Saturday, March 29, 2008

Just like Lance...only not

So, I've been promising that I would blog on my biking adventures...and so I will. :)

First, I bought the bike on Monday...and was excited about the purchase.  The quick ride on the paths by the bike shop helped me feel VERY excited about being able to get it home.  Sure, I had to take off the front wheel to get it in my MINI, and sure, I ended up scratching the inside of said MINI's C-pillar, but it's worth it, right?  

During lunch on Tuesday, I went to a different place where my co-worker swears they have great deals on biking accessories.  I walked out of there with a helmet (that actually allows ponytails through the straps!), a floor pump (complete with pressure gauge), as well as a couple other choice items that would make me safe and happy while riding said bike.  What I can say is that technology has changed quite a bit since I rode them two decades ago.  Grip shifters are now the thing - which makes them LOOK like bikes from our childhood but with the functionality of the 10 speeds.  And they shift so easily!  Remember that I said this, dear will come in handy later.  Oh, and the seats are more comfortable.*

Tuesday after work I rushed home to ride the bike.  I got on the joggabra (please, sometimes this is a workout in itself), set up everything (including my new iTunes playlist called "bike"), and set out - ready to ride to the huge REI that is by my place.  REI has many bike trails around it and according to my co-worker, I should be able to bike around there without a problem.  Sounds great... right?  Yeah, only not so much.

See, the problem with biking at REI is that you have to GET to REI.  Which means I have to (and sorry for those outside of Denver) bike down Zuni - across 29th (which turns into 15th), down the steep hill to REI.  

I start my biking with optimism.  I mean, there is a steady stream of "Whoa there!" going through my mind, but that's likely to fade, right?  Besides, Van Morrison's "Jackie Wilson Said" is streaming through my, upbeat...what can go wrong?

I realized as I was riding down there that I wasn't pedaling hardly at all...thus the return trip would be filled with not so much fun bouts of panting and cursing.  I decided that since I would be a hazard to....well...anyone around me that I should stick to the sidewalks.  Then I thought, "do people ride bikes on the sidewalks?"  I don't know.  Hell, when I'm in a car I barely pay attention to what the other cars on the road are doing let alone documenting if bikers are on the sidewalks or the streets.  Clearly, I'm too busy enjoying the baseline of "Gloria" to care.

Okay, so I'm on the sidewalk and I get to my first red light.  No problem.  I get off my seat (straddling my bike) and wait for the light to turn green so I can cross across 29th.  It does.  And I'm not kidding you EVERYONE in their cars at the light turns to look at me.  No pressure.  

So I get on the bike and I start pedaling.  Only I forgot that I put it in a much higher gear before stopping at the light.  I swear, I must've looked like a monkey trying to cross that street because I was pedaling SO hard while almost weaving.  I'm sure the people thought that I was going to swerve into their cars - I couldn't get enough momentum to ride straight!  I couldn't figure out the gear shifters in enough time to recover.  Just when the momentum started getting up there, I realized I was coming to the end of the street...and I started looking frantically for the ramp UP to the sidewalk.  No ramp.  The mantra of "Whoa there" changed quickly to "Oh SHIT!!!" over and over in my mind.  I can't jump the curb, I mean, who am I? Tony Hawk?  So I instead tried to jump off my bike only that didn't work and I almost wiped out.  I swear I heard the people in the cars laughing.  I can't blame them.  I would've too.  

So now I'm on 29th, on a road I've literally never even walked, and I notice that apparently this is where concrete demolition training must be held in the daytime.  There is not a straight path anywhere.  Jagged pieces of concrete are sticking out of the ground, cones litter the sidewalks, and are potholes (are they called potholes when they're on sidewalks?) the size of monster truck tires everywhere.  I have no choice other than to try to navigate my way over the smoothest bumps.  This is the only part of this blog where Lance Armstrong and I have any similarity because I'm not sure I can conceive children now after going over some of the terrain.  

