When I was 4, my cousin taught me how to ride a bike. There I am to the left here, in all my dorky glory. Don't ask me what I'm holding in my hand. I don't know. Probably my life-time membership card to the "Kids Who Wear Hot Dog on a Stick-Inspired Clothes and Enormous Stickers on Their Foreheads Club." (That sticker had probably been there all day from kindergarten. But, hey, at least it helps me date the photo - The jack-o-lantern means it must have been October.) And that snazzy ride? A bike my grandfather salvaged from the dump. The bike chain didn't always stay on its track, so sometimes I'd be pedaling to nowhere like a Looney Toons character and fall right over. And kids today need training wheels. Pshaw!
When I was 8, my grandfather bought me a brand-new, pretty light-blue bike with a seahorse on it . . . and then I won one just a week or two later through a city-wide cartoon contest on the theme of energy conservation sponsored by the local newspaper. A child from each grade won a bike. There I am with my prize to the right. It didn't have gears (I just missed the age cut-off for the 10-speeds), but it had a sweet, sparkly red banana seat.
All these years later, and I've still never owned a bike with gears. Until now. One of our friends got us a bike as a wedding present 3 months ago, so we went ahead and purchased the companion bike that goes with it - a Schwinn Southport Women's 7-Speed Cruiser - so we can ride together. It's been a busy summer, so Matt hasn't had much time to put them together and fine-tune the gears and brakes until this weekend. (I would have done it myself, but I'm not that mechanically inclined. And that's not me buying into some self-defeating stereotype about women; I'm just honestly not that mechanically inclined.) So, today was the first day the bikes were close enough to being completely assembled that I could take mine out for a test spin.
After doing some running these past couple of months, you'd think I'd be better prepared to ride a bike. Yes. You'd think. The reality, however, was that after a little over a mile and half of riding, I had some difficulty walking when I got off and my quads were scer-EAMING. I was immediately reminded of the time in high school when members of the girls' and boys' cross-country track teams were paired off to participate in a 10-mile run-and-bike race - one boy, one girl, one bike. There I was, still a big dork and turtle-paced to boot, paired off with a popular senior guy who was a decent runner. Neither of us had our own bike, so we were given some orphan bike with wonky gears to use. The senior thought he was being chivalrous by saying I could ride the bike pretty much the whole time while he ran, but the bike was so bad, I actually had a hard time keeping up with him! And, when I got off, my quads were so overworked, I could hardly run. The result? Let's just say my partner was pretty bummed we didn't win. (Kind of hard to do when your teammate is yakking on the side of the road somewhere around mile 6 . . . .)
Anyway, I'm hoping to erase that memory by replacing it with some more positive biking experiences. And I'm hoping it will be an activity Matt and I can enjoy doing together. He has a bad biking memory he needs to rid himself of too - he took a mean header on his bike in grad school, broke his helmet, and gave himself a concussion. He hasn't been back on a bike since. To encourage him, I bought him some biking accessories for his birthday, including some biking-appropriate apparel, a water bottle and water bottle rack, and a Schwinn 17-Function Bike Computer that tracks distance, time, speed, and fat and calories burned.
I plan on keeping up with the running, but I think biking is going to be a nice alternative exercise for me, especially given my flat feet. And I'm also hoping, while I'm out and about on my bike, I might run into Moorpark's cycling poet, J.R. Rolly. While driving to or from the supermarket or the post office, I've often seen the 82-year-old (who donated his car to the Salvation Army) wearing his signature red blazer even on the hottest days, plugging along on his bike, teetering and weaving as he makes his way up the hill near my house. I'd love to have a conversation with that crazy old dude.