Night Ride

I don’t know why it has taken me so long to put my feet back to the pedals. My friend’s bicycle has been resting on its kickstand in the garage waiting for me to get the brakes fixed. Two other hand-me-downs hang from the ceiling with nothing wrong but flat tires. But I am the queen of to-do list transfers, pushing one item ahead on the calendar for weeks, even months.

It took me two and a half years to change the address on my driver’s license after we moved. I left a garden hose dangling over the fence for three months last winter. (Thank the Lord for gracious neighbors.) I have a gift on the bench in my mudroom for a baby that was born in April. I could go on….

Alas, the old bikes have stayed in place. Besides a silly little twirl on the big wheel, I haven’t been on a bicycle in ten years…not since I rode through the maze of the Silk Road market, stopping every so often to eye a Chinese farmer’s painting or run my fingers across a scrap of fabric from some long ago dynasty. The bike was freedom from smoky cabs with locked windows. It was freedom from having to speak out my destination in the right words and tones. It was freedom to feel the air and crank up the dust and go at my own pace.

Tonight I sneak out, with my husband’s blessing, alone in the dark to try out my new wheels, a birthday gift. I stand up straight and lunge into the pedals with all my weight. The sticky 100 degrees of day gave in to downpours earlier this evening, but I’ve yet to change out of my sundress. Cool air blows hair out of my face and prickles bare skin.

I speed past dark windows, watch the silhouettes of pups prowling in dewy grass. I push forward, changing gears, giving full effort. And then I coast and feel the wind.

All of a sudden, a remembrance rolls over me. The rush of air takes me back, not to the dusty cobblestone of the Asian alley last decade, but to the concrete and pavement of an apartment complex in inner-city Indianapolis more than twenty-five years ago.

It’s a remnant of uncomplicated childhood. Me, my bike, and the wind with the scent of rain on it. It was rare that I wouldn’t be trailing someone on the banana seat or on the wheel cover or handlebars. And something about riding alone that day distilled all the feeling down to its most potent form.

I’ve heard it said that an experience turns long-term memory if you pedal down into the moment, sink yourself into the emotion, feel it with all of your senses, capture a mental picture…even if it’s not what we’d call a “significant” event.

Breathing the wild wind into my young lungs, hearing it whisper in my ears, feeling it whisk through my hair…the simple experience burned tracks in my mind. I told myself then that I wouldn’t forget it, that feeling of riding free, cutting through atmosphere. And even now I remember the exact coordinates where I pedaled my bike that morning, bumping over the cracks in the sidewalk of Pisa Court on the way to the blacktop playground.

On this night ride so many years later, powered by my full-grown legs, I am moving fast, but time slows enough that I catch another memory. I pedal around the block and hear my shifting gears echo against a crumbling brick wall. I slip close to dripping pines and the smell of summer camp. The dogs graze. I glide. A smile grows across my face like wings stretching to fly. I will remember this.

{What are some of your longest lasting memories? What makes them come back to you?}

P.S. Watch for the Gift from the Sea Giveaway to open up this coming Monday morning!

10 thoughts on “Night Ride

  1. I share your same thoughts! When I get on a bike, so many memories come to mind. I’m thinking about asking for a bike for my birthday even though we have one here at work (but it has a flat tire).

  2. There are few things better than long-buried memories of freedom released by riding a bike. The only thing better are building new ones.Hope you can keep riding the bike.

    Thanks for sharing.

  3. A long lasting memory is when I was a teen and took our family dog, Cindy, (German Shepherd mixed with Collie) for a walk on a dark winter night with snow falling. (That’s
    when it was safe to be out after dark–well I did have a big dog with me.) The air was
    refreshing and I felt a sense of freedom, in the quiet night with no one else around. Maybe it’s those freedom moments that stand out to us. Something just occurred to me–I was
    away from the cold and snow for 30 years and now back in it for 12. Since moving to
    Indy, whenever it snows at night before bedtime, I take whatever dog we have at the time outside for a walk. I never thought about it before; that I am probably re-creating (subconsciously) that memory from my past. :-)

    • Oh, I just love this, the scene of you walking in the snow at night with the family dog…and how you’ve repeated it so many times without even meaning to! Also, I think you’re on to something here, the feeling of freedom makes those moments feel significant even when they wouldn’t seem so to anyone else.

  4. Where’s the “love” button? My husband, too, got me a fabulous pink Schwinn with whitewalled tires and a big white basket on the front for my birthday. I felt giddy, like a kid again, when I hopped on for the first time (a full three months after he bought it). I was shaky, having not ridden a bike in several years and certainly not as much as I did when I was a kid. My legs get sore much faster – Where on earth do children get the energy??? But, I still feel such freedom when I get to a point where I can lay off the pedals and just feel the breeze….

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