The big vacation is over now, but there’s one cool part that I intentionally neglected to mention in my previous post. Rather than just state it – the news – outright, I’m going to tell you a moderately sizable story that reveals it.
For starters, I’ve been kind of wanting a bike for a while now. This has nothing to do with the story. This has everything to do with the story.
And on day numero tres of vaca, I headed downtown and stepped into Redemptive Cycles, this super cool, local bike shop that sells bikes and fixes them up. What I really love about the place: they donate bikes to people who are unable to purchase them and who, in return, help out in the shop for a certain (and brief) length of time. So you can understand that this is a company I would feel good about purchasing from.
But as I perused their selection and tried out a few different bikes, I had the feeling that I hadn’t found the one yet. I thanked the floor guy for his help and explained that I wanted to take some time to pause and reflect before making what was, to me, a big purchase. I then Googled “bikes birmingham al” and found two other local bike shops, both of them located in Mountain Brook and, conveniently, within the same little shopping strip. I drove straight to them.
A sign hung in the window of the first bike shop, advertising the mono-colored cruisers stationed out in front of the place: “Price just lowered! Was $2000, now $1500!”
“Why am I even here?” I murmured out loud, to Charlie.
Still, one foot already in the door, I went ahead and stepped all of the way in and threw a polite glance around the room. The attendant, taking in the sight of me (board shorts, band T, and dusty old Vans), clearly knew that he wasn’t about to make a sale, but he was still nice about it.
“Hiya! Anything I can help you with?”
“Just browsing today,” I answered quickly (to confirm his suspicion), “but, in particular, I was wanting to take a look at some cruisers.”
“Okay!” he responded, nodding his head up and down. “We have a few of those in stock and they’re all parked outside. They’ve actually just been marked down.”
Ha.. saw those. “Marked down” my a–
“Cool!” I responded just as enthusiastically. “I’m going to go take a look. Thanks for your help!”
And on we went to the next place.
I liked the next one a little more — Bob’s Bikes. An assistant named Hardwick (SUCH a cool name) rolled two intriguing bikes outside, into the alley behind the shop, so that I could try them out. The first bike was a total no-go; the second, cool but pricey. I told him the same thing I’d told Redemptive; I’m going to take some time to reflect.
“You’ll be dreaming about this bike tonight,” he warned, good-naturedly.
I laughed at him. “Maybe.”
I settled in at home late that afternoon and let out a sigh. Growing up with impulsive parents, instant gratification is a default expectation that I constantly have to keep in check. You don’t make the quick, pricey, and halfway-thought-out decision, I reminded myself. That’s the one you regret. I’ve seen this, so I know this. And spacing out the time between the onset of a desire and the gratification of that desire can seem like a bummer, but I swear, doing so is SO worth the while.
And I wasn’t totally inactive during this “reflective” period. I proactively continued my search for dream bike.
I pulled up Craigslist from the comfort of my spaced-out bedroom and had a blast sifting through postings from locals. A few antique bikes caught my eye, but none of them fascinated me. I chose to inquire on a single posting that day; one advertising a women’s turquoise cruiser that was fully outfitted with saddlebags, a bell, and a chainguard. It looked nice. A little frilly, but nice. And cute. It also hardly looked used.
The chick was asking $150 for the bike. I emailed her, asking (for kicks) if she’d take $120 and, if so, if we could meet the following morning; I was anxious to ride my new bike.
She answered two hours later: yes and yes.
I was ecstatic.
But when I went to bed that night, I could hardly fall asleep — not from excitement and joyful anticipation, but because of heavy doubt and pending disappointment.
Why am I settling? I asked myself. I know this isn’t the bike for me.
But how do you ‘know’ that? I challenged.
Because; after testing out bikes in-person today, I discovered three things that I want that are absolutely nonnegotiable:
- I like “straight” handlebars.. not the weird ones that curve inward, towards you. Know what I mean? Like, okay.. I like this:
And turquiose had those weird handlebars.
- I’m comfortable with hand brakes; NOT pedal brakes. As a kid, I really enjoyed being able to pedal backwards anytime I wanted, while in motion. Pedal brakes wouldn’t allow for this nonsense. I had also learned to grip the handlebar levers anytime I wanted to brake. It’s not that I couldn’t relearn how to do something; it’s that I, objectively, after researching, preferred the old way (the research I conducted indicated that hand brakes really are superior because you can better control the degree of braking, whereas, with pedal brakes, you have two basic options/settings: A. you’re going and you’re not stopping B. YOU’RE STOPPING STOP RIGHT NOW).
