Comic Victorian illustration.
Do you ever ask yourself, Why don’t I say No?
I am very proud of my friend Janet, who finally said no to the Tartarean six-day cross-state bicycle ride she had absent-mindedly agreed to go on with her boyfriend. She got rained and hailed on first, and it might have been better to say no before the ride, but she isn’t a masochist.
There are elements of Janet in me. Most of my life I have gone on long bike rides because that’s what my husband does.
I love to ride my bicycle. I don’t necessarily love to ride it 40 miles.
Yesterday was tough. A 40-mile bike ride. I had no idea I was going 40 miles. That was his idea. If I’d known I was riding 40 miles, I would have stopped at 30.
First, it was cold.
Have you ever had to dash into a store and buy jeans because you were wearing bicycling shorts and it is still freezing at midday? Do you find anything in your size? Do you end up with a choice between jeans that fit too snugly and jeans that are a little big in the waist but otherwise fit well? So I went with the bigger jeans. (Little did I know.)
Bundled up in jeans and a sweatshirt, I was still shivering.
The first twenty miles were easy. Downhill. Woods, bluffs, corn fields, and farms.
I enjoyed the scenery, but would have enjoyed it more at a slower pace. There are two kinds of bicyclists: serious and casual. The serious bicyclists are intent on mileage and hardly turn their heads to admire the scenery. The casual bicyclists ride more slowly and stop to look at, or even photograph, the green spaces, and listen to the hot-weather bugs and birds. I tried to keep my husband in sight, but I lost him after a while. Where was he? Where was the town? Had I made a wrong turn?
Then something happened with the jeans. They seemed to be falling down, down… I am a big woman, but the jeans were growing, and it wasn’t because I was shrinking. I hitched them up and yanked my sweatshirt down. Because I was sitting on a bike, I could kind of keep them up.
Finally I found the town, but I wasn’t absolutely sure where my husband was. I took a couple of turns around downtown, hitching up my jeans frequently, and found him sitting on a rock in front of the Visitors Center.
Then we had to find a snack.
After 90 minutes of moderate riding, you need glucose to refuel your muscles. In small towns, it’s hard to find the right food. We are not morning people, and the cafes close early. There are usually convenience stores: Kum and Go, Git ‘n’ Go, and Casey’s.
The available food at convenience stores–cookies, ice cream sandwiches, and candy –does not renew my energy very well. When I was younger, anything was fine. I probably need healthy snacks now.
There are city cookies and small town cookies.
In the city you can get a big, delicious oatmeal cookie that is almost healthy. It is made of flour, oatmeal, butter, sugar, and eggs. It will taste good, and you’ll feel energetic afterwards. Sort of.
The small-town cookies at the convenience store are made of flour, corn syrup, and chemicals. You don’t want to eat those. They will make you sick.
So there you are. Sitting on the cement with your cookie, potato chips, or Slurpee from the convenience store.
Here is my resolve: to bring my own good food on the next bike ride. Dried fruit, bagels, and possibly sandwiches, if I can find a little cooler or something that fits in my pannier.
I also intend to ride more slowly and listen to the birds.
I also intend to wear jeans that fit me next time.
This excerpt from a poem by Linda Gregg says what I want to say.
I will never give up long.
I will let my hair stay long.
The rain proclaims these trees,
the trees tell of the sun.
Let birds, let birds.
Let leaf be passion.
Let jaw, let teeth, let tongue be
between us. Let joy.
–From “Let Bird” by Linda Gregg