Amanda Learns to NOT Ride a Bike
By Amanda Zimmerman
...And in my 37th year of life, I came to work at Dirt Rag Magazine and learn all that life has not taught me yet.
Namely, how to ride a bike. It's a scary thought I know, for all you diehard, ride hard until they pry the handlebars from your cold stiff hands, people out there. But we'll just skip the excuses and obligatory "It's not my fault" and straight away blame it squarely on my older brother, Bill. Truth, there were other of my six siblings involved, but I'm a little vague on who else at this point.
Yes, I said "six." Three older sisters, one older brother and two younger brothers, who, due to age, were most likely innocent of the following events. It was a big family and took a lot of money to keep us afloat, so needless to say, I didn't have a Dad running behind me on my bike holding the saddle and encouraging me to keep going. He was busy bringing home the dough. In fact, as a small person, I remember two, and only two, very distinct memories concerning bikes. The first was of older brother Bill and his posse of 13-14-year-old friends meeting me in the playground after my first horrifying day of kindergarten. He was riding his very slick, very keen, burnt orange 10-speed and I regret at this time I do not recall the maker. Schwinn, I would imagine, since this would be mid-70s. It was a graceful beast and his presence there at the school door waiting for me is something I have never forgotten. At the time I thought I was going to have to walk home by myself and I wasn't sure I would remember the way, so the escort was very chivalrous indeed.
The second event takes place sometime after that but has stuck with me just as forcefully.
We lived on a very busy street, Mississippi Avenue, that swooped down from the foothills of Green Mountain in Lakewood, Colorado and zipped away on past our house. Just across from our house, Vivian Avenue jogged off on its short uninteresting way, connecting Mississippi with Virginia Avenue. The cool thing about Vivian, besides the lack of traffic that raced up and down Mississippi, was the fact that at the time of its making the road crew chief must have been drunk off his ass because there was, for no good reason, a knobby hill smack in the middle of it. The kind of hill that you drive your car up and over real fast to make your stomach lurch like it's on a rollercoaster.
From my bedroom window in the house across the way, I could see the neighborhood kids and at least three of my older siblings coasting down the hill and looping back around as they neared the busy intersection of Vivian and Mississippi. Ah. It looked like fun. They were laughing and joshing and yelling and as all younger kids, I was compelled to hang out in their atmosphere.
So I was pretty excited when I asked and Billy said he would teach me to ride. Looking back I wonder why the alarm bells failed to go off at that moment. I'd been a member of the family long enough to know that if anyone was going to get hurt in situations such as this it was going to be me. (My red army ant story will have to wait for another time, and I cannot count how many times us younger kids were tied to trees as enemy hostiles in the game of WAR and then forgotten until mom was setting out plates for dinner.)
So the next thing I recall I'm flying down that funky hill on that pretty little 10-speed aiming, as the warning bells are finally starting to go off, right for the heart of Mississippi. But I keep my balance and finish my first technical descent. It works. It is easy. All the kids are yelling for me to pedal, but now I'm realizing the pedals are going too fast, and my feet can't quite reach. Mississippi is really coming up fast now and they're still yelling at me, getting a little frantic about it and they aren't the only ones. Whatever they are trying to tell me is all being whooshed away by the roaring wind. There's quite a lot of it and it almost seems to be sucking me into the oncoming traffic...Something about breaks? Brakes? Did we review that before I got on the bike?
Hey, wait a minute, this is a lot like my first ski lesson...And in a flash, I remember what this same sibling told me to do if I ever found myself on a black diamond slope. Fall down on purpose. It's either that or play Frogger across Mississippi at a million miles an hour. Probably should have asked more questions about the brakes.
Did I ever mention that back in those good ol' days they put gravel chips in the blacktop for traction in the winter months?
Needless to say it was many years later before I even went near another bike. And learning at 20 is a lot harder that learning at 10. It's only been in the last few years that I have felt any confidence whatsoever in remaining upright on a bike. So it's funny to find myself here of all places, but then life is like that. If a person is going to learn to ride a bike then this is it. I'll keep you posted on my progress.
In the end I'll be a fan.
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