July 2, 2001
Air Head


Saturday morning, I woke up desperately trying to think of ways to get out of bike riding.

Maybe I could plead 'pulled muscle,' I thought, flexing my right leg experimentally. My leg actually WAS a little stiff from our abbreviated ride the night before. I could tack on a limp, maybe, to enhance the sympathy value ... perhaps moan a little as I hobbled to the bathroom.

Or I could say I've got cramps. Cramps are a time-honored, all-purpose feminine *out.* It has been my experience that most men go slack-jawed and glassy-eyed whenever you start talking about cramps, and they cave in right away and agree to anything you say, just as long as you quit talking about CRAMPS already. ("Cramps" once got me out of a traffic ticket, for instance. But that's another story for another day.)

"Cramps" might work.

But then I looked over at David -- sleeping next to me, looking all cute and innocent and trusting -- and I knew I didn't have the heart to disappoint him.


He has been so excited, the past couple of months, about all of this bike-riding we're doing together. "This is what I've waited for all my life!" he crowed, a couple of weeks ago. "Bike-riding with a beautiful woman at my side!" And he was serious. (About the bike-riding, I mean. The "beautiful woman" comment is purely subjective commentary on his part, and does not necessarily reflect the views of the author, unless she's had nine hours of sleep the night before, and is enjoying a reasonably Good Hair Day.) David clearly derives great joy from all of this. And a big part of his pleasure, I think, has come from the fact that *I* seem to genuinely enjoy riding with him.

And I do enjoy it. I LOVE it, in fact. 

Or I did until Saturday morning.

I could insist that we skip riding this morning and go shopping, I thought. Neither one of us has shoes for the wedding yet. I could act all panicky and freaked out by how little time is left between now and the wedding, and make a big bunch of noise about how we don't have time to bike-ride, forcryingoutloud: we have to GO SHOPPING RIGHT NOW!

I could say I've got a headache, or a toothache, or a backache ... or I could complain that I didn't sleep well, and that I'm worried about riding when I'm 'tired' ... or I could complain that I slept too much, and that I'm worried about riding when I'm 'overstimulated' ...

... or I could claim that I come from the future, and that I have it on personal authority that if I ride my bike on June 30th, 2001 at 7:13 a.m. PDT, I'll get hit by an AC Transit Bus on Webster Street, in front of the KFC, and spend the next nine months in traction, thereby seriously fudking up the wedding (not to mention the honeymoon).

Or I could tell him the truth: that the thought of climbing onto a bike was filling my heart with icy black dread ... that the last two rides had been difficult and painful beyond my wildest imaginings, and that I was afraid it was going to HURT again ... that I would rather publish photos of myself in my new bathing suit, frankly, than get on that bike and ride around Bay Farm Island this morning.

Truth would be good.

David woke up just then. "Morning, gorgeous!" he said. "You ready to ride?"

This is it! shouted the little voice inside my head. This is your chance to come clean and tell him that you don't want to ride today! That in fact you don't think you want to ride again, ever!   But I took one look at those translucent blue eyes, smiling at me from the other pillow, and my heart wilted. And eventually I did what I always do on Saturday mornings: I crawled out of bed even earlier than I do on work days, I took a shower, I chugged down a little caffeine, I strapped myself into my bike helmet ... and I climbed onto the Schwinn.

Fifteen minutes later I was near tears again.

"Is it still bad?" David asked, as we concluded our warm-up spin around the neighborhood. I nodded miserably.

Ever since The Big Ride  --  the epic ride from Moraga to Walnut Creek, a couple of weekends back  --  bicycling had suddenly, inexplicably become about a bazillion times tougher for me.  All of a sudden it was like I was trying to push a locomotive around the island, instead of a Schwinn. We couldn't figure it out. I didn't know if I was simply having trouble rebounding physically from the Moraga ride  ...  or whether it was because we'd been rained-out all week, and my muscles had gotten soft and squishy in the meantime ... or whether it was some sort of undiagnosed mechanical problem with the bike itself. I'd come home from Moraga with another flat tire: this time, I ran over a thorn in Walnut Creek. David had fixed the flat, and installed one of those Mr. Tuffy tube protectors on both tires, just to be on the safe side. The Schwinn had been running weirdly sluggish and heavy, ever since.

It was sort of like riding at the bottom of a swimming pool. In fourteenth gear. Backwards.

We stopped and pondered our options for a moment. Push onward? Give up and go home? Call a cab? 

Strap me and my Schwinn to David's handlebars and let him ferry us around the island? 

"Let's try walking over to the Chevron station on the corner," David suggested finally. "Maybe some air in your tires will help." As we pushed our bikes the 43,897,621 blocks to the gas station, mutinous thoughts continued to run through my head. We could always take up oil painting on the weekends! I pondered hopefully. Or golf! Golf might be good! How strenuous can it be, walking around hitting little balls with a stick all day?

At the gas station, David made a big deal out of showing me exactly how to unscrew the little valve cap thingy ... how to pull the hose out of the whatchamacallit and insert it into the thingamabob ... how to adjust the gauge doohickey and press the thingamajig, causing air to swoosh through the hose and into the tire. The whole operation took less than two minutes. 

"There ya go," David said when he was finished. "Give that a try."

Extremely reluctantly, I climbed back onto the Schwinn. I wasn't at all optimistic. How much difference could a little air make, anyway?

Thirty seconds later I was flying around the Chevron parking lot like a wind-up Happy Meal Toy.

"Oh my god!" I shouted in jubilation. "It's like the difference between night and day!" And it was: it was like someone, somewhere, had thrown a big switch and the world had suddenly gone from dark to light again. My bike felt about half a ton lighter ... and so did I, riding around that parking lot. I felt fleet and nimble and unencumbered, and all of a sudden riding was fun again, and we finished our Saturday morning ride in record time, with me nipping at David's heels the whole way, instead of lagging four hundred feet behind, weeping uncontrollably.

And then we went out and did it all over again the next morning.

There is no real point to my rambling little missive tonight, except to say that thanks to this experience I'm going to recognize the warning signs now, whenever my tires start running a little low (I loved the way my tires felt after we put air into them: all light and springy and bouncy. I want them to feel that way all the time!!) ... and that I'm not planning to make a habit of riding when I don't feel like it, just to make David happy (and that the only reason I did this time is because I'd feeling sort of wimpy lately -- weeping on this trail, whining on that one -- and I was trying to suck it up) ...

... and to say, last of all, that I'm a couple of *molecules* bike-smarter  --  and relationship-smarter  --  than I was three days ago. 

And that's always a good thing.

one year ago: you can't take me anywhere
[the infamous *incontinence* entry!]

throw a rock