My story begins roughly 10 years ago. The snow was gone, spring was in the air and my sinuses were about to close for the next several weeks. I found myself standing before a full-length mirror in my blissful domicile. What I saw disturbed me. It was a middle aged, overweight man who did not exercise enough. I had an expensive gym membership. I knew I should drag my sorry carcass over there without delay. I struggled with it as I gazed at the terrible image in the mirror, and gave up. I hate the gym. I always did. There is no word, in the English language, to describe how boring I find it.

I searched my feverish mind for a valid solution. I could go see what new movies were on Netflix! I could clean the house!  I could do some much-needed editing on version 875 of my latest novel. But alas, none of these ideas would help. Then I was struck speechless as an idea came to me. It was almost a religious experience. Biking!  I used to loved doing that as a kid! 

I could not contain my excitement. Only one thing stood in my way. I didn’t have a bike.

Before I can continue this epic tale, I must relate some pertinent back story. I grew up in an economically challenged environment.  That’s a polite way of saying dirt poor. Because of this unfortunate state of affairs, I never had a new bike to ride. My friends would give me old bikes when they got new ones. Sometimes I would pick one up from a neighbor who was throwing one out.  I ended up with an assortment of broken bikes. None of them were rideable. So, being an industrious lad, I learned to take them apart, then re-assemble them into a working means of transportation. They were ungainly to look upon, but they functioned, and that was good enough for me.

Now back to the story. Fast forward a few decades. I headed to my local bike shop with a spring in my step and unbridled enthusiasm on my face. I found a magnificent specimen. It was sleek. The light sparkled from it’s glistening surfaces. I was convinced that I can reach bone crushing speeds when I took my chariot out for an inaugural run. 

A cheerful young man stepped forward. He informed me that this perfect, and well-made machine, could be mine for four thousand dollars.  As an author, I spend countless hours, having conversations in my head, with people that don’t exist.  I thought this might be one of those times.  As the young man droned on about alloys and other things, I slowly realized that he was in fact real. The moment I accepted this, the dream died.

I smiled, thanked him, and shuffled out of the store.

Several weeks later, I found myself wandering the rows of my local thrift store. In my youth, I shopped there out of necessity. Now I shop there because I like it.  I did not know that fate would smile upon me that day.

I spotted her in the corner. She was alone and covered in dust. Later I learned, she was a vintage 1983 Raleigh Olympian. She was the ride of champions! Now she sat forlorn in the corner and would end her days in a local landfill. I could not accept that. I slapped down a hard earned ten spot (yes that’s right ten dollars!) and left the store with renewed hope.

I rushed home with my prize. Later that evening, after I convinced my wife that I had not lost my mind, I found myself in the garage. I lovingly disassembled her. I scrubbed and cleaned every part. Then, I re-assembled her in all her glory. Aside from the front derailleur (which still is a bit iffy), everything was original. I eventually had to replace the tires and brake pads, but that was to be expected.

The next day, I proudly took her out for her inaugural voyage. I’m lucky enough to live near an incredible, paved, bike trail. It meanders through a pristine forest. A scenic river (that is on the national registry) flows beside it.

I found myself in an earthly heaven, and I remain there to this day. On a decent weekend, I ride about 50 miles. I have cold weather gear. I can ride until it gets down to about 35 degrees, then it becomes too much. I never ride on the roads. The people that do that, have a trust in other humans, that, quite frankly, I do not have. In my city, they mount a bike painted white, to memorialize those who are killed on the roads. I see new white bikes every year.  The worst thing that can happen on my trail, is hitting a walnut, or perhaps a deer. I’ve seen several mammoth beasts over the years. It always shocks me when a 400 pound buck saunters out onto the trail in front of me. How can something that massive be invisible? 

I wear biking shoes because they help with foot pain. A lot of the serious bikers I see where shoes that lock them into the petals.  I find that to be alarming. I remember a very specific event that illustrates why I would never wear them. I was perhaps, 14 years of age. I was riding one of my ungainly “Frankenbikes” behind a friend through the local village. I wanted to catch up to him. I saw a shortcut that would work. It was a small hill covered in grass in brush. It covered a small ditch that could not have been more than a foot deep.  I flew down the hill, without a helmet of course. My front tire entered the ditch. My body went flying over the handle bars, with my bike close behind. I somehow pulled my head forward to my chest, and did a perfect barrel roll into the grass. I vividly remember the bike descending towards me from the blue sky. I kicked with my legs, connected with the frame, and sent the bike flying away from me.  I rose and found that I was unscathed. It was a miracle of sorts.

That memory always comes back to me when I see people with their feet locked to the petals. I wonder what would have happened? 

At any rate, that’s my story. You can find me, on the trail near my house, any time its over 35 degrees. So, if a middle-aged athletic looking dude, fly’s past you on a bike older than dirt, say hi. It’s me, Jason Gabriel.


Cheers.

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