Strike 2: Turquiose employed pedal brakes.
- I wanted a bike that looked cool. Not some fancy, frilly turquoise bike.
Annnnnnnd you’re out, Turquiose, on the account of being too fancy, too frilly, and too freaking cute.
So, lying there in bed, I was upset with myself for being so hasty, and I was mad at the bike for being so disagreeable. But it wasn’t the bike’s fault; it’s a perfectly nice and functional bike. We’re just not well-suited for each other.
When I woke up, bike drama was the first thing on my mind.
I really hate to disappoint this lady, I thought to myself, but I can’t justify purchasing something I’m not going to use.
I texted her, notifying her of my order cancellation and apologizing profusely, and she replied quickly, saying it was totally no problem. That was a relief.
And then, I resumed my search, more calculating, nitpicky and discriminating with my browsing approach than ever before.
And with my well-defined standards and carefully crafted ideals in mind, I found it. A bike that perfectly matched all of my criteria.
I emailed the guy right away, cautiously hopeful that I’d hear back from him same-day. Ten minutes after sending my email, I walked downstairs and met Charlie in the living room.
“I want to email him AGAIN,” I complained, “just to point out that I emailed him TEN MINUTES ago and that he’s YET to respond.”
Charlie raised his eyebrows.
“OR,” I retracted, “my approach could be more like — hey, I emailed you recently; just wanted to make sure you got it.” I shrugged, like that wouldn’t be weird or pushy.. it would be reasonable and perfectly normal.
But I decided to wait it out, and I’m glad that I did; he responded just twenty minutes later!
In my email, I had asked:
- Love this retro bike; does the seat lower to 32 inches?
- I see you’re asking $45; would you take $40?
- If you answer ‘yes’ to 1 and 2, could we meet up sometime today?
In his email, he responded with:
“Yesssssssss!!” I celebrated. “I’m getting my bike today!”
The dude texted his address to me and explained that I was to give my name at the gate and state that I was visiting (fiction here) a certain William Whitaker.
“Oooh, fancy,” I thought.
Charlie and I drove out to his house together (because a good Craigslist rule-of-thumb is to NOT go visiting strangers’ homes solo) and it turned out to be a mansion. No joke. I didn’t snap any pictures of the inside or the outside, of course (because THAT would have been tacky), but pulling up and then walking in was a little intimidating. Mostly, though, it was interesting. What fascinated me was the fact that he seemed to be living in this enormous house (I’m estimating 10-15 bedrooms, 5+ baths) all alone.
He welcomed us inside through tall, wooden double doors and then we stepped into the ‘reception’ area. I looked at him; he was wearing khaki-colored trousers, brown leather ‘old-man’ shoes, and a tasteful, long-sleeved shirt.
“Are you interested in purchasing other items?” he asked immediately, foregoing niceties. I watched him push his eyeglasses further up his nose.
“Possibly,” I answered, not sure I was going to actually purchase anything (#commitmentissues) but curious to see what he had to offer.
And because of saying yes, I got a partial tour of the house.
He escorted Charlie and I into the kitchen first.
“These are for sale,” he narrated as we passed by items that lined the countertops, covered stand-alone cutting blocks, and cluttered a floating island; appliances that were unopened but pictured on boxes: toasters, blenders, microwaves..
We continued into a formal dining area.
“These are all silver,” he commented, gesturing towards endless rows of spoons, knives, forks and napkin holders. There were trays and trays of them.
Why the hell did dude guy purchase so many of each eating utensil in the first place? Did he host lots of parties? Like collecting them? Was it a strange compulsion?
Continuing onward, we journeyed into a living room, of sorts, that featured furniture I’d never dare to sit upon.
“These are crystal,” he announced, sounding bored and indicating the pitchers and serving bowls that were neatly arranged on glass tables.
Is crystal expensive? I wondered to myself, careful to not touch anything.
He ushered us downstairs, and here, I thought we’d descend into a basement. Finished, of course. But instead, we entered what looked like a hotel corridor, with plush green carpeting covering the floor, a neutral beige color painted onto the walls, and doors located at what felt like fixed intervals. How mysterious! I thought to myself, intrigued. He opened one of the doors and, inside of the room, there were various, random items for sale; miniature stools, picture frames, antiquish side tables..
