I only seem to get on bicycles on small islands I get to by ferry. Last year it was Lido in Venice, and this year it was Governor's Island in New York City. Which could be argued for as a step-up or step-down in either direction, really.
On the grounds that there weren't lizards today, I could say Venice has the advantage. Conversely, on the grounds that I got back to my hometown for about ten minutes, today had Venice beat.
We'd arrived on Governor's Island early in the afternoon and spent most of it walking around, checking out the sights, finding out what was and wasn't accessible to the public - I haven't been for a couple of years, and was surprised at how fast things have changed there. For one, the old building the fire department used for practice - by setting it on fire - had been torn down, and now they seem to have moved on to these old lovely brick houses that I'd always hoped would be turned into apartments but are now looking to be testing grounds. For another, what used to be some open lawn space has been turned into a park-like area, with open gravel paths and curving benches. And still more, there's these new hills, very gently sloping around, with a mix of exposed dirt, manicured lawns, and tall grasses underneath a bright sky.
After investigating a children's fair, pointing out food trucks and birds, and contemplating barracks, we got to the bike rental place. And promptly split up, with my parents going in one direction and my brother and I in the other. Since we had our cell phones with us, it wouldn't be hard to find each other if we got lost - and it's not a big island, in any case. There's only so much of it.
Once I was on the bike, I took off. Turned it to high gear to get good feedback and really exert power and speed, leaned down into the curves and turns, pushed on forward and tried to go as fast as I possibly could with other bikers and walkers and water in the way of me going for miles and miles, like I'd done back in my hometown in the middle of a flat river valley. There's nothing like it I've ever found, not for that sort of sustained motion - you're moving under your own power, out in the air, nothing between you and the world as it zooms by and you zoom through it, and as fast as you're going it's never too fast to look around and see where you are and what's around you. And to place yourself exactly where you are.
Because it was a very specific combination of factors that, without even one of them, wouldn't have worked. Being on a bike, speeding along for the sheer joy of the movement. Riding it on a hard, black path through tiny, cultivated hills with small trees and clipped lawns and a couple of dirt piles and some spots of overgrown grass. Underneath a hard sun and bright sky.
For just a moment, I was biking through my hometown.
Then I turned around a corner and the lower Manhattan skyline burst into view, and I turned another and saw the Statue of Liberty, and there was no mistaking where I was.
But there had been. For just long enough.