By Janet Hanks
In the “Pronouncements Made While-You-Wait” Department, we would like to offer this for your consideration: the finest form of transportation known to man is the bicycle.
Well, I tell a lie. The very finest form of transportation known to man is the SRT (formerly Dodge) Viper, one of which glimpsed in the Starbucks parking lot gave me a whole slew of emotions I had to repent of later. The Viper has ten valves, 400 horsepower, and will go from 0-100 miles an hour in 7.2 seconds. I have wanted one since the first model year, 1992, and will never ever have one on account of my Beloved will not let me. Plus you have to custom order them, and they cost almost $100,000.
So let’s get back to bicycles before I start to drool on the keyboard.
Those can be fabulous, too, and I’ve loved them since way before Vipers existed. I don’t even remember learning to ride my first bike, a blue hand-me-down from a cousin that weighed 75 pounds and had one speed. I didn’t care; I loved it anyway, riding endless loops of our driveway and the top of our hill. Riding it down the hill was always exhilarating, too, but that was tempered by the reality of having to ride back UP to get home, a bit of bicycling truth that remains constant even now.
Another perpetual truth, of course, is that bicycle wrecks happen, and they come out of nowhere without warning. My kneecaps contain my personal history of biking in several rune-like scars, at least one of which still shows the evidence of the stitches despite being 40 years old.
While I don’t put much stock in my own biking disasters, I AM scarred by the accidents that have happened to my family. The Youngest Daughter once rode her bike right off the edge of the New River Trail, where it vanished down a steep embankment. She landed safely in a tree near the top, and her dad fished the bike out of the river, but the whole episode was not good for my mental health. Then there was the time my Beloved biked to work and skidded on his side down the Wythe County Community Hospital driveway. At least there were bandages nearby.
As I’ve gotten older, I’ve gotten more, well, cautious. At the moment, I have a new bike that I’m still getting used to, plus, I have a new titanium hip that I do not wish to damage. Those two things have made me start scanning ahead for hazards and riding in a manner that the girl on the one-speed would hold in contempt.
I still love biking, though, and this is why I recently conned The Boy into a trip from Allisonia to Lone Ash and back on the New River Trail. While this part of the trail isn’t as remote as the Gambetta-to-Byllesby section, it’s only easily accessible by road at the point where the trail goes under the Route 100 bridge, and this is where my son decided to have one of the most spectacular crashes to date.
The trail has washed out in the recent rains and sprouted some significant ditches. One of these ate The Boy’s front tire, and he, in the inexorable grip of momentum, sailed over his handlebars and landed on his head on the trail in front. The rest of his bike flipped and landed on top of him.
I was behind him, watching the whole thing with mounting horror, a slow-motion ballet that suddenly became still–too still. Abandoning caution, I rode toward him like Lance Armstrong being chased by a phlebotomist. I was trying to wrench my phone off its handlebar mount to dial 911 when he saw me coming and scrambled out of the way.
Turns out, he was chagrined, not comatose. He has gravel embedded in his helmet, though, and a collection of cuts that will become part of his own bodily cycling history. We finished the trip to Lone Ash at his insistence, stopping only to wash his wounds with our water bottles and “bandage” them with napkins. He does not seem any worse for the wear.
I have grown a little tense, though. As much as I love two-wheeled transportation, I’m starting to feel paranoid and possibly skittish. I’m going to have to talk this over with my Beloved; if my bike is too stressful for me, maybe it’s time to give some serious consideration to the Viper.