Way Finding

I just spent the week in Duluth, Minnesota, Austin’s hometown. Every time I visit, I fall a little bit more in love with Duluth. Right on the edge of Lake Superior and not so very far from the Boundary Waters, this place has a strong gravitational pull. In the summer it is Northern enough to see some Northern Lights. In the winter it snows sometimes by flakes and sometimes by inches. On the shore of Lake Superior the ice makes creaking sounds, an understated articulation of something that is probably quite profound.

After a few days of running on the trails, sucking down cold dry air like it is happy hour, I get giddy enough to ask myself: Could I live here? I see a pink-cheeked version of myself on the Superior Hiking Trail, in canoes, on skis, and often in the company of loons and moose. I watch this imaginary me running and tromping and floating my way through the seasons.

And then I remember that in Duluth, Minnesota, there is a biking season. Which means there is a season (or two) that are not biking seasons. If it were just a matter of loving cycling, I could certainly ride the trainer through winter months. I could get a mountain bike with studded tires. But here’s the thing I have come to understand about biking: Biking is, for me, a way of making my home.

When I bike, I build a home through movement. With enough repetition, streets and hills that were once foreign become familiar. And after time, I learn the effort behind a trip to the coast, the strength of the headwinds in the Gorge, the swift descents of the hills and mountains. Over time, my range expands to new places, and so does my home.

The bike isn’t just and tool of transportation, a way of getting from one place to the next. A bike is both the map and the territory at the same time, built directly into my lungs, my muscles, and my heart. And after a decade in Portland, it’s as much in me as I am in it.

From → Bike Love, Great Ideas, P-Town, Postcards from the Edge


  1. Beautiful writing and thoughts. I often think the same thing and realize my life without bikes wouldn’t be a life worth living.

  2. This is great! I love the part about building a home through movement. It’s so true. Thanks for the shout out to Duluth, too! Glad you love it like we do. Cheers!

  3. Very nice Natalie. Grounded in where and what you call home, and yet searching and considering other possibilities and lives.

  4. Ingrid

    After living in Holland for the first 25 years of my life and now making my home in the Thunder Bay area (4 hrs. north of Duluth), I know all too well what you are talking about.
    We love it here, but biking season is pretty short. And I also often look around in places I visit, thinking: “could I live here?” If you answer: “Yes, but I rather live where I live”, I think life is good. Otherwise, just pack your bags and move. Life is too short to not go after your dreams.

  5. Candie

    What a gift to have someone so passionate about life and cycling offer these treasured bits for us all to enjoy. Thank you, Natalie. I grew up in Northern California, ‘Silicon Valley’- riding bikes for pleasure and transportation..( we kept moving and mom said- ‘if you can ride your bike, you can stay in the same school’) So, at age 10 ( 1972) I made enough money selling cards to buy my first ‘Road Bike- a Pegasus 10 speed). I ride because it is a beautiful way to appreciate the life that surrounds us.. and I love your poetry about this experience. Thank you..

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