Once upon a time, my cousin Michelle and I found an old double bicycle leaning up against their house. It sat rusting behind a bunch of weeds, still wet from the overnight rains. I think her dad got it so he and his wife could get some exercise together. Adults are always buying things like that to “get into shape” and usually these bulky and expensive contraptions end up holding boxes, acting as a clothes rack, or just collecting dust in the garage. This one was apparently holding up a garage wall. .You never sell this stuff if you don’t use it either. Oh no…That would be admitting defeat. We adults are funny like that.
This rugged piece of machinery looked like it had seen better years – and probably better decades. It was huge and heavy and about as uncomfortable a bike as has ever been made. It probably was pretty good for exercise too – the thing took about 3 times the pedaling speed of an average bike to actually move. Did I mention it was made for a pair of 7 foot giants? I’m not exactly sure why, but the seats seemed to be permanently set up to accommodate someone (two someones actually) who could straddle a small horse and still touch ground with both feet.
You have to appreciate the dynamics of two girls, each weighing less than the bike itself, working to get this double bike into proper action. First, the bike had to be held upright against a street curb. The curbs back then seemed a bit taller than they are today. Each of us would have to stand with one foot on the curb and the other straddling precariously over the tall bicycle seats. We were too short to get our opposite feet onto the opposite pedal but this is how we started. Then, the person in front had to say a quick prayer, and jump, getting their opposite foot on the pedal and taking the foot off of the curb. The person in the back had to hold the bike upright and keep holding it up until the person in front was balanced. Then, the person in back had to complete the same maneuver while the person in front pedaled for dear life trying to maintain balance. This usually meant that the bike drove you straight into the middle of the street. It often took a few tries, and we scraped our shins and knees more than once. But once we were on…there was so much fun riding that ridiculous bike. Hitting bumps hurt. Driving straight wasn’t easy. And the faster you pedaled, the slower it seemed to go. But we felt like we were on an adventure.
That’s what we called them. Adventures. Journeys. Excursions. Anything to make the trip more exciting. We rode the bike all over the north side of town into the older parts – where the old folks still lived in their homes for the last 40 years or so. We rode along the river, onto the bridges too…talk about an adventure…the bike that couldn’t drive straight on a 24 inch strip not designed for pedestrian travel, much less a bicycle. We found old parks with oak trees that seemed ancient with their trailing limbs that skirted the ground. We disappeared through back alleys, finding secret paths to new parks – places that the hedges had overgrown so much that people forgot the entrance still existed.
And one day, heading back from one of these adventures we took an old route to a street I once lived on. It was a pretty street, lined with old trees and nice old people for that matter. It’s hard to find places like that anymore. Safe old streets. Lots of times, the old parts of town start to become a little dangerous, but not this part. Maybe it’s my memory that making it seem greener than it really was, but I remember those parts of town being truly beautiful.
On that ride down the street, we heard a yell, and then a great roar.
Running after us was a Doberman. My memory says it had spikes or a chain on its collar as if to reinforce that fact that it was a man-eating machine. It didn’t like us driving along the road – or more likely, it really didn’t like the giant two headed monster riding on top of an ancient metal contraption passing in front of its territory. It didn’t matter that we knew the faster we pedaled, the slower the bike would go. Adrenaline kicks in and you scream and pedal for dear life, all the while slowing down. You see, the bike had just one chain and there was an efficiency of motion that had to be maintained or it struggled to move at all. Yet there we were, squealing like the girly girls we were and pumped those pedals as hard as we could. The Doberman had no trouble catching up to us. A thing about those dogs is that they usually attack something that runs from them. And here we were, playing the scared rabbits and just begging for it to chase us down. I can still remember looking down and seeing those open jaws get close and snapping at our feet.
But it didn’t get us. I have to say, I think the bike itself scared that beast away from the attack. It was truly like nothing he had ever seen before and he decided to let us go – but only after chasing us down the full block. When we rounded the corner to head back to Grandpapa’s house, we started to giggle. The giggle started at a trickle and turned into an all-out hysterical laughing fit.
It’s funny. They say that the fight or flight instinct kicks in during an emergency. One thing no one ever talks about is what happens after the emergency. When you find that you just had a harrowing escape, you often laugh – hard. And I did. We laughed so hard that two blocks away, we literally fell off of the bike. That didn’t help the laughing fit. We couldn’t stop. And just when I couldn’t stop and catch my breath, I started to pee! I couldn’t hold it back. There I was unable to breathe from the hysteria of it, and I started to pee right there in the middle of the sidewalk.
I wish I could say the story had a better ending besides I laughed so hard I pee’d, but seriously, I have a question for you. Would I have remembered the story at all if I hadn’t? Would that day just be lost in my memory? Would I ever remember the bike built for giants, or the adventures along the great oak parks, or the snarling Doberman? I think I cherish the fact that my bladder couldn’t handle my laughing fit because I’m not sure I would be able to hold onto the memory at all. I’m not sure there’s a moral here, but I will say that there are few times I’ve laughed so hard in all my life.
I hope I get to laugh that hard again many times over with you boys. Know that once upon a time, I giggled and laughed and acted silly too. Know that when you see me giggling with you, I am cherishing the moment and hope to hold onto them.
Know you are loved.