Saturday, March 17, 2018

The Bicycle Diaries

"Are you okay?" she asked in a genuinely concerned way. "I'm fine," I said, but her eyes told a different story.
This ride is going to be long. Get out now if you can. It stretches down the eastern seaboard, all the way to South Jersey, where I have tucked away a laid back beachcomber made by the Schwinn bicycle company, "boasting fat tires that are eagerly waiting to eat up the road.”
[Side note: I used to edit copy for a Japanese industrial conglomerate and those very words moved its motorcycle division to have me “fired” (although I feel like that’s still negotiable). They preferred to call their tires “superior,” not fat and there is nothing “laid back” about them I was informed. “Everybody mounts their motorbikes in an upright position!”]
As far as my fat set of wheels goes, I procured them via the information highway and had the whole thing delivered in pieces to Mrs. Cassidy the Elder’s house, where I assembled it without breaking a sweat. There was a lot of pre-purchase hemming and hawing on my part over whether to get the $96 boys model or the girls model for $12 less. In Japan, where I now reside, everybody and their brother rides what most of us Americans call a girl’s bike and I’ve kind of grown accustomed to them. In the end I went with the more economical design and saved about $7. The math adds up. I used about $5 worth of tape to cover up the pale blue floral designs on the superior orange frame.
It was noon by the time I put all the pieces together and filled those flabby tires with the miniature hand pump ($5.76) I bought with the bike. Since I wasn't too sure the little pump was brawny enough to do the job on the tires, I decided to wheel up to the local WaWa gas station, located about three miles up the road, to top off the inner tubes with compressed air. Given the location of the sun in the sky I thought it best to smear at least an ounce of sun screen on my face and upper extremities. After spending the better part of a half an hour rubbing the lotion into my skin, I was pedaling down the street by 12:30, and by 1:00 I had arrived at the WaWa just a little worse for wear. Mostly I was just hot and sweaty, but now totally pumped.
I popped inside the convenience store that is part of the whole WaWa gas station complex to purchase a bottle of soda pop and replenish any liquid I had lost on the long sweat-soaked ride. When I plopped the bottle of pop on the counter the cashier asked in a genuinely concerned tone, “Are you okay?” I told her “I’m fine” but left a bit puzzled by the nature of her question. In the end I chalked it up to some sort of exotic South Jersey greeting and spinned my way back to my mother’s place. Back in the house, I stepped inside the bathroom where in horror I spied in the mirror the face pictured below.
During the course of
my adventure all the sunscreen that I had expended so much effort rubbing into my skin pours had poured out with the sea of sweat seeping out of my body, leaving behind a white pasty buildup, like clownish greasepaint, over every inch of my face.
I was a bit mortified but ultimately okay. I would ride again. You can’t keep a good clown down.

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