I took my bike for a quick rip around the block today. First time this year.
It began with an accidental front-tire wheelie in the driveway. An anxious moment there as I got my feet under it cringed and caught the bike frame between my knees. I dreaded the bang and screech of metal-on-metal behind me where stupid meets van but it never came. I was petrified, struck stiff, with my back tire a couple feet in the air spinning in near-silence until I gingerly twisted away to lower the bike down to the ground.
Foxing a look around the neighbours’ to see if I’d been spotted I slowly started to breathe again.
Unsure of what had happened my eyes followed the taut line of the street down the gentle slope typical of the island to the busy shops of the harbour. Slowly the muggy calm and I found each other again in the warm embrace of another humid Summer evening on the Atlantic seaboard. Deep inhale and, none the wiser. “Didn’t even hurt,” I thought as I cool-beaned it back up the driveway.
I am fifty (50) days smoke-free today, more-or-less. This is just about the time I needed to make significant progress in excising the ashen aura that permeates. Cleaning my garage out day-by-day, the layers of stink in that winter ashtray were starting to get too close for comfort and I jumped on my bike for a break. Fresh air, clean air, just air, and exercise were calling my name.
It strikes me as funny now, if the fresh air had actually called my mobile phone, perhaps that wouldn’t have snuck onto the bicycle by way of my pocket, only to be discovered with the first good bit of mustard I spread thick on the pavement.
“What’s in my pocket? Is that my keyring falling out? Phone!? Brake!! Wrong brake!!!”
Two yards into my journey and I’ve already nearly fragged myself before I got past the family van. But pride can be mended and my cell phone is not bended, so I put that somewhere safe for awhile and away I go.
I have a gentle slope to the street out front, just enough to ride the brake, the rear brake to a standstill, my line-of-sight getting out and around the neighbour’s front porch. I spy the docks at the harbour. There are headlights on the street between here and there, but far enough down to not matter now and nothing the other way. I’m off!
My home is not on the corner but the neighbour has no yard. It slips past and now my first left turn. The first breathing of the wind made by my passing lights over my cheek and I find the gear I need to begin to push hard down the block. I’ve been watching F-1 so I’m of a mind to hurry and I brake late at the stop sign. I didn’t see the eyes of that fellow in the navy blue truck as he twitched his foot on the brake midway through his right turn to join the street I’m on. I stop cleanly but not quite completely before my sign. So awkward.
My heart goes out to him. To have gotten scared that the other fellow couldn’t handle his ride, only to then jerk the jalopy out in the middle of the street because he couldn’t take the pressure of our close encounter. I let him off easy, averting my eyes and getting back on the hop in a bit of a rolling stop.
Ack. Forgot to gear up at the stop. Out of practice. I’m halfway to the next stop before I get any power down through the back tire. I take it to the end but stop defensively for this one. The approaching intersection is onto a broad street, a back-way connector of the main North-South and East-West corridors through the city. It sees much traffic and I steer clear of giving anyone a scare traveling through. It’s clear and I go again. Ready for it this time.
I take the bike off the line and around to my left like a shot. One pump of my legs doesn’t take the tire very far but all of my explosivity -if what little oomph I can manage today qualifies for such a dangerous sounding potential- pours into acceleration. I gear down again, again, again, keeping each leg pump at the edge of too-hard, pushing through, gaining speed. The force of it lifts my bottom from the seat. Now there’s my old friend back to play, a low whistle past my ears, a wind. I remember the fifteen more gears I haven’t reached yet and it’s over. Gearing up to make the last left turn.
As I come around, a truck is ponderously advancing toward the intersection. Then, stops. There in the middle of the street, far ahead of where the intersection sits, by at least 10 yards. He’s almost in front of my house.
“Oh come on! What is he stopping there to do, blocking the street on purpose? Why is he sideways like that?”
My fight or flight response kicks in and I’m making a rapid dive through my memories on the hunt for who jerks around a blue truck in town. Meanwhile I’m on both brakes now, but I want to keep rolling to maintain some forward momentum in case I need to book it down to the water. In hindsight, this is likely not a viable escape plan, but I digress. That truck isn’t blue. My neighbours have dropped their green truck into reverse and their smiling faces greet me as I roll up and on by, the driver waving me on through behind and before he finishes backing into his driveway.
That being both a bicycle ride and done I jump off, drop the kick-stand and let go, breathing fast. I wonder how much of it is adrenaline and how much exertion. Searching out some liquid, each step sends a ping deep into my brain, letting me know my thighs, knees, calves and ankles have pending comments about what they just went through. I tell myself to stretch first the next time I get on the bike and carefully do quick partial stretches. The damage is already done.
I shake that off and take a deep breath while I grab at both walls, my arms straight out to the sides, feeling the pull in my center as my lungs expand to press against the muscles of my chest. A thought of growing strong. Pushing hard, to build strength. Adding muscle. Savouring the pain of it. Effecting change. Getting strong. Muscle, meet, me.