“Do either of you golf?” he asked, sounding vaguely interested in hearing us answer.
“Nope. I skateboard. But my dad golfs,” I volunteered, “and that black-and-brown carrying bag looks cool.”
He grunted in a way that sounded like: “huh; nice to know.”
After completing the tour, he asked: “Well.. do you want to see the bike?”
“Yes, please.” He was so old and senile that he honestly might have forgotten that THAT was why I’d come in the first place.
He led us into a garage where my bike sat proudly, on its kick stand, in the middle. The garage was – it’s weird to stay – astonishingly beautiful; with smooth, gray concrete floors and stark white brick walls. It looked more like a cool, industrial bedroom than it did a garage.
“And you can have your pick of any painting in this room for just $20,” he pitched in a monotone voice. A true salesman. I smiled to myself.
“Hmmmm.. let’s see here.” I browsed the pictures hopefully, wanting to find something cool that I could justifiably buy from this sweet and lonely old man. But everything was super lame.
“I don’t think any of these will go with my home’s current decor,” I explained all fancy-like, which decor is actually totally inconsistent with itself and entirely random and chaotic, I reproved myself inwardly.
I paid him for the bike and thanked him for his time.
He stuck out his hand. “Jace, tell your friends and your family.”
I smiled up at him and shook his hand. “Will do, William!” None of my friends are well-off or in need of napkin holders, and my family lives in Nowheresville, Tennessee, but I’ll certainly tell them about you.
I steered my bike down the long driveway and Charlie hoisted it into the car; my bike!
I returned to Redemptive same-day (if I couldn’t support the business by buying a bike from them, I could at least pay them for some maintenance). I rolled my beautiful and janky little cycle into the building and the same floor guy as last time greeted me.
“I found the one!” I announced happily.
We took my bike into the back and he secured it onto a raised, metal “arm” that left it suspended in the air. He then tested the brake levers and the tires; inspected the gear shifter and the tubes; critiqued the coppery, rusty chain.
“Alriiiiiight,” he murmured, looking up at me. “So your bike is old,” he began, “and it’ll need a couple of things; a new chain, and a replacement brake lever,” and here, he pointed out that the right brake lever was actually partially severed. I hadn’t noticed. “I’d also recommend a general tune-up.”
“Absolutely,” I agreed. “Do the tires seem okay to you?”
He investigated them. “They’ll do,” he responded. “Honestly, I’d recommend, at some point, changing out the tubing, but right now, it would just be cost prohibitive to invest that kind of money into..” he didn’t know how to say it. “Into this bike,” he finally concluded. I could tell he felt awkward, and that made me feel bad.
So I smiled. I appreciated his gentle honesty. I know my bike isn’t some fancy, retro-looking-but-actually-newly-manufactured hipster bike, but I adore it.
“Understood. Let’s go ahead and do everything you suggested,” I said, “and then, if I experience any problems with the tubing (or whatever), I’ll be sure to bring it back to you guys for more work.”
He drew up a ticket at the front, recording my contact information as well as the work order itself.
“Sooooo — can we maybe buy some time from you?” he asked hopefully. I thought this meant: “We won’t be able to get your bike back to you today, buttttt we can have it ready tomorrow!”
So I said: “Sure!”
“Awesome,” he breathed, obviously relieved. “Then we’ll try to have it ready by next Thursday.”
My heart sank. Next Thursday? But today is Wednesday, and my vaca ends next Tuesday!
“No problem; thank you so much for your help!” I smiled at him. At least I HAVE a bike, and I’ll get to enjoy it next weekend.
True, I conceded.
When we left the shop, Charlie, acutely aware of my disappointment, apologized for the wait. “It’s okay,” I said. “Honestly, I was super bummed when I first realized how long it was going to take, but hey — I have so much reading and writing to do anyways!”
We met up with a mutual friend at Urban Standard (a local cafe) that afternoon. After visiting for a bit, I powered on my laptop so I could spend some time – you guessed it! – writing.
“Wow,” our friend commented, gazing over at it. “You’re such a target with that thing.”
I laughed. “Yeah; it’s a piece of shit.” And after twenty minutes of struggling to load my internet browser, I realized that my old 90s Dell laptop had finally gone caput.
“Well,” I whispered to myself, “looks like it’s time to purchase a new laptop.” And I was sort of REALLY excited about it. I’m not a big tech or car person, so I tend to use these things until they’re just irreparably worn out and MUST be replaced.
