As the grip of winter's chill is replaced with the gentle embrace of a warm spring breeze, a young man's fancy turns to thoughts of love.
A love for biking, that is.
What? I'm already married, my fancy has been resolved to a devoted love for a long time now. Believe me, I love my ever-patient wife like nothing else, but, shoot, she's here year-round.
The biking season, on the other hand, is a fleeting mistress, a lady of the night who beckons its loyal followers as soon as the loamy trails allow for some flirty indiscretions. From the beginning of spring and well into late fall, she busies herself in leading riders through unforgettable dreamscapes laced with physical and spiritual highs, ensnaring the passion of cyclists who's wills are slaves to the seasons. It is an affair which, for all the accomplishments and discoveries of inner-peace, inevitably ends in heartache as the season comes to a close with the arrival of snow and bitter north winds.
Just before winter began, the biking season, as always, slipped from under my tires in late October. But, she has arrived once again, calling for me to join her. There are no hard feelings, just immense joy at her return. She taunts me with rays of sunlight through my living room windows, warm and brimming with the promise of singletrack ecstasy. Her pull is so strong, I cannot resist.
I glance over my shoulder. Perfect. My spouse is distracted with the little guy. He's filled his diaper once again in defiance to the authoritarian rule he has the relentless misfortune of living under. His mother (my wife; do keep up) had asked him, not 10 minutes earlier, if he needed to empty his bowels (she's a nurse, she really does talk like that). Now he is being completely uncooperative in going to the bathroom to get cleaned up, somehow managing to transform all his bones and joints into an unmalleable liquid, a skill which my mother takes great pleasure in pointing out that I used to possess when I was an insufferable little shit, decades ago.
My loving wife, distracted with duties that come with being a responsible parent, is oblivious to my slipping out the back door to the sanctuary that is my garage. Shoes tied, gloves on, helmet strapped, I saddle my beloved aluminum steed, bent on putting as much space between my rear tire and the noxious substances created by my young son's derrière.
I feel a wave of anticipation surge through me as I engage my bike's freewheel, locking the pedals into position, ready to launch. My mistress is calling, and I am keen to answer.
From the corner of my eye, a bright flash of green stops me dead.
It is my little guy's new bicycle; a tiny fixed-gear machine with training wheels, painted a bright lime-green with black accents. It sat, almost forlornly, to one side of the garage, light from a warm spring sun bathing it in a golden glow through the window.
Guilt swept over me. Some for my wife, sure. To just abandon her while she tried to negotiate with a stubborn force akin to a distant nebula's collective gravity was, well, a bit cowardly. Regardless, I could still have done it. Ride away, I mean. I am weak, I admit it. When the cycle season, my mistress, comes to me with the intent of seduction, I am powerless to her desires. Though my wife brings me immeasurable happiness of which no other woman can compare, there are some pleasures that only she, the Goddess of Spring and Singletrack, can provide.
Nay, the guilt was for my son. My little guy. For years, I had dreamed of a time when I could share countless biking adventures with my children, sharing with them the one true love that has endured with me for as long as I can remember.
The idea of stealing a quick ride on my own suddenly no longer had the irresistible appeal it had mere moments before. Here was an opportunity to invest in a very lucrative future, where dividends would be paid out in priceless bonding adventures with my son. My lady of temptation would just have to wait.
I tucked my bike back into it's respective corner, giving it an apologetic pat on the saddle. It understood; one of the things I love most about that machine is its sympathetic nature. It's important to look for those kinds of characteristics in a bicycle, trust me.
With the kid all cleaned up and poop free (nice work, wife), I brought the kid out for some gentle schooling in the fine art of cycling. Unfortunately, the little shrimp had no intention of learning anything, regardless of how cool it was.
"Bring to park the green?" he promptly asked once outside. My heart soared at the ques...Oh. Nevermind. He was pointing to his toy lawnmower (also green) which he'd recently been pushing abso-frickin-lutely everywhere.
"No, kiddo, we're gonna try your bike!" I exclaimed happily with as much enthusiasm as I could. This was greeted with instant wailing and crying, pleading for his mower, the whole works. Fan-tastic.
This wasn't the first time I tried him on his bike. We bought the silly thing a couple months back when springtime was but a teasing tickle in the wind, hopeful for an early season. Between bouts of winter, when warm Chinook winds would make way for t-shirts and light sweaters, we would try our little man on his bike, if only to keep the feeling of pedals under his feet as a familiar sensation. Every time, he would resist feverishly at first, eventually putting in a marginal effort at learning the craft, only to promptly dismiss his bike as soon as the pedals were on the verge of making a complete, unassisted rotation.
If the store where we'd bought that bike was closer to us than the six-hour drive that it actually was, you can bet a refund would've taken place.
