I walked past a back to school display at a store the other day and realized that neither child was going to need school supplies this year. I got a little teary at the thought of never getting to buy another Disney or Pokemon themed back pack or never spending $1.50 on the Jonas Brothers folders because they were so much cooler than the normal ones...for $0.15.
And then I got over it.
Since I was very small I've had a love affair with bicycles. Okay, since I was very small I've loved horses and I managed to pretend my bike was a horse. I remember the first NEW bike I got, one that wasn't a hand me down from my older cousins. I was nine and I got it for Christmas. It was a brown three speed Huffy Sundowner with a leather seat. I remember the model name because that became my horses' name and I'd yell "WHOA SUNDOWNER" when I'd come to a short and dramatic stop.
I rode that bike from the time I was nine until I graduated from college and moved to Michigan to teach and bought a non descript mountain bike at K-mart because mountain bikes were what everyone was riding in 1989. That mountain bike was sort of a piece of crap that rusted out in the first rainstorm (since I lived in a second story apartment, my roommate and I kept our bikes on the balcony.) I kept that black and red mountain bike for a long time, probably too long, but I stopped riding it.
It wasn't Sundowner.
Sundowner and I rode all over my tiny home town of Montello, Wisconsin when I was in grade school. I got into a fantastic crash on that horse...I mean bike...when I smacked into the back of a parked car while watching a one armed man build a house. (Don't know that story? Check my archives, it's there.) I delivered newspapers on that bike, I rode to all my 4-H meetings on that bike and I explored the four corners of that tiny little town on the back of that bike.
Then we moved, I entered high school, and my bike became a serious mode of transportation. Since my parents only had one car and for some reason my mother needed it, my father and I rode our bikes to my high school every day. Two and a half miles one way, every day, except in the very coldest of cold. Rain, heat, snow, I rode in it all, and 2 days a week I rode in a dress because my mother had a rule: I had to wear a dress two days a week. (Oh yeah, I was super cool in high school.)
I rode my bike to work at the mall, and later at the restaurant, until my hours got to be too late or too early in the day to ride and then I took the bus.
I was even pulled over by the Manitowoc police on that bike. I had an expired license plate. Yep, on my bike.
When my parents retired and moved they sold or gave my Huffy Sundowner away and I was left with the rusty black and red mountain bike with the seat I hated. I had kids and taught them how to ride and we went on some bike rides together, but eventually I hung up my bike and refused to ride anything with a seat that caused me that much pain.
Hubby solved that problem, as he often does with my issues. He found me a bike a simple 7 speed bike (couldn't find a three speed I liked) with a lovely broad, soft seat. I liked this bike and rode it quite a bit, promising that I would use my bike as my mode of transportation.
And then, five years ago, I was diagnosed with arthritis in my thumbs. I've documented that journey here I don't need to go over that, except that one of the things I lost was the ability to ride a bike. How did that happen?
Well, when you ride a bike you lean forward, you put a lot of pressure on your hands, on your wrists. Once again, I couldn't bear the pain of riding.
I started looking around and I saw bikes where the rider sat upright, used his/her hands only to steer. Okay, truth be told, I watched "The Wizard of Oz" and some TV show set in the early 1900's, and the both of the riders were women and both of them were wearing those mutton sleeved dresses. And
there was a big basket involved. Not exactly Tour de France.
I had hubby adjust my seat lower and make the handle bars more upright. It still wasn't right. And another two years passed without me sitting on a bike pretending to be riding a horse.
Last weekend we were in a bicycle shop and I looked at a bike that was perfect. I mean it was exactly what I needed it to be to take the pressure off my wrists. Except it was $400 and we don't exactly have that in the "let's just buy stuff" fund. But the bike guy showed me another model and explained the features I was looking for. I don't care about the science I just want my wrists to stop hurting when I ride my bike. Again he found me something perfect, except this one was $550. But hubby took another shot at adjusting my bike and this time I felt comfortable.
Which is how, over the weekend, I was able to disprove the old adage, "It's just like riding a bike."
We were on a very flat bike trail, (the same one where we went for a timed walk and hubby tried to confuse me with math and lie to me about how far we'd walked.) I was very excited at the prospect of riding a bike again after more than two years.
And then I got on the bike.
Okay first of all that whole thing about never forgetting how to ride? Complete and utter crap. I was shakey and nearly wiped out just trying to get on the thing.
We rode for a while and I realized that while my hands didn't hurt as much, my ego did. See, I was a good bike rider, or I used to be. I could ride up hills, in a stinkin' DRESS and I could pedal like the wind. I rode over train tracks and bridges and on terrible sidewalks and dirt roads. I even used to be able to do this thing were I could make Sundowner...I mean, my bike, jump to the side, OVER someone's really deep sidewalk edging. (We had a guy in our neighborhood who seriously dug a two inch MOAT along either side of the sidewalk. If your wheel got stuck in that, you'd flip forward. I could jump it...sometimes...not always, but I could side jump it.
Now, I'm sitting on my bike with the broad seat and high handle bars. I don't feel like I'm riding a horse. I don't feel like I'm in the Tour de France like everyone else on the trail. (oh yeah, it's bike season here in Wisconsin and everyone is in those tight spandex bike jerseys...even people who have
no business wearing them.) The one thing going through my head is the music from "The Wizard of Oz" and I see images of the Wicked Witch of the West.
We rode 5.5 miles on Sunday. Not exactly a world record, but given how shakey I actually was on two wheels I think it's pretty good. And we'll go out again soon I'm sure. I mean, hubby loves riding bikes, and I'll get there again.
It's like anything else though. It's not as much fun when you're a grown up. I used to ride bikes because all my friends rode. It's how we got around it's what we did with our long summer days (you know, before video games and cable TV and Netflix) We raced, we jumped and sure, we crashed and we fell off. But at the end of the day we were brown from the sun and filthy and we get in the bath and scrub up or, (since it was summer) we'd spend some time in someone's pool or running through the sprinkler and mother would deem us "Clean enough for bed." And we'd sink into bed, exhausted and ready to ride another day.
Now I'm sore, my butt is sore, and I realized biking is good for me because I need to lose weight and it's good to be outside. My legs are so pale they glow because tanning is bad for us now. I shower every day, I don't take baths, because 1) I don't have time for a bath and 2) I'm old and if I don't shower every day I start to smell...weird.
But, I'm not discouraged. It's part of growing up. Where once I used to get on my bike and just go without thinking about anything, I have to now think about everything, make sure it's all done, before I ride. Still, it's better for me than not riding and, I'll admit it, I still love the feel of the wind through
Oh, yeah, about helmets...nope, that's another post for another day. but it's a good story, I promise!
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