published Thursday, March 28th, 2013

Upton: Getting back on the bike

I have scars on each knee that I've sported most of my life. Here's the back story:

Picture this, East Ridge in the early '80s. I am feeling fearless and invincible on what I know now was just a dinky little bike. At the time I must have thought it was a Harley.

I am riding down the hill in front of our house, the first house I remember, with the wind in my face and exhilaration egging me on from behind.

After a few breathless downward treks, I decide to intensify the experience. This time, in the middle of the ride, I swing my feet up onto the handlebars and lift my hands

upward to the sky. Ahh, for a few seconds it was amazing.

The next thing I remember though is the sickening sensation of falling, the crunch of the bike against the gravel, the scraping of skin, the sound of my own screaming, blood running down my legs and, for the rest of my life, scars.

Age and distraction eventually caused me to focus on other things besides daredevil bike rides. Last week, however, I bought a new bicycle for exercise. I decided on a man's bike only because the handlebars were higher on one particular model and I thought I could handle it, being an above-average woman (in size, that is.) After I purchased it online, it arrived. My neighbor, a cyclist, put it together for me.

It was a little too tall at first, but he made it work by lowering the seat as far down as he could make it go. After that, we were off for my first ride. I was wondering how aerobic cycling would be because, when I was younger, I could bike for hours. Well, I was about to find out how much I had aged.

We crossed the street out of our neighborhood and started up a slight incline. Halfway up, I was hyperventilating and so nauseous I had no choice but to stop and put my head down on the handle bars, sucking in breaths for dear life. My neighbor tried to encourage me onward, but I told him in no uncertain terms it wasn't happening that day. Why did he take us away from our neighborhood and onto a hill, I wondered with mild indignation. With a background in the military, I should have known he'd push me to my limits.

I tried to regain my composure, feeling lightheaded and close to fainting. Wow. What a difference a few decades and a couple of pounds make (OK, well maybe more than a couple.)

As soon as the nausea subsided, I turned my bike around and coasted back down the small hill. The wind in my face was not nearly as exhilarating as that ride I took many years ago, but it was certainly welcome. It meant I didn't have to pedal for a few seconds.

When we arrived back at my house this time, I felt nervous about stopping the bike. I squeezed the brakes a little too hard and felt the back tire lift up and plop down again, landing safely but humorously on the sidewalk. My front tire was still on the road. I laughed at what this must have looked like from behind while my neighbor demonstrated the correct way to brake and dismount.

I had faced my demise yet again and overcome. All in all, it was a great ride.

Tabi Upton is a therapist at CBI Counseling Center and a freelance writer. Contact her at tabiupton@bellsouth.net.

about Tabi Upton...

Tabi Upton, MA-LPC is a therapist at New Beginnings Counseling Center.

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