Yeah, right. My heart was set on raising a little mountain biker, and that's what I was going to have, dammit. Besides, I realize he's just two-and-a-half years old, I'm not a complete cad. There's lots of time yet for him to learn. I'm just too eager for him to get there.
So, here we are, with spring most definitely unpacking her things for the season. It was time. I made it clear to my darling little imp that the toy lawn mower was most assuredly NOT leaving the yard, and the only way we were going to the park or anywhere was through the magic of biking.
There was a lot of crying, moaning, pleading and whining. When I finally stopped, my kid relented. I put him on the saddle, and guided his feet through the motion of the pedals as the training wheels kept him upright. Left, right, left, right, left, right...no, this right. THIS right!
And then, all of a sudden, he just...got it. It was like watching young Forrest Gump breaking free from his leg braces and stride flawlessly like a champion sprinter. He was pedalling, one full stroke, two, three; he was frickin' doing it, yeah, baby!
I let go of his seat I was gently pushing in order to keep his strokes moving, and I watched him go. My heart soared; my little guy was pumping away, seemingly losing himself in the moment, feeling the same immense sense of accomplishment and freedom that I savour every time I go for a ride. He was smiling, one of the purest grins I've ever seen on his happy little face.
Then I realized he was very near the end of our side road, about to roll right into the main street which goes by the front of the house. He was doing so well that I hesitated for a moment, not wanting to break his rhythm but of course fully aware I had to stop him from going into the street. I hollered at him to stop, which, thankfully, he did, and I rushed to reach him as quickly as I could.
As I approached him, I couldn't help but smile inwardly at the idea that someday soon, my son and I would be enjoying wonderful cycling adventures together. We'll plan epic weekend journeys in the mountains, enjoying unforgettable not-approved-by-mom snacks by the trailside as the sun begins to set against the hills, searing memories into our brains for decades to come.
I reach my little guy, bending down to catch his expression of what I'm sure would be only pure joy. "Wow! Way to go, kiddo! Was that great, or what!?" I ask hurriedly, unable to curb my excitement.
My kid, my amazing little son, who positively just rocked biking for what was really his first real effort in the activity, just stared at me, completely deadpan.
"All done bike," he said. He slid off his steed and walked back to the house, leaving me to explain to his trusty bike why some kids will just love 'em and leave 'em. That fickle little shi-, I muttered to myself.
Oh, well. There's always tomorrow. I guess.
Though I can't make any promises that I might not give in to my mistress's calling the next time around. Sorry, kid.
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I haven't been to the gym in months yet somehow, my triceps are looking pretty darn good, I just gotta say. I'd like to think it's from my efforts at marginal parenting, hoisting up my little guy onto my shoulders during countless neighborhood strolls, not because it adds to the bonding experience but because I can only take so much incessant stop-and-go from a two-year-old's non-existent attention span where every single pebble and crumb of dirt requires detailed scrutiny usually reserved only for CSI crime scenes.
Nope, parenting isn't my workout secret. My triceps look like chiseled cheddar because I - like at least two or three other people on this planet, I'm sure - love to climb up onto my polished soapbox several times a day, chin and nose up, proclaiming proudly that I, lover of all and self-declared patron Saint of the Modern Method, do not judge.
Well that's just a hefty load of farm animal quality shit, you might say. And my response to that is...
You're absolutely right. Go get a shovel.
Now, I like to think I don't participate in hurtful gossip, local or Hollywood. And, for the most part, it's true. What people in my community do is their business, not mine, and I certainly don't give a flying squirrel to the goings-on of notable celebrities. That is, unless said celebrities are regurgitating irrelevant facts on international TV they memorized from a brochure they picked up in their hotel lobby which, thanks to the virality of all things digital these days (except for my blog, it seems. Hmm...) then becomes gospel for a multitude of meandering morons who aren't bright enough to make opinions for themselves.
I digress. My point is that I try not to judge others, to criticize them for their words or actions until I have good reason to. When people talk animatedly among themselves with strong viewpoints about whatever, I'll usually just keep quiet, choosing to listen rather than spout rhetoric about something I don't fully understand (though my girly-sized foot just might actually fit in my mouth, I'd rather not find out in public if I can help it.) So I try to give people a chance before I label them an idiot, a jerk, or a complete waste of oxygen and water.
Now, I live in a tiny little town, fa-a-a-r north of anywhere sensible, and so I've become accustomed to the people who share the community and their various ways of life. It is a small group of people, but we are all in it for the same reasons (work, life, moose), and everyone kinda looks out for one-another. There is a definite sense of community there, one that I wouldn't really expect to find easily in a big city. You know, one with traffic lights and everything.
A the time of this writing, my wife and I (the kid is here too, somewhere. I think.) are visiting friends and family near the southern curve of the country, more or less, in the Calgary area. We're plodding our way around a couple big metropolitan centres throughout our voyage since leaving home and, though the local drivers haven't yet banded together to have my small-town driving methods banned from their streets, I feel a bit out of place putzing along at a relaxed "ambling" kind of pace when the preferred speed is clearly something more akin to "apocalypse".
