Well what a huge bike ride I’ve just been on. Huge by my standards, not Marianne Vos’. As my local park had become as familiar as the back of my hand I needed some new scenery.
After much map-scrutinising I worked out that I could extend my usual route to go through another park with an almost seamless join. But, I was not going to get away with it that easily, as the filling of my park-sandwich was a tangled bean-shoot salad of busy unfamiliar roads.
I packed a small back pack with water, money and a phone. I have no idea if these are the staples of seasoned cyclists. I feel like I should have some sort of mechanical tools to fix problems, but all I own is a pump. Plenty of loose change gives me comfort, though I’m sure it’s practically useless.
This habit comes from a childhood memory when an important part of my cycling-mad brother’s pre-ride ritual was to make sure he had plenty of ten pence pieces for the phone, because in those days if something went wrong you had to find the nearest phone box. Those coins saved him several times.
Pootling along my familiar route, things were so far uneventful until I had to rescue an old dog with bad hips from the river.
Poor thing had gone for a splash to relive its youth only to find itself humiliatingly unable to get back up the river bank. As I whizzed past I had seen his doe eyes over his paws, silently appealing for help, and I circled shyly to see if some hostile beefcake was in control of the situation.
But its owner was an old lady who was pitifully useless to help.
To the tune of ‘Wonder Woman’ (not really) I stepped up to the task, selflessly placed my foot in a mound of nettles, and mightily pulled the dog from the mud into which it had sunk.
What a hero. Although that nettle rash really kicked in later. Blimey.
I felt so good about myself I sped off – beaming – to cries of gratitude. Not until quite some time later did I realise I had left the old lady in the mud. Erk. Maybe the dog pulled her out.
I reached the boundary of my comfort zone and stopped to gaze at the awesome current of the car river before me. Like a wildebeest seeking new pastures I felt the call to the other side. I could so easily turn around and chew the same old cud (what?!) but I needed fresh green grass. Luckily there was a pelican crossing so I just used that. Simple.
But not quite that simple: Once across the busiest part I still had roads to negotiate. But it was okay. I did it. Whenever I felt unsure I hopped off my bike onto the pavement, but mainly it was fine. And I got to the new park!
Oh it was so nice! Big rolling hills made into a golf course, cut through by thick woods. After gliding through landscaped grounds I suddenly found myself mountain biking in the shadow of the dense tree-canopy. I was both alarmed and thrilled. I could hear my Mother telling me not to go into the woods alone. I wondered if she might be right, but I was having so much fun!
Puddles, mud, mystery! I admit I was pedalling quite quickly to get back out into the open, but at the same time I was grinning from ear to ear. I imagine I looked quite peculiar.
All that was very exciting, but now I was exhausted and returned to my familiar hood with a certain relief. An unexpected final hurdle presented itself when I emerged from an underpass to be confronted by gridlock. Normally there’s no traffic here but I hadn’t bargained on rush hour.
In the heat of the moment I tried to formulate a decision as to how to approach this situation. But with nowhere obvious to go, I simply fell off my bike. In front of all those stationary cars. How embarrassing. In my defence I was quite tired but my indecisiveness really is a problem. My brain thinks, “Oh look a rock – shall I go left, shall I go right, oh I’ve gone right over it.” Once, many moons ago, when faced with a hole in the ground I merely shut my eyes and let it eat me up. That was painful.
Anyway I made it home alive. Alive in more than one sense. I’d tasted exploration and it was delicious; I’d done something scary and found it exhilarating; I’d saved a dog.
Questions have been born out of this small foray:
I need to know practical things, I need to improve my road skills and I need to know more of the world out there on two wheels.
This is just the beginning.
Right, I’m off – time to ingest all the information on Total Women’s Cycling before my next adventure!