Yes, it is my first ride on my new mountain bike. Well, my first ride off the nice, flat, strip mall pavement where I test drove it. Where everything was in control and I thought, well it is true: You never forget how to ride a bike. Of course it now dawns on me that the problem is that I never knew how to ride one of these puppies in the first place. The bike is an Iron Horse Warrior. A chrome and black dual suspension bicycle with rugged, thick, 26" tires. It is designed to go where no bike has gone before.
I careen madly down a slope that never looked that steep when I walked it a hundred times. Things are moving way, way, way too fast. Where the hell are the brakes? This is ridiculous! I'm not even peddling!!!
I had not ridden a bike since I was 16, not one without a motor that is. I wrecked two motorcycles when I was in my 20's. I figured the third time would be the charm and I'd end up dead, so I gave them up. It would be OK if everyone rode motorcycles, but the problem is most folks are in cars, and for some reason people in cars don't tend to see motorcycles. Or, in some cases, they see you just fine but have nefarious intent.
So what would posses a 42-year-old man who hardly ever gets any exercise and has not ridden a bike for over 26 years to run out and buy a mountain bike? It is very simple: it's my brother-in-law’s fault.
He and my sister and her two youngest stayed with us for a few days around new years. One morning we were sitting at the kitchen table in front of the wide glass doors that lead out on to the back porch. Spread out in front of us is, I gotta brag, an incredible desert panorama. Our house sits on top of a hill and has a commanding view of the valley below, mesas and hills stretched out for miles, then the distinctive shape of Starvation Peak about 20 miles off, and in the background the Sangre de Cristo Mountains 50 or so miles distant. Starvation peak is so named because, according to local legend a band of Hispanic settlers escaped to the top after being pursued by hostile Indians. The warriors besieged them and they all staved to death up on top. Another version of the story has the Hispanics besieging the Indians and the Indians starving. Probably no one has ever starved up there, but it is a great story either way.
Tim and I are in no danger of starving as long as Deb is the cook. Today we're having a companionable cup of coffee. Well come to think of it, I'm drinking coffee, heavy and rich (my wife would say motor oil) and he is drinking green tea. He's on his Apple lap top and I'm on my Compaq. We're enjoying the view, sipping our drinks, and half heartily surfing the web when he says to me "with all this land you have out here you should buy a mountain bike."
Well, one thing lead to another and after a little on-line research it was clear that I didn't even have the right vocabulary to even understand what I was reading. It was clear I'd need to go to a bricks and mortar store and look and bikes and talk with bike people in person.
I hadn't planned on looking at any in Denver, but we took Rio to the Downtown Aquarium the day after Mom's B-Day. Printcrafter’s rating: Five Stars. We loved it so much we got a membership so we can get in free every time we are in Denver. Plus half off on parking. And the restaurant, run by the Landry’s Sea food folks, is actually really, really, really good. Very cool place. Anyway, very nearby is the flag ship store of the REI chain, a seller of outdoorsy stuff. The store is one of the most fantastically beautiful places I've even been in. Too bad the staff doesn't match.
I tired to talk to the guy in the bike department, but it was worthless. I don’t think he’d ever seen anyone my age before. I got no where, and learned nothing.
On Friday night in Denver while out running an errand, I take a wrong turn and end up face to face with a bike shop: Performance Bicycle. Three hours later, my wife convinced I'm dead from a hypo, Gene (a newly minted school physiologist who is still working at the bike shop that put him through college while he looks for a career) has patiently explained every component of a mountain bike to me and showed me the differences between the various sub-species and price classes. He gets me a helmet and arranges for me to take one out for a spin in the parking lot. I'm very shaky at first and can barely stay upright. But soon I get my balance and I'm having a blast. It is a warm evening (in Denver? in January?). I'm flying around the mall's parking lot, jumping curbs and speed bumps and having the best time I've had for years.
I ride four different bikes. It's kind of like Goldie Locks and the Three Bikes, err, Three Bears. One is too big. One is too hard, One is the right size, but too hard, and finally one is Just Right. It comes home with me in the trunk. My wife is not amused.
I'd planned to ride down the road to the back meadow for the first trial, saving the rougher terrain for later once the bike and I know each other better. Now I abandon that plan and head for the flatter ground near the fire circle. I'm thinking if I can keep from breaking my neck, a leg, or the bike I'll be happy to just get back to the house alive. Thank God they have a 30-day money back guarantee.
I get the speed under control, get turned around and make it almost back to the house, where I'm able to stop and get off. I walk the bike back up the drive way. I'm winded, gasping for breath and muscles in my legs that I didn't even know I had are screaming in pain.
I stumble in, throw my helmet on the couch and sit to catch my breath. Then a funny thing happened. Like a man possessed, I went out and did I again. And again, And again. And again.
Throughout the day I'd go ride one loop, about 600 yards or so, then come in, do some laundry or some such, and go out again. Each time I got more comfortable, happier, faster, and more confident. I'm bouncing over rocks, artfully dodging prickly pear cactus, laughing, and enjoying the rush of shooting over the rough ground. Bottom line: this is FUN! And good exercise too. My endo will be thrilled that I'm getting some exercise. Finally, my butt gives out before the rest of me. Time to call it a day. I won't be exercising my 30 day return on the bike. I won't be exercising it on the Guardian either. She's part of the family now.
And what of the Girl? She seems to like bike ridding too, and reports that the BG is more or less stable. It seems that the adrenaline and the BG burn are canceling themselves out.
Speaking of the Guardian I've got a basket full of adventures for you. But they are hastily scribbled on restaurant napkins or exist as half-written posts on my lap top. I need to pull them together and dole them out to you a few at a time. Also, it is back to work tomorrow after a few weeks off, so time to get the lab brain working again and get the studio ready for the big bridal show at the end of the month. Will I be able to post every day this month? I don’t know, I'll try, but no promises; besides, I gotta make time to ride my bike!