More than anything, though, are the weirdos that inhabit large city centres. Whoops. Okay, that was uncalled for. What I mean is people are different out here. Downtown pedestrians sway their heads side to side, up and down, seemingly mumbling to nobody around them. Some drivers are gripping their steering wheel like it owes them money, hunched over them with their faces nearly pressed into the windshield as they drive. Others are seated so low that all you see are the tops of their heads and knuckles on the wheel, the only explanation being that someone stole their driver's seat and they are now using some sort of spiritual GPS to navigate their way around, totally unbound by the traditional requirement of sight to operate a vehicle. Point is, they're weird.
Again, I don't mean to be prejudiced against people before I have any concrete reason to do so. After all, a friend is just a stranger you haven't met, right? But sometimes you just can't help it. Someone wears a bright neon scarf in beautiful, twenty-five degree weather with mitts to boot and leading a chicken on a leash, you can't help but automatically think The heck is wrong with that moon-fruit? I'd better cross the street to be safe.
Take this pickup truck my wife and I sneered at yesterday, driven by what was certainly an exemplary citizen, I'm sure (heavy on the sarcasm, in case this font-type didn't convey that). Mid-twenties white male, wife-beater shirt, truck was an old domestic P.O.S. with a raised rear-end, matt black paint job, oversized tires. There were two other guys in the cramped cab with him, all three of them wearing caps tilted to one side, surely on their way to audition as expendable extras for a Kid Rock music video.
Everything about these guys screamed "douchebag" and my wife and I exchanged knowing looks as they roared passed. Enough said. We were profiling, we both new it, but it was also blatantly obvious to anyone else with a pulse, it was certain.
With impeccable timing against karma from the universe, I opened my mouth and said sarcastically to my loving wife "I can't wait to have a daughter so she can marry that guy. Mullet, nice friends, acquitted of all charges! He's got promise, I tell ya!"
No sooner had the words left my lips that I witnessed a perfect lane change by the young punk driving that black pickup. It really was perfect. Pre-emptive signalling to display his intention (three full flashes), followed by a solid shoulder check, then a smoooooth transition to the next lane over, signal light flashing diligently the entire time, with only a single extra flash of the indicator once he was in the desired lane, then off. It was beautiful. And if you live in a large city, I'm sure you can attest how that is a rare sighting indeed.
"Okay, fine," I correct myself to my wife. "He gets one point for a nice lane change, Universe. I'll give him that much. But still," I sneered in the young man's direction, bent on profiling him for no good reason.
Following traffic, we tailed this guy for just another quick mile when all of a sudden, the truck peels off to the side of the road, onto the left shoulder, billowing up a heavy cloud of dust as it came to a quick stop in the dry dirt.
"The hell..." I mutter to myself. "What's that jackass doing?" I instinctively assumed this driver and his band of idiots were trying to find cheap thrills with some illicit inner-city off-roading, a complete disregard for norms and rules of a functioning society. Approaching a red traffic light, we slowed down along with the rest of traffic bound for the city limits, giving us ample time to glare at the shmucks who, just seconds before, hurriedly veered off the roadway. What we saw shut me up real quick, I'll tell you.
The three guys from the pickup practically jumped out of their vehicle, crossed traffic attentively, and rushed over to help another motorist who had, just moments before, broke down in a busy and dangerous area, on a slight hill, no less. The hapless driver was futilely trying to push his car and steer it up the gentle slope to get out of the way of incessant traffic, but it was too much for one guy. The three "douchebags" whom I had so callously labeled had leaped to this man's rescue, the three of them pushing on the back of the downed car without delay, moving the man and his vehicle to a much safer area of the intersection. They had a brief exchange, hands were shaken, the three good Samaritans headed back to their truck.
The light turned green, and we invariably moved forward with the traffic. In my rearview, I could see the pickup truck turn back onto it's original path, again with a courteous use of signal lights and conscientious merging techniques. Was I humbled? You bet I was. I was busy pre-judging these guys while they went out of their way to help out a fellow man whom I didn't even notice was having trouble.
I'd like to promise that I won't be prejudiced against anyone ever again, but I know that won't happen. If someone is walking around with a lemur on his head while bopping along to some Elton John tunes and wearing gold-fish platforms, rest assured it will be beyond my control to not make a comment of some kind.
But I do believe people are generally good, and most are just looking for an opportunity to prove just that. I think we could all spend just a bit less time on our soapboxes, instead spending the time looking for ways to help one another. I'll give you one last opportunity to judge me for having judged someone else, but that's it. Go ahead, I deserve it.
All done? Great. Now, who wants to go for a drive?