Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Easy Rider

Note: I originally published this one back in August I think. I had to take it down for a while for a contest entry, but I've since re-worked it a bit and here it is. Please don't think I bike ride in the snow. I'm crazy but not a lunatic...

I recently experienced the joys of mountain biking, and my physicians tell me I should be able to leave the hospital by Tuesday.

The exertion of climbing the mountain my home rests upon I usually leave to the large, powerful engine in my automobile.

Not this past weekend however.

No – I finally took my wife’s entreaties to heart, donned my helmet, and set off on a great journey down hill. At first.

And then back up. Ah yes. Up.

As my puffy, heaving body lay collapsed and wheezing at the side of the road in an ever-expanding puddle of sweat and drool, I fondly remembered my old biking days.

I used to be quite the rider you know.

At one time in my life I used to ride up all three north shore mountains in Vancouver in one day without too much trouble, other than complete sterility and a permanent limp.

Cycling and I had started getting serious about each other back in grade 5.

For my birthday that summer I had received the ultimate – a red, stick-shift, 3-speed bike with a banana seat, tall padded backrest and chopper style handle bars. It was amazing. I swear you could hear Born To Be Wild in the background wherever I went.

Of course the stick shift wound up buried in my groin more than once, the colour was quite loud (I would say ‘gay’ but homosexuality did not exist back then of course), but what really killed this bike love affair was hormones.

I recall an older woman (in reality a grade seven, early-maturing girl with actual boobs) saying it was a ‘kid’s bike’ – thus putting the kiss of death on any coolness I thought I had.

In a small digression from my cycling theme if I may, let me point out that it was this same girl who noticed one day that the shirt I had hastily grabbed as I rushed out the door to school was in fact one of my sister’s - which had ‘darts’ in it.

Darts, it turns out, are seams used in shirts to accommodate a girl’s brassiere, or as we boys maturely called them – Over Shoulder Boulder Holders – said darts being something I had not known about until The Hallway Moment.

There in the crowded school between classes, this girl stopped, pointed at my shirt, and screeched at the top of her lungs “That’s got darts! He’s wearing a girl’s shirt!!”

I recall clutching my books to my chest for the rest of the day, which was most unmasculine. In the days before backpacks, boys were supposed to carry their books by their side, even if doing so caused sprained wrists, intense back pain or paralysis.

Well – that was cleansing after all these years. Cheaper than a shrink too. Wonderful.

Anyway, my current bike is of top notch quality, made by the Sherman Tank Company approximately 50 years ago.

Travelling downward, it is a fine steed – poised, stable, polite in mixed company.

Upward, not so much. In fact, the gears inside the shift thingy’s on the handlebars were sheared off in my frantic clicking into the lowest gear possible. Even that wasn’t low enough as I rose at glacial pace, up from the base of the hill.

Passing motorists helpfully pointed out that my legs were smoking. I gestured my thanks.

Having travelled a good thirty feet up the hill, I stopped for a much deserved water break and to survey my progress.

It was then things got a little woozy, such that I phoned my wife on my cell phone which I had conveniently strapped to my chest along with my health insurance card and a change of underwear.

She appeared a short time later – her visage shimmering in the heat my overtaxed body was throwing into the atmosphere, distorting climate change readings everywhere.

“How many fingers am I holding up?” she asked.

“Thursday” I reported, collapsing.

Actually, I walked up the hill just fine.

My purple face caused neighbours to hurry their children inside as I passed, but I was fine. Really.

A nice shower till the hot water tank ran dry, a short, six hour nap, a bowlful of ibuprofen, and I was ready to go again no problem.

Lance Armstrong? Pah.

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