My mom was so excited to get an actual hand-written letter yesterday from a blogging friend. I’m not sure what impressed me more, the fact that she has made a good friend in a “complete stranger” or the fact that some people still write hand-written letters? I put “complete stranger” in quotation marks because I too have developed relationships beyond just the blogosphere with a couple of amazing women. Although we still encourage and support one another on our writing endeavors, we now converse about things other than our blogs. We’re interested in the stuff behind the blog and even fantasize about meeting one day. (I can totally see how internet dating sites could work.)
Late last night one of these friends asked me a totally random question: Do you have a bike? And if so, do you love it or hate it?
I almost fell out of my chair laughing, and for those of you that have known me a long time, you are probably laughing too.
No, I most certainly do not have a bike and if I did, I would probably hate it. Although, I currently “have” DW’s old bike that was too small for him, complete with a new seat and pedals. It left my garage once, I think, this past summer. I do remember cursing at it loudly while trying to ride up a steep hill in first gear, hands tightly gripping the handles, legs trembling and sweat rolling down my back. I might have even shouted at DW who was riding comfortably in front of me, “Can’t I just walk this freaking thing home?”
Whenever I think about riding a bike, I think about our honeymoon. We were blessed with an amazing trip from my in-laws to go on a 7-day Caribbean cruise. I had never been on a cruise or even out of the country, so I was doubly excited. As I scanned all of our excursion options, I tried to pick out things I thought my dare-devil husband would love to do but would still be within my comfort zone. Plus, since we were newly married, I had this silly notion that I should try to impress him and show my more “adventurous” side. Unfortunately, there aren’t many options for those of us that are slightly claustrophobic, afraid of heights, dislike high speeds, are fearful swimmers and have absolutely no athletic ability. It’s a good thing DW thinks I am smart and cute because he certainly didn’t marry me for my “adventurous side”. My eyes rested on this:
Land to Sea Excursion – an easy, guided group bike tour through the Jamaican landscape, ending at a private cove for lunch and snorkeling.
“How hard could that be?” I thought, “It’s a guided tourists trip and I know how to ride a bike.”
Of course, it had been over ten years since I had ridden a bike, but whatever. DW was going to be so impressed.
I should have known immediately that I had made a mistake when the jam-packed squeaky bus had to turn off the air-conditioning to make it up the steep hill to our starting location, because everything that goes up, well, it must come down.
We passed fields and fields of emptiness climbing to the top, but as we reached the summit, a paint-chipped abandoned looking building surfaced. Apparently it was the community’s school and right next to it were rows and rows of shacks. Some had clothes drying on outside lines while dogs and chickens roamed around in the dirt yards. Half-dressed children with no shoes ran up and down the street waving at our bus. The “Jamaican landscape” we were going to ride our bikes through was a typical poverty-stricken community. The roads were unpaved, gravely, and full of pot-holes. Our tour-guides met us with a flat-bed truck and a variety of well-used bicycles. I was fitted with the smallest on hand, probably a child’s size. Unfortunately, even the smallest equipment was too big. The elbow and knee pads wouldn’t stay in place and kept falling down. Not that it really mattered, I guess, because they weren’t very plush or protective. Luckily I did have a well-fitted helmet. Immediately our group raced ahead, coasting quickly down the unfamiliar terrain. I, on the other hand, clutched both hand brakes with such force that my knuckles started to turn white. DW tried to coax me to “let-go” and let the hill’s steepness pull me along. When his coaxing didn’t work, he decided to use teasing, riding in circles around me laughing, while taking pictures of my fear-filled face. The tour guides didn’t find this funny at all, in fact, they scolded him several times.
“Stop, or you’ll make her fall!” they insisted, “Just go on ahead with the group and one of us will ride with her.”
They didn’t know DW very well. He continued his antics as I crept along until suddenly one of his tires skidded in the gravel and was sucked in to a pot hole. He went flying over his handle bars, landing face first in the dirt. Scrapes and bruises immediately surfaced on his hands and legs. One of the tour guides rushed to his aid, but he just sat in the dirt laughing at himself, shaking his head in disbelief. Once he mounted his bike again, the guide insisted more adamantly that he ride with the rest of the group.
It felt like days before I reached our half-way point and rendezvoused with the rest of the group getting sodas at a small snack shack. My heart was beating ferociously and sores were starting to form on my hands.
“How long have we been riding?” I asked DW breathlessly.
“Not even an hour,” he smirked.
My heart sank.
As people started getting on their bikes again, I noticed that one young woman was climbing on the back of the flat-bed truck. Her bike had already been loaded and strapped down.
“What’s she doing?” I asked excitedly.
“Oh – she’s not feeling well, so the truck is driving her down to the cove,” replied someone in our group.
“Hey!” I shouted towards the truck, dragging my bike quickly over the rough road. “Can I ride down too?”
The tour guide who rode with me smiled and sighed in relief as he reached for my bike, then waved me on to the truck bed. I spent the next hour riding in complete comfort, experiencing the “Jamaican landscape”.