Okay - I am officially now on 15th.  And I realize that the very steep sidewalk that I'm on is leading me along store front properties.  My mantra of "Oh SHIT!" has just changed to "Please God, don't let someone come out of those stores" because really?  There is no way I could avoid hitting them.  I end up going over an overpass - just me, on the sidewalk...where one side is 4-6 lanes of very busy rush hour traffic.  The other?  SPEEDING cars on 1-25 (hence, the overpass). pressure here.  I round the corner to get towards REI parking and note that a guy is waiting for the bus.  IN THE MIDDLE OF THE SIDEWALK.  Where is my sumo horn now?  He looks at me, must've seen the terror in my face, and wisely backs into the grass out of harm's way.  Over my headphones "Don't Stop Me Now" by Queen is playing.  

I get to REI...but the battle to find the bike paths has only just begun.  

I'm finally able to locate said paths and start cruising down the path.  Sure, it took a lot of work to get here, but now that I'm done with that part, I can just enjoy this.  Right? 


Because it's now 6:30 in the evening.  The sun is setting along the Platte River and thus a time when any and all gnats must form in HUGE clouds all along the bike path.   I've discovered that I don't like the feeling of gnats hitting my face.  Also not a big fan of the taste of them.  The worst is when they get behind my sunglasses.  

Please, kind readers, take the time to picture what I look like if you were coming up the path to me on your bike.  I'm this big woman on a cute bike whose helmet is slightly askew.  I'm panting, I'm spitting out insects from the last cloud of gnats, only to cruise into a new swarm.  Me shaking my head like a crazy person means my torso shakes as well.  And like that stupid bone song from when we were kids says, if my torso is shaking, you know my arms are shaking.  This does wonders for my already floundering stability and I start wobbling on the bike.  Those grip shifters I mentioned earlier?  Yeah, well they do allow you to shift gears with the slightest turn of your grips... So my wobbling makes me want to grip tighter...and thereby I'm changing gears quickly.  I swear, during the 4,328 clouds of gnats, I almost hit two dogs, a group of 10 bikers clad in spandex, a family with the most Arian looking children ever, an old man who was running seemingly in place, a homeless person, and what looked like a raccoon.

That return trip?  It was just the way I thought it would be.  Full of panting, sweating, and finally the feel of success as I arrived home.

I've been out a couple of times since then and in some ways it's gotten better.  I'm dedicated to keep at it - and I hope that at some point it will get easier and I'll have figured out a better route to bike paths that are low on the gnat-meter.

*comfortable is a relative term.  Seriously, the seats have gotten bigger in the last 20 years.  Unfortunately, so has my ass.


Jen said...

Oh my goodness Anne, this post had me rolling!! Good for you for getting back on the bike!! I am sure you'll get the hang of it!! Keep us up to date on the progress!!

Thanks for making me laugh! I am thinking this will go into my post of the week section!

McG said...

I want a pic of you with your helmet on and your pony tails sticking out, please! Details like that make me ROTFLMAO.

And yeah, I definitely feel you on the whole new world of biking. It is extremely scary to be on the road on a bike with cars! I do not like that at all. Good luck and keep it up, it definitely gets better.

happyfunpants said...

Are you kidding me? I would never take a picture of myself in my biking attire, let alone send it to someone else. It'd be like birth control for the masses. :)

turleybenson said...

All my memories of biking through the crazy streets of Boston (after not riding a bike for 15-odd years) are coming back to me. Yes, terrifying at first, but then very empowering. I really need to get back on that bike. I hear it's like riding a bike.

Ginger said...

Dude. BEEN THERE. Seriously. It took me something like three weeks to get the hang of the bike and I had many conversations with various parts of my body, pleading with them to make it home.. There were times when I thought God was just going to have to take me, that I would be found lying by the side of the trail with my gnat spray gripped tightly in my cold, clutched hands. My body was done.

But after a while I started to really enjoy bike rides, and within two months I was on for 25 miles a day! (Which sounds a lot more impressive than it is..) I gave up the bike for the pregnancy which was probably way over-cautious and lame, but I miss it. A lot!