I stopped by Target on the way home, but their selection of computers was too limited, so I continued on to Best Buy. At Best Buy, I fell in love with the MacBook Air. Duh; who wouldn’t? The Macbook Air is like the Ellen Page of the laptop world. But I did not, correspondingly, fall in love with its price tag: $899.
That’s like $900, I considered, letting out a sigh.
And it’s not that I can’t afford it, I told myself. It’s that I don’t need a really nice laptop. Come on; be honest — what do I ACTUALLY do on the weekends? Go to the cafe. Get on WordPress. Write. Pull up Spotify. Listen to music. Use Google Drive to occasionally revisit the novel. So why spend $900 on something incredible when I’ll only utilize like 20% of its cool features?
So I windowshopped a few of the cheaper laptops on display. They were okay, but the specs were mediocre and the ratings were disappointing. They were also much bulkier than I care for.
Right at that moment, Charlie spotted a collection of chromebooks. I’d never heard of a chromebook before, but apparently, it’s a Google-based, stripped-down version of a laptop. And it’s extremely economical.
I. fell. in. love.
I spent twenty minutes jumping from chromebook to chromebook, practicing clicking and typing and navigating and comparing prices and ratings. Ultimately, the Lenovo Ideapad 100S won me over; it was the most intuitive and comfortable one for me to use. I 100% wanted to buy it, so I flagged down a guy on the sales floor and told him that I was ready to commit.
“Cool,” he said, fishing for a set of keys in his pocket. “What’ll you be using the chromebook for?”
“Writing at the cafe,” I answered dreamily, picturing how wonderful it was going to be to walk into Saturn with my brand new laptop the follow morning.
He stuck the key into the cabinet that was situated underneath the display (I hadn’t even noticed it there!) and, after tugging the cabinet door open, he paused. My heart sank.
I was peering over his shoulder; to the left, there were boxes of Samsung chromebooks; to the right, boxes of chromebooks by another brand. And in the middle, where my Lenovo Ideapad 100S should be, there was nothing.
“Hmmmmmmm,” he breathed warningly. “Looks like we might be out, but let me check the back.”
Oh my goodness, PLEASE be in the back, I implored.
“But we should have some more in by Monday,” he assured me.
Fantastic. So I’ll be able to bring it home on end-of-vaca eve.
“Okay, no problem!” I answered, concealing my devastation (#firstworldproblems). “Thanks for your help!”
Then, for just a little bit, I was a pouty little brat, and Charlie very kindly put up with me.
“First, it was the bike,” I reminded him, “and I was totally okay with that, but dude.. biking and writing were the two big but simple things I was looking forward to doing while we were on vacation, and now, I can’t do either.”
“You can use my laptop,” Charlie offered in consolation.
“No,” I grumbled, inconsolable. “It’s just not the same.”
Soon, I decided to stop being a brat and to enjoy the day. We went hiking at Red Mountain and I enjoyed collecting rocks along the way. We ordered a veggies-and-tofu laden pizza from Mellow Mushroom and then picked it up and brought it home. We watched Doctor Who, played with the pups, painted a rocketship-shaped bird feeder that Charlie had purchased at Michael’s, composed and recorded a chillwave song in the little studio nook downstairs.. in summary, we were somehow able to have fun.
On Tuesday, in celebration of my first day back at work, my chromebook appeared on my front doorstep. I was so happy.
And on Thursday, Redemptive called, announcing that my bike was ready.
I rushed home from work that afternoon — changed clothes and hugged/watered the dogs — and then hurried over to Redemptive Cycles. I got there 15 minutes before closing.
“I’m here to pick up my bike,” I announced excitedly to the same floor guy I’d encountered two times before.
“Awesome!” he smiled.
While I waited for him to retrieve it, an older-looking woman strolled over to where I was standing. “You going riding with us tonight?” she inquired.
I was taken back. “Oh — no! I’m just picking a bike up. But that sounds cool,” I continued. “Do you guys ride often?”
She nodded. “Every Thursday. You should really come.”
We continued talking. I discovered that her name was Gina. Then, a tech girl named Erica appeared from the back, using both of her hands to manuever my bike to the front. Reunited and it feeeeeels sooooo gooooooood!
When she spoke, the voice sounded familiar. “I think I spoke with you on the phone earlier today,” I mentioned. “I’m Jace.”
“YEAH!” her face lit up with recognition. “I do remember speaking with you! It’s funny; I thought about mentioning to you that we’re all going bike riding tonight..”
