There comes a time, usually around the 30-year-mark or so, that every marriage is plunged into crisis. The partners wake up, stare at the ceiling, scrape some gunk out from under their toenails and wonder “Is this all there is?”
The answer of course is “Yes. If you’re lucky.”
No matter how many decades, how many children, how many hardships, or how much the couple has endured together, they often simply cannot go on. They sadly shake hands, or perhaps engage in a perfunctory embrace, shed a few tears, and walk away, sorrowfully yet briskly to a good lawyer who can help them take the other person to the cleaners.
However, some couples choose to make things worse, much worse, by getting into cycling. Per the old tandem adage, “Wherever your relationship is going, a tandem will get you there faster.” Mrs. WM and I decided that rather than trotting off to counseling she would start riding a bike.
As someone with a lot of experience in making cycling absolutely unbearable for beginners, this was right down my alley. “Now honey, don’t worry if it feels uncomfortable at first. We will take an easy route. You’ll get the hang of it in no time.”
Mrs. WM had ridden with me once before, back in April of 1987, when, after describing to her the glories and joys of pedaling a bike, and getting her all enthused, I took her for a little 60-mile jaunt across a modestly sized mountain range, me on my Tommasini racing bike, she on her single-speed Japanese high school commuter bike, or mama-chari. Thereafter we never rode together again, which was weird.
This time was going to be different. I had taken my daughter’s road bike, which had gears, and put flat pedals on it, and was all prepared to make it a fun and easy experience. We would start off on Hawthorne, go downhill gently to Crest, go up a small hill, then turn left up another small hill called Whitley-Collins. I figured it would be about twenty minutes, and the 16 percent grade up Whitley-Collins should be fine.
We did the ride and I was surprised at how well she did. True, there was a bit of huffing and puffing, but no walking. “How are you doing?” I asked fakishly.
She looked over. “I’m fine. Just a little slow.”
“You’re doing great,” I said, worried that she was a lot fitter than I had thought and that if she kept riding she would eventually be able to drop me. At the top of the hill we paused. “Well, that was fun. Good job. Time to go home,” I said.
“Is that all? I wanted to ride longer. This is great!”
My plans weren’t working out too well, so I sighed, knowing that it was going to take a little bit more effort to convince her that cycling really wasn’t her thing. “Let’s keep going, then,” I fake smiled.
We descended Via del Monte, climbed Via la Selva, popped out on PV Drive North, and headed for Silver Spur. I kept glancing back, but she seemed to be enjoying it despite my best efforts. Then we hit Silver Spur, which is a long, steep grind. At the hardest point I veered right and did my best Scott Dickson. “There’s a little shortcut over here.”
She followed, and soon we were at the base of Basswood, another little 14 percenter that goes on for a ways. “Are we riding up that?” she asked.
“Yes,” I said. “Unless you’re too tired.”
“What if I’m too tired?”
“It only take a few minutes longer to walk.”
“I’m not walking,” she said, and charged ahead. She got off after a little while. “This is too steep for me.”
I looked at her for a minute. She was pouring sweat and breathing hard, but she wasn’t mad or unhappy. “Just catch your breath. You’ll be fine,” I said.
She caught it, and was. “Now what?” she asked as we crested the hill.
The next obstacle was Shorewood, another beastly steep hump between us and home. Or, we could go straight and do the easy way. We went straight, and ended up at the coffee shop. “Was it fun?” I asked.
“It was great! I loved it! And I think I need some shorts. I’m really sore. And a jersey. This t-shirt gets soaked too quickly. When can we ride again?”
“Soon,” I said. “Soon.”
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