Track Stands And Wheelies; Riding Bikes with Teenagers…

This morning did not start well.  First off, I was under two layers of blanket from last night’s influx of cold air.  I’m quite tired of cold weather, and I think with just a few days left until the Spring Equinox, it could go ahead and warm up already.  I hear the birds first thing in the morning begging spring to come.  We’re all ready.  So I woke up offended by the weather, knowing I needed a shower, and counting the seconds until I would absolutely have to get out of bed.  I showered, dressed and made it to the kitchen only to realize it was nearly time to go and I hadn’t made coffee.  There I stood, waiting for my coffee, eating a pre-boiled, cold egg over the kitchen sink.  Also I was to the point of inwardly flogging myself for not having time to do anything because I stayed in bed so long.  I rinsed my dirty travel cup (it had coffee from last Friday’s ride), poured my coffee and headed out to the bike.  Digging my winter over-clothes out of the closet (I’d put them away during the warm spell from a few weeks back), I threw on enough to stay warm in 36 degrees, let Luke out and started down the hill toward the park.

Here are all the reasons today wasn’t a good day.  First of all, just yesterday it rained for about twenty four hours.  After that it got cold.  Also, there’s the constant circuit of news (what they call in The Secret Benedict Society “The Daily Emergency”), and of course I always feel like I’m two steps behind what needs to happen for today.   Also I woke up with another bad tune in my head, which is kind of a common occurrence.  Something from Nickleback.  I can’t remember the details.

When I got to the park, Heather was talking to Luca’s Dad and Luca was riding around jumping his BMX bike off of anything that stood still.  Yesterday evening we’d had a bunch of kids who wanted to ride, but something had happened to all but two.  The middle school years tend to have that effect.  We were starting with one, and picking up one at our first “bike bus” stop.  But Heather talked a long time and then we were late leaving.  “Great,” was what I was thinking as we got started, going faster than I wanted to go I might add, because of being late.  I pedaled my heart out trying to keep up with Heather up front, and Luca in the middle, who’d throw on his brakes and do skid-outs willy-nilly.

By the time we got to our CPCC stop I was breathing hard.  Colsen had already arrived, and Heather started handing out donuts.  She’d made a HT stop before showing up to ride, and just got small bags, nothing fancy.  The boys talked about their bikes for a bit, Colsen asking about whether it was possible to put a derailleur on Luca’s bike, and me realizing finally that Colsen was on the third bike I’d seen him riding since we started doing this route.  So I asked him how many bikes he had.  He answered, “Quite a few.”

On fifth street we took the sidewalk up the hill to avoid the train tracks, and as we pushed our way up them, and Luca continued to wheelie ride,  something in my brain clicked over from Eyore to Piglet.  It was actually quite entertaining watching the boys interact, talk about bicycles, practice track stands, and swerve erratically into skids.  Heather rides the front now, because she’s the main ride leader, and I ride sweep, where I get to see the mayhem of the thing.  At the stadium light, Colsen practiced track standing while I took a picture and we waited for the light to change.  We rode the wide sidewalk around the stadium and hopped the rail trail towards Imaginon.  Heather stopped to wait for traffic and Luca snagged a few donuts out of her bike bag without her noticing.  At this my brain does another switch, and if we’re using the Pooh analogy still, my brain has moved towards Tigger.  I can feel myself come alive in the here and now.

Being a teenager is a difficult thing.  Especially middle school, but high school as well if you’re not cut from the cookie cutter assembly line of “how folks should behave and what they should do.”  By that I mean, we all need something in our lives that bring joy and a feeling of accomplishment.  Today we have two bike geeks riding (I mean that in the best way possible).  They’ll ride 14 crazy, track standing, wheelie-ing, jumping and hopping miles with an adult at the front and one in the back to make sure they’re okay.  During that time nobody takes out a cell phone or worries about the state of the world. We just are.

At the VGBG stop, the boys trade bikes so Luca can climb the big hill behind the parking lot and fly down it.  Colsen hops Luca’s bmx bike, jumping and bumping his way around the parking lot, and also admiring Luca’s riding skill.  When Heather passes the donut bag around again, I mention that watching these guys makes me wish I could ride on a wheelie and jump off things, but I’m 48, and it’s harder to learn these skills.  We all laugh.

We head out for the last leg of the journey to Williams, in high spirits, not really feeling the cold except for in our feet.  I watch the two boys ride side by side between our buffer, chatting.  Every once in a while one of them does a jump or a wheelie, or suddenly skids to a stop for no reason that I can see.  At a new apartment complex that’s just been built, Luca rides up a big, grass hill, turns around, and does a jump onto the sidewalk about fifteen feet in front of me, right in the place he’s supposed to be in front of Colsen and behind Heather.  We take the last uphill towards the school and make it to Williams Montessori as the buses are arriving.  Heather and I say our goodbyes to the boys and she gives them directions for the afternoon ride and offers them the bags of donuts from her bags to take with them.  At this their faces light up like that’s the best thing they’ve ever heard of.

Heather and I mount our bikes, ride up the hill towards the buses and begin our long ride back to the school, chatting happily, solving the problems of the world, and talking about how a little movement and freedom changes us all.

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