One of the most important rites of spring is the first bike ride of the year. On Saturday I attached the older sister’s former bike rack to the back of my car and I headed off to my favorite trail head.
There are a lot of things I love about living near the lake, but riding bikes isn’t one of them. The streets in our little subdivision are way too steep for me and I firmly believe you would have to be suicidal to go out on the two lane highway on a bike. So bike rides always begin with a car trip. Luckily for me, Rogers is in the process of building a really great set of bike trails.
Back in the day I would have scoffed at bike trails. I prided myself on riding in traffic. I remember telling people, it was really just a mind game. You had to pretend to be a car and just go for it. Luckily my young self never spoke to my children. By the time I was telling them about bike riding I was very much over pretending to be a car.
But I remember what it was like. My love affair with bicycles started long ago and hasn’t ended yet.
I bought the blue Schwinn “racing” bike at the Schwinn store in East Providence when I was in college. I was actually replacing another fairly new Schwinn that was a little heavier and didn’t have the racing handlebars. I couldn’t really afford to trade in that fairly new bike, but I wanted a racing bike badly so I managed to talk my mother into buying the older one and paying too much. She was easy that way when she knew I really wanted something.
I loved the racer! And I loved riding it around Providence. When my car blew up, I rode the bike exclusively even to the self-service gas station where I worked. Between me and the gas station was a hill of Arkansas proportions. I could never make it up that hill, but I kept trying. I’d end up pushing my racing bike up the last few yards, panting and sweating and there was always an old woman working in her yard at the top of the hill and every day she’d call to me, “You’re going to give yourself a heart attack.” I was only 20 years old and in decent shape. I didn’t really understand her concern.
The best ride was going downtown. They’ve changed the roads around Providence since then and I suspect the rotary is long gone, but back then I had to use the rotary at the bottom of the big hill next to the Rhode Island state house. Rotaries are traffic circles, of course. There’s usually a couple of lanes of traffic, headed in the same direction around the circle, the problem is that in order to stay in the rotary and not go shooting out one of the exits you had to move across at least one lane of fast-moving traffic. I would use the momentum from the big hill to get up to speed and go flying into the rotary just as if I was driving an actual car. If I saw one of my kids doing what I used to do, I’d kill them. But somehow it worked both me and my blue Schwinn racing bike survived.
My next stop on my biking adventure was the Kentucky years when I learned exactly how narrow a two lane road can be if you’re riding a bike and an oversized load comes up beside you. I also had to dodge cows on occasion, but I kept trying to ride my bike. After we were married, I tried hard to convert my husband. I even bought him a bike of his own, but I couldn’t afford a second Schwinn and the inexpensive bike I found seemed to self destruct each time he rode it.
My bike had a baby seat for years because our youngest child refused to give it up. I remember when she was in kindergarten and all her friends were giving up their training wheels, she was still in the seat behind me. It lasted until she got so heavy,t he seat started sinking down onto the tire and then we took it off. By then we were living here by the lake.
The youngest still doesn’t like bike riding, but the older two have taken up where I left off. Some day we’ll do a long ride together – maybe the Katy trail in Missouri. I have to work on my endurance and I have to get over the mental image of an overweight, middle-aged woman on slim blue racing bike.
My rite of spring ride was only a few miles long and it left me pretty sore, but I’ll keep trying and one of these days, we’ll do that trail.