Yesterday my boyfriend and I traveled the whole way to Addison, Pa. to purchase a bike from a lady who, I'm convinced, knew that I wanted her bike. It was quite ironic, after all, that when my "I Want a Bicycle" column was published in last week's Our Town, she put an ad in the Daily American classifieds stating that she had a 26" turquoise women's bike for sale.
Anyway, we got to her house and I took a little test run on the bicycle in a church parking lot nearby. It felt so good to be back on a bicycle again. And I knew that this was the one I wanted. It was blue. And it was cheap.
I paid her $50 and Eric loaded the bike atop his car. We drove straight to Confluence, unloaded our bikes, and pedaled our way to the start of Rails to Trails.
"Do you think you can do 20-some miles?" he asked. "'Cause we could always just go halfway and then turn around."
"Twenty-some miles," I answered. "Go big or go home, right?"
Of course I could do 20-some miles. It was my first time on Rails to Trails and I wanted the full experience. It was a beautiful day for biking and I needed the exercise. Plus, I wanted to prove to myself that I could do it.
Thankfully, Rails to Trails is entirely flat. There are no steep inclines. Just a casual, comfortable riding trail that is perfect for bikers of all ages. Eric explained--and for some reason I never put two and two together--that the trails used to be train tracks, hence the name "Rails to Trails."
"So you can imagine the ghosts of trains as you ride your bike," he said.
I thought that was neat.
Turns out I didn't really end up thinking about trains. Rather, I spent the next ten miles thinking about how awesome it felt to finally own a bike. I thought about my family, my friends, what's to come with the summer sun. I thought about the poems I want to write, the essays I need to compose, the endless ideas for plays that have settled in my brain and are collecting dust (sad face). I realized that biking was not only a physical exercise, but also a mental exercise. I was burning calories while creating to-do lists and plotlines.
I said hello to every biker I passed.
"Do you say hello to everybody?" Eric asked, smiling.
"Of course," I said. "I think we should say hello to everyone. It's just part of keeping up with humanity . . . I mean . . . keeping humanity, well, humane."
About an hour into our ride, we stopped near a little resting place that led to beach area and parked our bikes in the woods. While we were passing an apple back and forth near the shoreline, we heard a scary sound. A gunshot.
"Ummm, are you allowed to shoot guns around here?" I asked.
"Are you scared?" I asked. "'Cause I am."
After we finished our apple, we walked up the hill toward our bikes.
Eric's bike was still resting against a tree. Mine was on the ground. Someone shot my bike!
I lifted it off the ground.
"That wasn't a gunshot," Eric said. "That was the sound of your tire exploding."
My first time on Rails to Trails and I had a flat tire. Ugh. I was so bummed.
"Well, Confluence is ten miles that way, which means we're closer to Ohiopyle," he said.
"Let's just walk back to Confluence."
"That'll take approximately four hours."
"Fine. Then let's ask someone how far Ohiopyle is."
We walked up to a brother and sister pair lounging on a picnic table.
"Excuse me. Hi. How far is Ohiopyle?" I asked.
"About three miles that way," the lady said, pointing her finger toward the trail.
"Thanks," I said.
We spent the next mile walking along the trail, leading our bikes like miniature ponies.
"Do you want to try to get on my bike?" Eric asked.
That plan turned out to be a disaster. Imagine me getting on Eric's bike while he pedaled AND held onto my injured Roadmaster's right handlebar. Yeah. That was not happening.
"This isn't a three-ring circus," I said.
So we quickly abandoned that plan and continued to walk. We asked passersby if they had a bicycle pump, but no one did. Go figure.
An older couple passed us and asked why we weren't biking the trail.
"Flat tire," I said, quite flatly.
"Try riding on it," the man said. "Just go slow."
I jumped back on the bike and pedaled it about two miles down the trail. And here's what I learned during that little experiment: it's really hard to pedal a bike with a flat tire. Really hard. A challenge.
Eventually Eric and I decided to switch bikes because I was going approximately 0 m.p.h. and I knew that he would be a trooper and up the ante by at least 2 m.p.h. He's athletic like that, whereas I was sweating and frustrated and embarrassed.
We made it to Ohiopyle and found the bicycle repair shop. The teenager at the counter said that he could replace the innertube, but my rim was crooked and in desperate need of repair.
"It'll be $5 for the innertube and $5 for the service," he said.
"And that'll get us back to Conflluence?" Eric asked.
"Yeah," he said.
"That'd be great, then," I said. "How much time do you need?"
"Half an hour."
"Cool. See you soon."
Aside from music, here are four things that can make me feel better: ice cream, cookies, cake, and chocolate. Find a way to combine two or more of them and that's even better.
We went to the little ice cream shop and I ordered one scoop of Extreme Brownie Batter and one scoop of Oatmeal Cookie Extravaganza--two flavors I had never tried, but sounded delicious enough to put a big smile on my face.
After we ate our ice cream in the warm sunlight, we went back to retrieve my bike. It was good as new--or as good as it could be. Whatever. As long as I could get back on the trail, all was well.
"Do you still like your new bike?" Eric asked about a mile into our journey back to Confluence.
"I do," I said. "It may need a little tune-up, you know, but I'm just happy to own a bike."
And I was so happy to be alive.
With the wind against our faces, and at times against our backs, we pedaled the 12 miles back to Confluence. And it felt so good--the wind in my face, in my hair, in my pupils, in my soul. Fresh air. Tall trees. Beautiful flowers. As much as I sometimes complain about living in this area, Rails to Trails makes me feel grateful to live in this part of Pennsylvania. It's postcard worthy.
Twenty-four miles and one flat tire later, I was grateful for the experience. I did it. We did it. And even though my legs felt like Jell-O and my butt was sore, I felt as if I could have kept pedaling into the sunset.
"That was pretty sweet," Eric said after preparing our bikes for the long drive home.
"It was," I said.
"It was kind of like life, you know? Some joys, some struggles, some monotony . . . some people come, some people go . . . yeah, a bike ride is a lot like life."
On our way home, I rolled down my window, watched the shadows of our bikes drift along the road, and let the wind tangle my hair.
Fiction, poetry, and all that good stuff . . .