energy of town.
■ His pride in being a true local.
■ The thrill of watching a peloton of pro cyclists lean into the curve on Rabbit Ears Pass.
■ The adrenaline rush of downhill biking at the ski area.
■ Warm summer evenings riding on Emerald Mountain in the Town Challenge Mountain Bike Race Series, competing with friends and cheering on his "old" parents.
Who knows, he may grow up to have more interest in music than cycling. That's OK. We're grateful that he'll have the opportunity for an active, healthy lifestyle, and a strong sense of community. The Ski Town USA and Bike Town USA culture will be woven into the fibers of his muscles and heart. Lucky boy indeed.