March 14, 2009 – Two wheeled town
When living in Aguas de São Pedro, claimed to be a health town for its high sulfur healing water, I was one of the very few to ride a bicycle around town. I lived less than three blocks from my work place or the grocery store. Most things I would do within six blocks. The farthest place was the college where I used to check out books at their library. It was located on the top of the hill, so I would ride my bike only until I was able to pedal. I parked it somewhere and did the rest on foot.
Living now in the rural area, I take the highway to reach the town. I drive several times a day about five miles to take my daughter to school and pick her up afterwards. It’s only nine minute drive to the entrance of the town. It takes longer driving across it and even longer trying to do a paralel parking on the main street. I never rode my bicycle again.
But the whole town that has nothing to claim about health and wellness, or even ecology, has a great number of people riding their bicycles to commute. Very early in the day, I see them riding old bikes carrying a plastic bag with their lunch. Yesterday, a man was casually pedaling with an open umbrella to protect from the rain. Some give rides on the back, but more often, letting the other sit on the bar. Still yesterday, a man stopped his bike to let a fat woman off. She must have been too heavy to be able to go the uphill.
Most bikers are common people, many of them in their forties and fifties; many are overweight women. None of them wear a helmet or special padded pants. Nobody thinks it is fashionable or ecologically correct. Bicycling is not an option over the car; it’s the only way to move quickly for poor people. In my fifteen student class, three of them ride a bike. If they are younger, and get to make some money, the option falls over a motorcycle. At lunch time, the small town street get busy with two wheel motorized bikes up and down. These ones can go home to eat.
Of the two wheeled one, another highlight for horse pulled car still exists around here. They are invariably ridden by an older man, wearing a hat, long sleeve shirts, and a whip on the hand. The car is made of wood and hand painted by Ciciliati family. No shade for their heads. Many of them are for rentals. Or at least it is written so. These kind of cars are quite common in spite of all the motorization. However, I have not seen chariots in a long time. They used to be made of a man-made material like old convertible car covers. Chariots were for passengers only while carts can also haul rural products around.
When I was a teenager, and already fascinated by rustic life style, I got a ride. A family stopped while I was waiting for the bus and I happily hopped on the seat. It may have been Spring or Fall, as I remember the breeze and light sun hitting my skin. The ride was long, for the dirt road was longer and the horse very slow. The most astonishing thing that I had not antecipated was that the horse would defecate while walking. Nobody seemed to care. I arrived to the town with green speckles of fresh manure all over me for a piano class.
I got to ride on a horse pulled cart some other times, but for fun at touristic places. An experience I wanted my daughter to have.