Eating supper Sunday night on a restaurant patio in Boulder, Colo., my husband and I watched as the couple at the next table paid their bill, unlocked their bicycles on the other side of the railing, and pedaled off down the street.
“That would be fun, to be able to do that — ride our bikes to and from dinner sometime,” I remarked.
“We could do that,” said my husband.
“Why DON’T we do that?” we both seemed to think at the same moment.
Granted, our Mesa neighborhood doesn’t possess anywhere near the breadth and depth of dining and recreation destinations as Boulder — a walkable, fairytale-ish city known for its active and outdoorsy leisure pursuits — but we do have a handful of shops and eateries nearby. Our area is generally bicycle friendly, with spacious, well-marked bike lanes and drivers accustomed to sharing the road.
Moreover, we’re both able-bodied and health-conscious; in fact, one of the things we love most about living in the Valley is how easy it is to be active. Yet we rarely turn to our bicycles for fitness or — even better — the simple pleasure of moving at a slower pace, feeling the wind in our hair.
Perhaps this weekend’s Great Arizona Bicycle Festival will convince us to dust off our bikes and start pedaling.
The inaugural event occurs 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday in conjunction with El Tour de Mesa, a 70-mile ride that starts and finishes at Center and First streets in downtown Mesa.
That race is well beyond my ability or interest, but there are 28-, 5- and 1/4-mile rides. Even more fun for a casual cyclist like me, downtown roads will be closed to motorized traffic for a “Ciclovia,” when cyclists of all skill levels will have the streets to themselves.
There’s also a Great Arizona Bicycle Swap Meet featuring new, used and vintage bikes, parts and accessories.
Other attractions include a self-guided Downtown Historic Bicycle Tour with 10 stops; merchandise, giveaways and repairs from top Arizona bicycle shops; and a Holistic Healing and Natural Fitness Festival with massage therapists, fitness experts, naturopathic doctors and health vendors.
You’ll also find live music, food vendors, beer gardens and artist booths.
For kids, there’s a Fun Zone with bounce houses, face painting, games and make-and-take crafts. A Bicycle Safety Rodeo will teach youngsters rules of the road via an obstacle course.
Saturday’s festival is free. Registration (starting at $105) for El Tour de Mesa’s 70- and 28-mile rides lasts through 8 p.m. Friday at Hohokam Stadium, 1235 N. Center St. Registration ($15) is available Saturday morning at the festival for the 11 a.m. 5- and 1/4-mile Fun Rides.