Saturday, December 17, 2016

All of My Life at 55-Years Old Turned into a Metaphor of this Morning's Bike Ride

It was supposed to be this morning’s bike ride actually, but I didn’t get started until a little after noon. My goal was a 30-mile round trip. I was ready to go but the tires were low and so I lost some time finding the air pump and getting the tires back to where they had been when I last left the bike under the house. I put on my helmet and it didn’t fit. I thought, “could I have gained that much in two weeks since my last ride that the straps on my helmet won’t click closed? I pressed hard and forced them together and got them to click despite how tight they felt.

At first the ride went well. It was colder than I thought and the road wasn’t as smooth, but I hit the big hill a block from us and got up to 20 MPH. I was sailing. Two red lights cut into my time and forced me to get started again, but I was feeling good. Okay, that’s a lie, I was feeling anxious because I really just wanted to be sitting at the computer, not setting on a 30-mile round trip with my own muscles as my only form of propulsion.

When I got to the bike path my plans to turn right were immediately thwarted. There was an American flag there and it was blowing towards the right, which meant headwinds coming back if I stuck with my intent and went right. I went left and immediately determined in my head how far 15 miles out would be to give myself an end point. Within a half a mile I started to hit piles of beach sand on the bike path. I plowed through three of them with the third one being deeper than I had gauged and nearly taking me down.

I stopped for a second and looked down the rest of the bike path. People were walking their bikes through piles of beach sand as far as the eye could see. I didn’t even really ponder my options, I just turned back up the slight hill to the side street that parallels the bike path and began riding down that.

My helmet felt uncomfortable. I had to lose weight.

I found myself gliding again, not peddling at all and yet going nearly my fastest speed yet. I was getting there faster, but with the final destination actually being home, in the other direction, it also occurred to me that I was setting myself up for an unexpected hill to climb on the way back, when I would be more tired, and less able.

The street flattened out and filled with potholes and even with the buildings there was filled with its own piles of beach sand. I skirted these obstacles as best I could, plowing through most of the sand and only having two piles be deep enough to stop the bike underneath me.

Miles later, I reached the turn where I could rejoin the bikepath and make my 15 miles out, but some switch in my head clicked and I simply went straight instead, continuing down the road despite my knowing that it dead ends in about 2 miles, cutting my best possible trip down from 30 to 12.

Twelve miles seemed like a good enough number, a number I could be proud of, a number that most people in the world were not going to bicycle that day, some ever. There was nothing to sneeze about at 12 miles, and so I kept going through more potholes and more piles of sand.

When I reached the dead end I hit the deepest pile of sand yet and almost went over the handlebars. But I didn’t. I caught myself and I got the bike through and I stopped and looked around and it was beautiful, with a body of water and boats scudding here and there. It was not a place I ever intended to go but it was not a bad place to wind up in the middle of my trip. I was proud of myself.

I caught my breath and turned back around. The ride home was mostly smoother. I think my muscles, while tired, had also stretched out and were prepared for the road ahead. Sure there were obstacles, slow moving cars, an old lady with her dogs on leashes stretched across the narrow road, a bunch of teens walking in a pack leaving now room to pass, the potholes, the piles of sand, but I made it through them all. Just as I reached the hill I knew I’d have to climb, another pack of kids walked by the other way. One of them yelled at me, “Your helmet is on backwards.”

I looked at him to scoff, but he was already gone. “Idiot,” I muttered. I’d ridden a good 9 of my 12 miles. I knew what I was doing. What business does some snot-nosed hipster have telling me my helmet is on backwards?

Just in case, I reached up and touched my helmet. It was on backwards.

I stopped and put it on correctly. The straps snapped together with ease. I hadn’t gained weight since my last ride. At least not that much weight. But now I was 9 miles into a 12-mile trip and only had 3 miles to go with my helmet on properly.

I rode those miles back ignoring that I had done it wrong up until then. Proud that I was doing it right now. I reached me home, 12 miles from my first peddle and put my bike away, having not accomplished the 30 miles I started out to accomplish, but having put a hard 12 miles under my belt.

Except it wasn’t 12 miles. I’ve been lying to you. I actually only did about 10 miles total (maybe a tad less). But that didn’t sound as good as 12. And that's who I am.

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