“Ha! Really? Yeah — Gina,” I motioned toward her, “was just telling me about that. I’ll try to make it out next Thursday.”
But it’s doubtful because I have crippling social anxiety and will likely think of some excuse.
Just as I was about to checkout with my bike and a new bike lock, a broad-shouldered dude appeared from the back, walking over to say ‘hey’ to Gina and Erica. Erica was sitting on a stool now, taking sips of beer from a can that she had slipped into a cutely crocheted coozie.
“Hey,” this new guy addressed me. “I’m DeeDee.”
“Hey DeeDee! I’m Jace.”
“You really should come riding with us tonight,” he urged with a strange sense of conviction.
I was just floored at this point. I’d planned on picking the bike up, testing it out en route to Urban Standard, and then returning home at a decent hour to eat kale chips and hummus in bed with a nice work of fiction. And now three people were encouraging me to do something different — something fun and interesting and kind of dangerous that I hadn’t properly planned or prepared myself for. I didn’t even have my helmet in the car.
“Well,” I began, “I really would like to tag along, but I honestly need to brace myself for these kinds of things. I have pretty bad social anxiety, so–”
“MY DAUGHTER has social anxiety, TOO,” DeeDee interrupted, “and she’s come out on these rides.. I can’t tell you how much it’s helped her; in school, and out of school.”
I felt like the universe was standing about an inch in front of me, waving both hands and screaming: GO!
“Okay. Fine,” I announced, defeated. “I will go.”
Yay! they all said.
I ran out to the car, grabbed my backpack and water bottle, and then returned to the store. Another guy was now standing by the front counter, fully outfitted in riding gear (tight-fitting knee-length shorts and an orange t-shirt).
“Hey; this your first time?” he asked, looking cool and comfortable.
“Yeah!” I responded. “I was just dropping by to pick up my bike and they convinced me into going.” I smiled. “How about you?”
“Yeah? That’s cool! It’s my first time, too,” he smiled. He had kind eyes and a goofy smile; a modest beard and medium-length hair that he’d pulled back into a ponytail. “I ride a lot, but I’m always on my own. I’m Chris, by the way,” he extended his hand.
Of course your name’s Chris. Are you fucking kidding me?
“I’m Jace,” I replied, incredulous.
After about ten more minutes, I could tell the vibes in the room were changing. People were getting antsy. “You think it’s time to go?” I asked Chris, noticing people moving to the back.
“I guess so,” he responded.
And where exactly are we going, I wondered for the first time.
“Hey,” I approached Gina, the older-looking woman. “Are we exiting slash embarking through the front or back?”
I rolled my bike to the back of the warehouse and then paused.
What the heck.
I expected this to be an intimate group of riders; 5, 6.. maybe 10 of us. But there were dozens and dozens of people standing outside of the warehouse, and there were just as many bikes. People were drinking, and laughing, and music was blaring. I watched as a tater tot food truck pulled up and people started cheering.
“Well,” Chris said. “I wasn’t expecting this.”
“Me neither,” I admitted, feeling intimidated and, at the same time, thrilled. “This is going to be my first time riding a bike in.. gosh. Seven years.”
He smiled. “I belonged to a running club once,” he said, “but now, we’re in a bike club. How cool is that?”
I smiled. I liked Chris. And I had a sneaking suspicion that he was gay.
After fifteen minutes of standing around and acclimating to this new group setting, a young hipster boy grabbed a megaphone and then everyone fell silent.
“Alright you guys.. remember; ride to the right, and no weaving — because of the size of our group, we’ll likely have three-to-four people sharing the same lane space. Call out any hazards you see so word can pass along to those behind you, and no snapchatting while we’re in motion. You’ll have a chance to take pictures when we break. Most importantly, have fun.”
The crowd erupted into cheers and the music started playing again; it sounded even louder now. I watched as the crowd began traveling to the left – biking down an alleyway – and I took a deep breath.
“You ready?!” Chris inquired, beaming.
“Yeah!! Let’s do it!”
And we took off. Just like that. With the sun going down to our right, the music luring us forward, and the collective energy of roughly a hundred and ten people surrounding us all like invisible smoke, we took off, and it was amazing.
I biked ten miles that night. Ten.
We paused after an hour of nonstop biking; our ‘surprise destination’ of the evening was an abandoned parking deck on Carraway Boulevard. As I pedaled up to it, I saw blue lights flashing. Uh oh.
