On a bike at 8:45 PM

At 8:45 PM, my bike becomes a land speeder, racing against time, dodging blinking lightning bugs and fighting against the wind. My goal is to get home before dark. My wheels creak and my tires give – both too old and neglected to handle many more rides. I’ve been doing this for as long as I can remember, yet every time feels like I’ve just learned how to stay up on two wheels.

My ass hurts. My legs are sore. Just a few more miles.

My arm tingles: I’ve been on the trail long enough that it’s starting to fall sleep. My bike doesn’t fit my body very well – in fact, it probably never did. It’s an issue I don’t bother with because next week (and it’s always next week) I’m going to buy a new one. I deserve it. After fifteen years, I’d say I’ve earned it. After two colleges, three cities, thousands of rides and hundreds of curse words directed at its unreliable gears and scraping brakes, this simple machine is ready to be put down for good.

My rides are getting longer, these days, though I still don’t play the part. I’m still missing the lycra shirts and the bike shorts, missing the toe clips and the slick helmets. I don’t race, and I don’t mosey. I don’t use my bike as transportation, or for exercise. I just use it as a thing I can ride. My skull looks like a shiny black mushroom, and my years-old Pacers shirt is becoming ragged. I bike in sandals and cargo shorts. I look like someone’s father. Which, I guess, is exactly what I am.

I ride through a pocket of cold river air, goosebumps forming. I wipe a gnat out from the corner of my eye and breathe in the smell of water and fish and mud. I dip away from the river and into a park, my tires like a machine gun over the wood slatted bridge as I exit the bike trail and head away from its endless loop. My ass still hurts.

And as the sun rests, my breath labored from the final hill, I look at my phone. It’s 9:05 PM, now, and I’m home. And all I can think about doing is getting back out for another ride.

This was lovingly handwritten on August 1st, 2013