The weather forecast was palpitable precipitation, or something like that. I rose from bed, waking to the chiming sounds of a backhoe backing up. I needed a little exercise to get the creative juices flowing, since a few other juices were flowing the night before, following a bon voyage for a young friend off to Dublin. And too, a bit of summer slug has come over me, with the humidity, a low iron count, and summer’s end, which sometimes crushes me with the changes it will bring.
So, I drank my coffee, ate my banana, said goodbye to Enzo, and stepped into the garage. There it sat. My precious bike, not having been used in a year or so. I had purchased the bike with the last of my funds from the Alzheimer’s writing group I used to facilitate. It was my way of celebrating the work, and those afflicted.
But I had yet to ride the bike on the “mean, unfriendly streets” of the city. Before, I had been riding it, off and on, in the suburbs, where no sidewalks or bike strategy existed, and most of the SUV drivers looked at me like my underwear was hanging out of my shorts, which it probably was.
The last time I had attempted to ride a bike in new surrounds involved “the turtle incident.” Only my hair stylist, my son, and me know about the turtle incident, but suffice it to say, it involved a bike ride to my hair salon, a turtle, and a large groove in between the sidewalk where my bike tires rolled, and the grass where turtle lolled. Until he didn’t. Until he crossed in my path.
So, it was with trepidation that I entered the garage space and pulled my dusty bike, away from Mark’s shiny, new e-bike. Yes, they make those. Everything is an e- these days. As I did so, I felt the unmistakable thump, thump. “Shoot, I bet we don’t have our air pump,” I said almost delighted that maybe today, I would not have to ride my bike.
But no, there in plain sight, on the shelf, a working pump. I blew up the tires, and then looked around for a helmet. I didn’t want to use Mark’s, everyone has a certain helmet type for his or her head, I reasoned. I scrounged around behind a few cans of WD-40, and found an old helmet, which was still marked WIMA, our team name, from our Loveland’s Amazing Race participation, two years ago. I peeled off the sticker, and sat for the next five minutes adjusting the straps to conform to my head, while I heard Enzo sniffing on the other side of the door. He knew I was still home. If only he would bark, and I would stay.
Sunglasses? Check. Phone? Check. Money? Check. ID? Check. ID? Yes, just in case another turtle incident came along, and I was knocked unconscious, I wanted someone to identify me. Its sort like the old motherly advice of not going out of the house without putting on clean underwear.
I trekked down the alley, bumping along over 140 year old bricks, and then panicked, as I moved down 14th street, heading the wrong direction. Its because of the construction, I told myself, already disobeying a rule of the road.
I was planning to make the trek to Union Terminal, practicing, for when I might attend a yoga class there mornings in the Fall. But as I hit Central Parkway, my gears began to shift, without my changing them. So, I turned up north on the parkway, to test the gears out. Both sets of gears were stuck in low, which meant I would be pedaling my ass off, just to bike a mile or two.
I continued along Central, and despite my assertion that I wouldn’t go far, for fear the chains would completely fall off, I soon was lost in the landscape I was traversing. I achieved a far greater distance than I would have on foot, and proceeded to turn around and explore other areas of the West End, that again, I would not have attempted on foot.
I came across the old Lafayette Bloom School, shuttered, windows papered with homework from many years ago, the David Shoe company, which holds a special history in my heart, terraced lots with stones from a hundred years ago. Italianate style homes more impressive than anything on Prospect Hill or OTR, many with the carriage tunnels. In short, I witnessed more history and potential than I had originally anticipated.
I circled back towards home, again riding along Central Parkway, found a few hills to ride up, and coast down, a leftover love from my youth.
Youth. Yes. This is what caused me to get my bike out. I have watched young and old, black and white ride their bikes to work, play, other. It seems the city thing to do. And I don’t want to get left behind, hence I rescued the bike from its non-existence.
As I waited at Fourteenth to turn back towards home, a young woman on her bike, makeup on, earrings in, fun, breezy pants swaying in the wind, wheeled by. We said, “Hi.” And while I noted her Army bike helmet, she swiveled her head. “Annette, Its Jennifer,” she yelled as she continued on.
Yes. Jennifer. Young mother, with two young children. Original city dweller. Youth. I am only an imitation of youth here, but I suppose I cut quite the sight myself, pedaling incessantly, with my purple and green running shoes, and running shorts to match.
I can say, the ride was not the ride of old, to Lorain’s Lakeview Park, or Pizza Hut, before I had my driver’s license. It was not the ride of my early twenties, in and around Hyde Park, before my bike was stolen. It was not the ride I made on the Loveland bike trail many times, including once, when I wrecked with Davis in the child seat. And not nearly the ride around Sonoma Wine Country last Fall.
It was not the ride of my life. That will have to wait until I get the bike to the repair shop, which luckily, one exists nearby.
But it was a ride that breathed a little life back into me. And gave me hope for Fall.
* The half-bridge sits on the side of Central Parkway, I wish it would be reconnected.