A cop car was parked directly in front of the entrance to the deck, and the officer was outside of his car now with a flashlight, peering up and yelling: “Alright.. come out now; all of you, come down!”
I used my handle brakes (#superior) to slow down and then asked the person closest to me: “What on earth is going on?”
They turned to look at me. “Ehh.. they won’t let us up. Say the place is condemned.” They shook their head, looking aggravated. “We used to come here all of the time.”
“Bummer,” I sympathized. I so wish I’d been closer to the front of the group so I could have snuck up there before the cop had arrived. I heard a scream coming from the top of the parking deck, so I tilted my head back and gazed upward; I could make out a moving helmet and heard what sounded like victory cries.
“Haha.. good for them; glad they made it all the way to the top!”
Then, I watched and listened as the parade of cyclists descended the parking deck. In the dark, it was a really gorgeous sight; their bike lights danced, bouncing on and off of the concrete, and the music (playing from speakers jammed into backpacks) wove in and out of my hearing. As each biker exited the parking deck, rolling past the cop, they couldn’t help but forget to conceal mischievous smiles.
“Was it cool?” I asked one middle-aged woman.
“Oh my god; it was amazing.”
Once everyone had exited, our leader – another bearded hipster – yelled that we were to continue onward. We stopped twenty minutes later at the BJCC and spent about fifteen minutes mingling around a pretty, purple-lit fountain.
It felt good to stretch. I set my bike onto its kickstand and then, feeling wobbly, plopped myself down onto the concrete floor.
I looked up; it was Chris.
“How are you enjoying it so far?” he asked.
“I’m loving it,” I answered. “You?” He said that he felt the same.
“I looked back, behind me, at one point,” I shared as he knelt down beside me, “because I noticed that things had gotten really quiet, and it was then that I realized that I was literally in the very back of the line. I was *the* LAST one.”
Another dude walked over. Pop quiz: Do you think he had a beard?
Answer: YES. Shockingly, he did. And a cool mustache that turned upward at either side.
“Want a beer?” he asked Chris.
He brought Chris the beer and when Chris popped it open, he offered me a sip.
“No, thank you,” I smiled. “I have a super low tolerance that would make it a struggle for me to stay on this thing.”
Then, the break ended, and we all began heading back together. I had been noticing, during the ride, one girl in particular; she was wearing black jeans, a black-and-white plaid shirt, and had a shaved head. She wore rectangular glasses and had a cool backpack. I thought she was the cutest little geek ever.
I’m not going to ask her out, of course, I told myself, but this would be good practice. You know.. trying to talk to her.
I’d chickened out on starting a conversation at least five times during the first hour of the ride (I’d had at least that many opportunities), but on the way back, I noticed her pull up next to me. She caught my eye and smiled. I smiled back and then said nothing. Then, very bravely, I offered (as a sort of question slash statement): “Hey; I wanted to ask what your name is?”
Oh. my. god. Did you REALLY just phrase it like that? So matter-of-factly?
I felt her look back over at me, but I kept my eyes on the road, humiliated.
“It’s Hannah,” she said.
“Okay; cool!” Annnnnnd I’m done.
“What’s your name?” she asked.
And then, we started talking about sci-fi books. I can’t remember how it came up, but I remember saying: “Yeah — I heard you talking to someone behind me earlier about some book that sounded cool.. I wasn’t eavesdropping,” I added quickly, “but I mean, in a way I was, but it’s because of the close proximity we’re biking in — ANYWAYS,” I stopped myself because it was getting way too deep. “You had mentioned a book you read recently and the title sounded intriguing.” That’s all.
“The Sixth Extinction!” she exclaimed. “Yes; it’s fantastic. There have been five massive extinctions in our history, relating to people and animals, and we’re in the process of causing the sixth one.”
Awww.. I wonder if she’s a vegetarian?
“Oh — so is this a work of nonfiction?”
I felt her look at me, so I turned to look at her, too. She had a grave look on her face.
“Oh.. yes. It sure is nonfiction.”
Adorable, I thought to myself. What an adorable little conspiracy theorist.
And then, we were already back at the warehouse; the tater tot food truck was set-up, ready to whip up orders of kimchi tater tots, nutella tater tots, and barbecue tater tots for about one hundred and ten happy and hungry cyclists.
I felt Hannah still riding along beside me, but didn’t know what else to say, or if it was necessary to say goodbye, so I just veered to the left and pedaled away.
