Mary Lou sat at the oversized, ancient wooden desk which had been her cotton merchant husband’s (until he’d passed), quietly regal and southern; her shiny grey hair pulled tightly and smoothly back into a schoolmarm bun, her bright red, perfectly manicured nails clicking on the 10 key as she punched in and totaled the weights of her Pima cotton bales for shipment. “Well. I swanny,” she’d murmur occasionally, “I swanny, Clive, I cannot get these numbers to add up.”
She’d been born and raised in Kentucky, married her southern gentleman cotton merchant husband and had been involved in the cotton business with him her entire life. A tiny sigh and “I swanny” was the toughest thing to come out of her mouth – but she was solid metal top to bottom. No messing with Mary Lou. I loved her like another mother and when I got the job with Clive she acted like a mother to me from day one, taking care of me and watching out for me the way southern women do.
“Heather” and “Becky” were at it again. Someone has got to quit feeding them vitamins.
– 9 or 9:30?
– 9:30 is good
– my house?
– sure, that works
— (Brain jumps in front of my face and grabs the keyboard) Hey. 9:30 what? What are you doing?
– I’ll bring that book for you, too
— (Brain can’t quit, it’s like its had too much coffee) Hey. What are you doing? Are you going somewhere?
– Cool, thanks!
— (Brain again, “SHUT UP BRAIN!” I scream silently, trying to shove my way in front to the keyboard) Hey. Whatcha doing tomorrow?
— (Brain. “OMG,” I’m thinking, “Get OFF my keyboard, Brain” but I can’t seem to stop it) Are you riding with Rob’s group?
– “B” and I are riding from her house at 9:30
— (Brain is apparently on ‘roids, I can’t stop it, it won’t quit) Can I come?
– SURE! (one of the idiot twins chimes.)
— Cool! See ya! (types Brain, apparently thinking it finally got accepted by the cool kids, little realizing they fully intend to jump off the bridge).
In middle school they used to have dances in the cafeteria. You’ll both find it hard to believe, knowing me as you do now, classy, smooth, sophisticated, that I was a bit of a nerd back then. When I got to the new school in 5th grade I showed up bright and shining the first day wearing crew socks, tennies and whatever new skirt my mom had made me. All the other girls were wearing anklets. Cute little white socks that skimmed the rim of their tennies. Me: fat white cotton socks carefully and neatly folded over. Took me weeks to get my mother to even grasp the concept, and weeks longer to convince her to purchase them for me. Now it’s time for the sock hop dance at school. Scarred forever by the Cotton Crew Socks Incident I assumed everyone would wear anklets to the sock hop. No.
That’s rather how I felt showing up with my sweet little Felt F80 — with sissy pedals and tennis shoes. I have bike shorts, but I couldn’t find them. I have bike gloves, but I couldn’t find them. I have a helmet that the cushy stuff is falling out of the inside. I have an extra tube, tools and cartridge in a zip-up plastic carry hanging off the front handle bars rather like one of the B-ster’s little “packpacks”. The handlebar tape is coming unraveled, I’ve tucked it back into itself but the sticky side is out now, with little fluffs of lint stuck to it.
“B and H” are slicked out with their bike shoes and bike shorts and bike shirts and Bento boxes comparing air pressure levels and programming computers for-the-love-of-all-that’s-holy on their aero bars. Brain appears in shock, apparently beginning to realize what’s it gotten us into. “I swanny,” sighs Brain, “this could hurt.”
“Ya think?,” I reply, silently, sarcastically. “I tried to tell you.”
B & H, however, are nothing but cool. They truly don’t care about looks, they care about heart. They will cheer on anyone, any age, size, sex or ability if that person is honestly trying. I think a lot of athletes are like that – and by athletes I mean anyone getting off the couch and trying something outside their comfort range, no matter if outside that comfort range means a 15 minute walk. Are you trying? Are you dying? YOU ROCK.
I got my Felt about 4-5 years ago. I convinced dad that I really would feed that kitten and clean the litter box, that I really would take care of that dolly, that I really would feed and walk that puppy – I talked hubs into helping me find a bike. We got that thing pimped out with handle bar tape and lollipop pedals and a pair of Shimano clip-in shoes. They measured and tweaked the bike, got it on the trainer, taught me how to shift, had me practice clipping in and out.
I took my shiny new toy home and out to the street. I got on. I clipped. I slipped. I tipped. I managed to get to the end of the block and out of sight. I clipped, I unclipped, I tipped. I think I’ve told this story before. I went home, got out the tool box, took off the lollipops and put the sissy pedals back on. And in the storage room, to the disgust of hubs, sat the clips and shiny white shoes ($100 value?) for the next four years.
I did ride the bike, usually several times each summer. Nothing strenuous, nothing tough, no racing up and down hill and dale, just tooling around town, through the park.
B, H & I set out. I couldn’t seem to get my bike to shift properly. It was stuck. Then it worked. Then the chain fell off. I kept working with it. I thought I was doing something wrong, but I couldn’t figure out what. I mentally reviewed shifting. Maybe I should do this, or that – but it didn’t seem to be working. The bike has never been serviced since I bought it, maybe the chain is hanging up or rusty or something.
“B” rode alongside. Sweet, southern, always helpful and motherly. She’s patiently teaching me to swim, and now she’s teaching me to bike. “Try this,” she said, and played with the right-hand shifters. I copied her and felt it slip into gear.
“Good,” she said, “try this now” and played with the shifter some more. I copied her and felt the gears slip into place.
*sigh* I swanny. I’d forgotten how to shift.
We biked 26 miles in 2 hours and 3 minutes. I’m pretty sure B & H would have gotten it done quite a bit faster without me, but they are team players, they are true athletes and they acted like this was exactly what they needed and wanted. My legs announced in the last couple miles that they were done but I convinced them it was bike or walk pulling the bike, no other way out of it, so they pulled some more.
I woke the next day expecting to shuffle, hobbled and in pain, to the bathroom. I stood. I took a cautious step and then another. My hip flexors were tender and that was it. In fact, my legs felt good! My hamstrings weren’t trying to spasm; my legs had that tired that buzzes in your muscles, the good feeling. I felt relaxed. I even seemed to be standing straighter. I felt GREAT!
This morning I took the bike to RB’s. He’s giving her a little tune-up. I bought a Bento box complete with plastic, water-proof cover for my phone so I can text and bike. I got a utility pouch for under my seat. I’m getting sweet red & black striped handle bar tape.
And I’m having them put the lollipops back on.
I swanny. I am NOT going to start doing triathlons. Don’t even think it.