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Just Like Riding A . . .


A quaint custom here on Ocracoke Island, where we are still vacating, is that everyone either walks or rides around on bicycles. And, since it is a resort area where people visit only once a year, there are a whole lot of people on the road who never ride a bike the other 357 days of the year.
Like me.
Now, we’re not talking rugged 557-gear mountain bikes or slick racing bikes, but those thick, gangly dinosaurs we “of a certain age” had as kids. Some of them have parts tacked on them that were never meant for their design and they resemble some sort of Frankenstein’s monster of bike-dom. It would be embarrassing to be riding around on a 24-inch day-glo green bike, reaching up over my head to use the handlebars more suited to those old stingray bikes from the 60s, if I wasn’t being passed by an equally absurd-looking dowager on a tiny BMX-type bike with English racer handlebars.
I, however, have still managed to set myself apart even from those on silly bicycles. It seems that in the approximately 42 years since I was regularly on a bike, I’ve gotten considerably clumsier.
Back in the day, though, a bicycle was like a second pair of legs. I could ride all the way to school, a trip of about a half-mile, without touching the handle bars. (Note to the Heirs: I only tell say this because I’m trying to stress a point. Of course I never, ever rode a bike without holding onto the handlebars. Even on a tricycle, I used hand signals. Before bicycle helmets were even thought of, I used a cooking pot to protect myself from injuries because my parents’ peace of mind was of tantamount importance to me, more so than not looking like an idiot tooling around the neighborhood with the Revereware on my head.)

To further stress how graceful I was on a bike, I would seek out puddles to ride through and try to write my name on the road with the wet tire. In cursive.
Nowaday, though, just maintaining balance while I mount the bike is a problem.
And stopping.
My old method of coasting along while flipping my right leg over the seat is not as fluid as it used to be. It’s more spasmotic and usually impossible. So I resort to jumping down between the seat and handlebars, which is how when I was growing up all the nerds stopped their bikes.
Meanwhile, the Heirs circle around me, offering helpful tips like, “You could always stop by running into a tree!” as they fly off curb edges and pop wheelies.
It’s been a week now and I am getting better. Riding to the lighthouse yesterday I actually looked up from staring at the wheel and looked at the scenery. For a brief moment I wasn’t focusing on the bike to the exclusion of all other thought.
I realized that, while I wasn’t the most graceful thing on two wheels, I certainly wasn’t the most awkward either. To my amazement, no one really cared. They had their own problems staying up and stopping.
It was an amazingly freeing moment and I began eyeing puddles. I even let go of one side of the handlebar to scratch my nose.
I could get into this. I could take out the mountain bike Dirtman got me for my 40th birthday (Dirtman is good at facilitating other people’s humiliation) and ride it on a regular basis. I could ride the mile to the little grocery store at the end of our gravel road with my Aussies trotting beside me. Pretty soon I’d be able to bike to the nearest town five miles away. I’d become toned and muscular and my pulse would be that of a 20-year-old’s. Everyone would be amazed at how great I look for a 49-year-old woman.
Maybe I’d actually go on biking excursions because of how toned and muscular and slow-pulsed I was. Or racing! I could be the oldest female bike racer who started after the age of 48! I’d write a book telling other middle-aged women how they, too, can become toned and muscular like me even though they’re current activity level resembles that of a sloth. It would become the self-help book of the decade and I’d go on Oprah and tell her what to do.
Fame and fortune will be mine. . .
. . .if I could just figure out how to stop.

Share  Posted by Jeanne Jackson at 8:23 AM | Permalink

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