Good job, Jace. That wasn’t totally terrible.
After coming to a stop, I intended to walk my bike over to the car and leave, but Chris spotted me and flagged me down.
“Jace.. park it! Go park that bike!”
I slid my bike into a metal bike rack and then walked over to the tater tot truck, where Chris was ordering. After receiving his order, he turned to me. “Want some?”
“Awwww, no thanks!” I smiled.
“You sureeeeee you don’t want to try it?”
“No — I’ve got hummus waiting for me at the house. Garlic-flavored AND red pepper-flavored.”
He seemed satisfied.
Soon, I drifted off and stumbled into Gina, the woman who had first asked me to join the group on their ride.
She smiled at me. “Great job, Jace. If you were able to finish this time, you’ll be able to do it again. Every time.”
“I’m so glad I came.”
We continued talking, and somehow, we ended up discussing her religion, career, and marriage.
“He was gay,” she announced suddenly, “and I realized he was after fifteen years.”
“Wow,” I whispered.
“He never came out, but I knew that he was.” She drew quiet.
I couldn’t help but ask. “But — if he didn’t come out — how did you know?”
She looked at me. “I was a virgin until college,” she began, “and then, I wasn’t. I was with twenty-odd guys, and I knew that men liked touching me; they liked my breasts. My husband never touched me.” She continued speaking on the matter. Moments later, she said: “There were times when I’d ask him to put his hand on my forehead, or ask him to rub my calves, after we’d gone on a hike or a bike ride together..”
“Would he at least do that?” I asked, feeling upset on her behalf.
“Oh, yes. He would. But that’s all.”
I shook my head.
“And right before he died,” she continued, looking far away at something I couldn’t see, “he asked to see me. And I thought to myself — this is it; he’s finally going to come out to me. I walked into the hospital room, and sat down, and we talked.. and at one point, I came out and asked him: ‘What was it that ended our marriage?’ and he replied, ‘Hmmm, I don’t know.'” She shook her head.
About this time, a young guy walked over and complimented the third-party candidate button she was wearing; they started talking politics and I became bored, so I patted her on the shoulder and walked away.
“I’m heading out,” I announced to Chris (as a courtesy), “but it was so nice meeting you!”
“Oh, you’re leaving? Hey — how about we go biking on Sunday?” he suggested. “My friend Lindsey wants to start riding, so we could all go together.”
“Sure!” I responded. We exchanged numbers and then I left.
And that’s the cool part I didn’t tell you about; I got a bike while I was on vacation. I even made some new friends. And, on my first bike ride in seven years, I biked ten miles through the city of Birmingham.. without a helmet, without planning or forethought, and without a care in the world.
When I shared the news with my friend (who’s an avid biker), she was very pleased.
“If I’d known that A. there were going to be A HUNDRED people there instead of ten and B. we were going on a TEN-MILE trek, I totally wouldn’t have done it,” I admitted.
“But that’s the thing,” she said. “Because you didn’t know what the ‘limitations’ were, you had no limits.”
“Hmm. I like the way that sounds.”
“And,” she continued, “here’s a nice allegory. You know how, when you’re biking downhill, you’re able to go really fast and pick up momentum, and how that momentum can help you get up the next hill?”
“Well, when you’re having a good day, or a series of good days — a happy stretch — you need to capitalize on that. Really enjoy and really live on those good days so they can help give you a boost as you move into the darker periods of your cycle.”
“That makes perfect sense,” I said. “I love it.”
“One last thing,” she said. “You know how I go bike riding on trails, right? Well, I usually start out on this one particular side, but a few weeks back, I ended up entering the trail from the side I usually exit from, and when I did, I saw this sign posted before the trail.” She paused and showed it to me; it read: ADVANCED RIDERS PROCEED. ALL OTHERS PLEASE USE BYPASS ROAD.
“And if I’d seen that sign before riding the trails, I would have thought — oh; no way. I can’t do this. I’ll have to ride elsewhere. But because I didn’t know how advanced it supposedly was, I wasn’t afraid, and I’ve been up and down that trail a billion times.”
Good food for thought, huh?
So — quick recap: Like my friend suggested, I’m really enjoying the good days. When I wake up in that frame of mind, I try to be aware of how good they are, and then I use their happy momentum to coast through the darker days. Like clouds, they always pass, and like hills, it’s smooth sailing once you’ve made it up them.
PS: Here’s my I’m a hardass who’s in a bike club promo pic.