The outdoors and I have a complicated relationship.
Don’t get me wrong, I love natural light and talking a walk outside with someone. But once you get into the more strenuous and equipment dependent activities – hiking, snowboarding, even just running – my interest plummets. No, no, you go ahead. I’ll go for a run too, and even do some parkour in Assassin’s Creed. At least then I’m in 12th century Israel and get to dive off of buildings to assassinate people.
But something strange happened yesterday. I found myself feeling restless and ill at ease. It’s the feeling I normally associate with my semi-annual purges of my material and digital goods, but those areas are still relatively clean and left me with an unsatisfyingly small amount to tidy.
Then I noticed The Geek’s bike parked nearby. “I’m going for a bike ride!” I proclaimed, slipping leggings on under my dress and packing my keys and phone into one of his bags (I really should have just changed into jeans, but apparently it was very important to me to wear a dress).
As I got out the door and attempted to get on the bike, it suddenly occurred to me that I couldn’t remember the last time I rode a bike. I wobbled slowly down the sidewalk, and a neighbor popped his head over the fence to yell, “Whoa, whoa. You look like you’re going to fall!”
I set off, stopping and starting as I tried to regain my balance. Going over the highway overpass terrified me, because if being unable to keep my balance wasn’t bad enough, I was then also high above rushing cars on a very thin slice of concrete.
Once I got back down the ride became much smoother as I found my stride. I hunted for the nearby bike path, and after stopping for directions and a couple of passes down the street I finally found it.
With smooth concrete beneath me, no rushing cars to avoid, and my stride evening out I suddenly realized that this was actually quite nice. The river peeked playfully out from behind some trees, and it was a wonderful California spring day; neither blisteringly hot nor overcast and windy.
I’d ridden on bike machines at gyms, but this was so much different; so much better! The friction and slight incline soon had my legs burning and I found myself out of breath, but didn’t stop. The wind against my face and the sun on my pasty arms felt good and fresh – despite the few bugs that flew into my nose – and I rode for quite awhile before turning back.
I felt something bubbling in me that I hadn’t had in a long time. A sense of adventure. Yes, this was in the city at 2pm on a Sunday. But away from the highways and restaurants, with just a few joggers along the path winding between tall grass and the river it felt like a wilderness.
I went past the concrete path, running onto the bumpy road beyond and enjoying the sporadic shade of thin trees. I come from a town that is, by area, mostly trees, and I hadn’t realized how much I missed the shadows of trees.
It brought me back to the days of walking with my parents on a bike path not too different from this, scootching down a steep hill to dip our toes in the water and chatting on our way back home.
Eventually I felt my body getting tired and headed back into roads and traffic. As I coasted down an off ramp (don’t ask, it’s a weird setup) next to cars I suddenly remembered that I was balancing precariously next to rapidly moving vehicles.
Don’t think about it. Don’t think about it! I urged my brain. So, of course, I thought about it, instinctively squeezed on the brakes, and just about removed myself of the ability to make children via the seat. Back to reality!
The ride home was much easier than the ride there, and even the highway overpass didn’t scare me anymore. Huh, I guess you really don’t forget how to ride a bike.
Touche, outdoors. You win this round.