By Ambassador Annalisa van den Bergh

To the best gift I’ve ever received,

You were given to me by my parents for my 2010 high school graduation. A major upgrade from the $300 clunky hybrid that I somehow rode on across America the first time. You were one of the cheapest touring bikes out there –– REI’s brand name now-discontinued Novara Randonee. But damn, did you do the job.

You were empowerment. I pedaled and pushed you through sand, rivers, and up and over the Appalachians, Ozarks, and Rockies. I frantically rode you away from Kentucky attack dogs, Indian monkeys, Kansas wall clouds, hail storms, and near-tornados. You and I cruised down exhilarating, never-ending hills that made my hands sore from braking and my body high from endorphins.

You were pure happiness, therapy, medication, and meditation.

You were the lens through which my introverted self met the world. Your two wheels were the keys to the homes of so many Warmshowers hosts. Your loaded panniers drew crowds outside supermarkets and in small villages around the world.

I’ve lifted you up on snowy summits (you are NOT light!). I’ve stashed you in Québec woods before getting into my first-ever ambulance. I’ve boxed you up for flights from NYC to Dubai to India and back. I’ve covered you with stickers from long lost places and let you get dirty and greasy.


I’ve ridden you through dark times. Through the loss of my mother and my mother’s mother. Through freak accidents, anxiety, depression, a pandemic, and an emotionally abusive relationship.


Through it all, you’ve still been there. Surprisingly never stolen or damaged, you’ve stood as a beacon; a steady reminder of what I am still capable of.


The stories I’ve reaped and told from you have led to a major upgrade and dream of mine –– a Kona Bikes sponsorship. I’m afraid that means it’s time to make room for a new bike in my tiny apartment; time to hang your frame on my wall as my most cherished relic.


It’ll be a hard act to follow. But I’m antsy with excitement over where my new Kona will take me. What a thrill it is to start a new chapter, make new memories, and collect more stickers for this fresh slate.