My neighborhood– please don’t use this information to stalk me– is full of cul-de-sacs. I live on one of them, not pictured in the above photo. Over the last several days since acquiring the bike I have managed to either learn or relearn riding a bike to the point where I could go down my driveway, circle my cul-de-sac a couple of times, and then return to my driveway without incident. We’re talking literal one-minute bike rides. But I could do it!
I take my improvements where I can get them.
Tonight, I resolved that I was going to Take a Bike Ride. I was going to put my helmet on my giant head and ride far enough away from my house that I couldn’t see it any longer.
It did not go well.
Now, it didn’t go as comically poorly as the diagram above seems to indicate– at no point was I off the road, and I certainly did not drive my Goddamned bike right through anyone’s houses, as the orange line seems to imply. There was no corner-cutting through lawns or anything like that. I don’t know why the line isn’t smoother, but it does more or less represent the route.
I learned something about my neighborhood tonight that, after nine years of living in this house, I was not aware of: I live at the top of a fucking hill. I swear to you, I didn’t know this. So I turned out of my cul-de-sac heading roughly eastward expecting more or less a level, pleasant ride, and a few moments later I was hurtling toward death at, the app tells me, a max speed of fifteen miles an hour.
I am not sure what counts as fast to someone who is used to riding a bike. I can tell you that when you have not been on one in thirty years, fifteen miles an hour is motherfucking terrifying. I was going fast enough that I didn’t need to pedal, and at one point on the way down the thought I’m going to die and I’m not even getting any exercise out of it floated through my head. I still don’t quite get how the gearing system works, so chances are I could have adjusted the gears and done … something, but hell if I knew what.
That said, I did not die, and I managed to slow myself down without flipping over the front of the bike and decided to turn off and turn around, figuring I’d been far enough that it counted as progress. And I did! I also learned that I don’t really know how to turn around and look behind me, so right now left turns are out of the question until I get a mirror or something like that. Luckily the one turn I had to make coming out of the turnaround was nice and clear in both directions so I didn’t have to negotiate slowing down too much or stopping before turning back toward home.
Which was uphill.
I realized very quickly that I was in trouble.
See that spot in the upper left of the image where it looks like a toddler scribbled on the screen for a moment? That’s where I had to stop and rest. That’s how far I made it, pedaling uphill on what was a mild enough grade that in nine years I had never noticed it before. I stopped the bike for a second, intending to catch my breath and then continue. Turns out the house on that corner has three kids! None over ten! They’re cute. One of them told me she liked my bike. I thanked her. Then I tried to get the bike moving again.
And I tried again.
And then I decided that, pride be damned, I was going to have to push the motherfucker up the damn hill, because unless I wanted to turn around and go back downhill again to build up some speed I wasn’t going to get my 45-pound bike and my 318-pound ass (yep) moving up that damn hill.
And as soon as I tried to get off the bike, my legs went to jelly and I fell. I’ve never experienced that before; my legs basically just decided to stop being legs. Lucky for me, I was getting off lawn-side (no sidewalks in my neighborhood) so I fell onto grass and wasn’t hurt, but it didn’t go well. And, of course, the kids were still there. They asked if I was ok. I said I was.
And then I tried to stand up, and my legs weren’t having that either, so I got to sit there for a minute or two until actually standing the fuck up was possible, and then I had to push the bike the rest of the way home. I managed to make it without further embarrassment (other than the other guy on a bike who rode past me and gave me a hell of a confused look) and staggered into my house and collapsed into a chair, so out of breath I couldn’t talk.
(Entertaining sidenote: the app I’m using asks you to rate how difficult you think any given ride was, and one of the guidelines it gives you for a “max effort” ride is that you can no longer remember your name. That’s not a joke. I can’t find it right now, but I will screenshot it next time. I wasn’t quite that bad, but I filed it as max effort anyway.)
It took about fifteen minutes for my heart rate to subside from what my watch tells me was a peak of 149 BPM to something approaching normal, and for at least part of that I was actually trying to move my legs and wasn’t able to. I’m damned glad I made it back; my wife still has a broken foot, remember, so if it had been much worse than it was I’m not sure what the merry fuck I would have been able to do about it.
And once I was recovered enough to describe to my wife what had happened, she says to me, I swear to God, “Oh, I’d have told you about the hill if you’d asked.”
Anybody want a bike?
This is the data I was given about the ride that almost killed me. I swear to you that despite how ridiculously nothing this looks, nothing in this post is hyperbole. This doesn’t include the walk back pushing that heavy-ass thing, though, because I ended the “recording” session once I decided I wasn’t getting back on the bike.
Y’all are lucky I have no shame at all or this place would be a lot less entertaining.
8:11 PM, Thursday June 11: 2,021,900 confirmed infections and 113,774 Americans dead.