04 June 2011

Reflections Cycling

All of my kidding aside, I really am a rather reflective and contemplative woman.  I've had to be.  Maybe that's why I sometimes, while riding, I see images of cyclists I might have been, or appeared to be:

Was this man riding to exhale?  Or would he be inspired?  Or some of both?  Actually, those questions apply to just about every cyclist one might encounter as a Saturday afternoon turns to dusk behind a curtain of high clouds.  For that matter, those questions could apply to pretty much anyone who cycled, walked, skated, skateboarded, fished from, or sat on the benches lining, the promenade that passes under the Verrazano Narrows Bridge.

But what of two people on a tandem on the Coney Island boardwalk?

One doesn't see tandems very often in New York.  I'm guessing that the riders are a father and son or, perhaps, an uncle and nephew. 

When I was growing up, there still weren't very many adults who cycled.  None in my family did.  Even the owners and operators of most bike shops weren't riders:  They, like most adults, saw bicycles as the means of transportation people used only until they got their driver's licenses.  

The few adult cyclists one saw were almost invariably male.   And now I realize that, even today, the vast majority of adults I see riding are male.  Perhaps that is the reason why I see those images of who I was, or might have been.

Now I remember cycling along the ocean in New Jersey as a teenager.  From Sandy Hook south to Sea Bright, the wind and tides exhaled through shells and bones on the other side of the sea wall that separated the ocean from Route 36; south of Sea Bright, they sluiced through mounds and valleys of sand that stretched even farther than I could have cycled on any day I cycled, or the one after it, or the one after it.  How far, exactly, would it go?  To Key West?  At least I knew that if I were to cross the ocean--which, of course, I couldn't do on my bike--I'd end up in Portugal, in Spain, in France.   

Nobody I knew then had been to any of those places.  And they hadn't been to the places where they wanted me to go:  the colleges, Annapolis, West Point or any of the other Armed Forces academies.  Or, for that matter, the offices  they hoped I would occupy, or even the schools in which I would study and teach.

None of those schools existed, at least for me, when I was riding along the ocean so many years ago.  And nobody followed me:  nobody, that is, except for a middle-aged woman who told me to inhale deeply and exhale completely, and that everything would be all right because she was going to be there for me, no matter where I rode. 

And I was present today, as I always was, for that teenaged boy who spent sunny days and overcast afternoons cycling the Jersey Shore.  Perhaps I saw the person he might have been, too.  


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