Heart and Soul

Wednesday, July 20, 2005


There’s something about summer that brings out the kid in me. Hot sunny days arrive and I find myself thoughtlessly reverting to activities, clothing styles and even foods that suggest memories of my long ago youth.

My latest seasonal blast-from-the-past relates to a constitutional bike ride that I recently started taking each day. It’s an around-the-rural-block trek that amounts to approximately a five-mile journey. Now I have to tell you, it’s been a few years since I’ve undertaken bicycle cruises. Twenty to be exact. So the prospect of hitting the hilly country roads surrounding my rural home was initially somewhat daunting.

However, as June’s official point of summer demarcation brought forth festivals, and fun, it also set my mind to believing that the lengthy time lapse and considerable age span since my last cycling adventures were irrelevant. Suddenly, somehow I thought I was totally capable of climbing on my tortuously butt-busting bike seat and magically pedaling away with ease.


Week one: I managed to accomplish each complete, around-the-block circuit without once dismounting and walking. It was an achievement in which, on the downside of age fifty, I took great personal pride. Although I will tell you that during this period, my husband several times made mention of the fact that I seemed to be walking a lot like John Wayne.

Week two: I began to recover my old muscle memory and recall the concept of power pedaling, to the point that by day ten, I was cranking my riding machine up into the double digits of its twenty-one gear capacity. Soon I was embarking on actual trips with destinations such as the post office, the supermarket, and town meetings.

My bicycle was no longer just an object of excruciating exercise, rather, it had become an open-air transportation option. As I set off on my trips with a backpack over my shoulder and a Walkman cranking out my favorite tunes, I was once again a kid again……at least in theory.

Week three: Having fully re-mastered the basics, I began to playfully consider the joyful challenges of long forgotten bicycle stunts. Hands free, pop a wheelies, spinning a 360. Eventually my more mature nature coerced me into pursuing the one stunt that posed the least danger to my aging, breakable bones…. hands free.

I chose a downhill stretch of my preset route, a point where the incline would minimize my need to pedal and allow me to concentrate solely on my balance. As I picked up speed I tentatively let go of the handlebars… and immediately re-grabbed them as I felt my two wheeler drift wildly out of control.

"Perhaps not a good move" my mature nature cautioned. To which my summer-child sense issued a "Don’t be a wimp" challenge.

Needless to say, I tried again.

This time, I succeeded in leaving the handlebars unattended for a thirty second span. Victory! Score one for reclaiming my youth.

The next day, at the crest of the same hill, I once again attempted to abandon the security of my bike’s handlebar guidance system. Thirty, forty, sixty seconds passed and I was still hands free. Then with the wind whistling through my hair and Mary Chapin Carpenter’s "Why Walk When You Can Fly?" blasting from my earphones I decided to go for the gusto.

Slowly I extended my arms up over my head inch by inch until they reached for the clouds. It was a moment directly relived from the best memories of my youth.

Who says plastic surgery and expensive moisturizing creams are the only way to look and feel younger? Give me a bike and a good down hill run anyday!


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