SC in Ames, IA -
There's a pretty high concentration of MinusCar shirts in Ames. Maybe you should coordinate with TD to avoid the same days.
I've always had a bike. I never had a trike, a big wheel, or one of those insanely dangerous motorized kid cars. Just a bike. I got my first bike at the tender age of 1, a blue Schwinn Tigress. Since my dad has owned an LBS since before I was even a twinkle in his eye, I guess you could say I was born into the bike culture.
During my formative years, bike culture meant bike safety days at the elementary school, long rides with the local bike club, watching the Tour de France 30 minute blurb on ESPN, the big MS 150 at the end of the summer, and my favorite part -- hanging out with my dad. My first long ride with him was on a Trek tandem. I was 9 or 10, and he specially rigged up a system that re-routed the chain half way up the bike so my feet could reach the pedals. We rode 50 miles. I was pretty excited.
My first MS bike tour was the following summer. At the age of 11 I managed to ride 100 miles with my 10 year old cousin, and earn a scar that still graces my left knee when I wiped out just south of Tea, SD. That was my bike culture for over 2 decades.
When I was younger, I always had distant dreams of racing and winning, but I was never, never close to the front of the pack. So slowly, I let my speedy dreams slip away, and I stopped distance riding throughout most of college.
When I moved to Ames for graduate school, I at least started riding around town again. Slowly, over the last two years, I have realized that I don't have to be the fastest, ride the hardest, or go the furthest in order to be part of the bike culture. I don't have to do RAGBRAI every year, although I would like to. For now, the six miles I ride each day is enough, and a trail ride around town is always a nice way to spend an evening. It was a long, stressful winter that left me with regular back pain by the time spring rolled around. Only a few weeks after I started riding again in the spring, my back pain subsided, and I started feeling better physically and mentally. I got back on my bike and it started to define my life in a new way. I've started to think differently about so many things. I've started to define a new bike culture for myself that includes bikes as transportation and as recreation. I've started to see my bike as a tool and a companion. I've started to shift towards becoming car-lite and plan for riding in the winter. I've started to dream again.
I just moved a week ago, and while unpacking my fridge magnets, I found a photo of myself from the MS 150 bike tour 4 years ago. I rode that year with a first-timer, a close friend whom I was excited to introduce to my bike culture. I hung it up and smiled. I like it there to remind me of how far I've gone and how far I still have the ability to go.