When I was a little girl, I rode a yellow bike with multicolored tassels and a tan banana seat. A hand-me-down from sister, it was pretty much the coolest bike in the world. I remember my dad teaching me how to ride this big girl bike on our driveway in Islamabad. For a while, cycling was a part of my life. In El Paso, where we lived for a couple of years, I remember riding my bike in the neighborhood and around the cul-de-sac. We would ride bikes during our summers in Scotland (the littlest one, I always seemed to be in the back).
At some point along the way, I stopped cycling. I don’t really remember why, but I do remember when I decided to put a permanent stop to it. One summer at camp, a few years after I had stopped cycling around the cul-de-sac, we had to go on a long bike ride. To me, it seemed like a bad idea to take 30 campers out on the windy country roads of the Scottish Highlands, but our camp leaders thought differently. I was terrified. If you have ever driven on any windy country roads, you may recall that locals, knowing the roads inside and out, drive recklessly. I was timid and bringing up the rear. I still remember the camp leader saying to me, “You have just as much right to be on the road as any car. Don’t be afraid!” Personally, I felt my rights had little to do with it. But it was not a run-in with a car that put an end to my cycling; rather it was tearing down a hill at full tilt and crashing right into a bush. That was the last time I wanted anything to do with a bike.
A few years ago, my husband (then my boyfriend) and I were in Ocean City, Maryland staying with some friends. Our friends had two scooters, and I was eager to try one out. When instructing me on how to drive the scooter, my husband told me, “It’s just like riding a bike.” My immediate thought was, “Oh, dear. Should I tell him I have no idea how to ride a bike anymore?” By this time, it had been more than ten years since the camp incident, and I had not been back on a bike since. I decided to keep that information to myself, but I did question his instructions. “Bike? But how? There are no pedals.” But before I knew it, I was off into the street, headed straight for the median, and the only thing I didn’t know was how to stop it. “Feet to the ground! That must be it,” I thought. Nope. Not right, but you know what did stop it? Running into our friend Tom. I was immediately relegated to sitting on a one person scooter with my husband. I think he was grumpier about this than I was.
The scooter incident did nothing to entice me back to cycling. In fact, I don’t really know what happened, but now I find myself preparing for a century. And I find that I have a new love. Nothing makes me quite so happy as when I am cycling. I love powering up short, steep hills and wooshing down the other side. One reason I’m so glad to recapture this fondness for cycling is my husband’s own fondness for cycling. His bicycle is his number one love (next to God, me, family and our animals, of course). He actually even built the bike I now ride. We have more than 20 bikes in and around our house. His work room is littered with spare bike parts and his buddies bring their bikes over for tune ups. Right now, we have a huge box sitting in the living room, a new bike for his brother. If we could make enough money doing it, our dream is to have a bike shop-cum-tiny, tiny craft beer and wine café. Who knew when I was crashing down that hill, terrified for my life, that I would one day have such a dream?
Oh, and if you see me on Rock Creek trail or on the C&O towpath, please wave. I feel like an idiot when others don’t wave back.
Addendum: My husband says it goes God and then cycling.