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  • Bike commuting is often powered by the oldest fuel known to man: cursing. In San Francisco, I cursed the wind and the hills. In Chicago, I curse the wind. But I kind of miss the hills.

    There are pretty much none here. Illinois denizens are called flatlanders for a reason. In fact, in my first few months of working at the university, I was puzzled whenever anyone leaving my building said they were going “up the hill.” After some time, I asked and discovered that they meant an incline so shallow that I hadn’t really noticed it before.

    There is, however, one actual, bona fide hill along my seven-mile ride. The student center sits atop a legitimate bump in the land, albeit a small one. But it’s all I’ve got.

    A couple of months ago, I was forced to detour from my usual path due to some work being done and ride up that hill, past the center’s entrance, and then down the other side. (At 7:30 in the morning, there aren’t any students around, so speed isn't an issue.)

    The work stopped after a week or two, and I was able to take my usual flat route. But I still kept hitting the hill with a pedal-standing ascent before tearing down the other side—fast enough that it’s not always a given whether I’ll make the turn onto the macadam or not.

    It's pointless. It’s harder. It’s out of the way. It takes me longer. But that’s the point.

    This morning, I was surprised to see another blinking bike lamp coming up the other side of the hill as I approached the center’s entrance. I initially figured it was a student, but as he got closer, I saw he was an upper-middle-aged gentleman.

    It occurred to me that maybe he was there for the same reason I was. As we passed one another and did the mannerly “morning” exchange, a slight smile raised his gray floor-brush moustache a bit. I had no doubt.

    Right before I headed down, I turned around to confirm that he wasn’t pulling up to a rack and was about to go ripping down the incline I’d just climbed.

    He was still moving, but had turned around to confirm the same about me.

    I built up such a head of steam on the way down that I nearly clipped the curb on the turn at the bottom.

    Roll on, hill brother. Let no one tell us we have to make sense.

    Image credit: Bike wheel via Flickr under the Creative Commons License (
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