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August 6, 2008 Biking to the Lake

I think I’ve ridden a bike about five times in the past 15 years. And then today, I biked up to the lake and back (about 3 miles each way). I’ve been thinking about doing it for three months – the bike has been sitting and waiting for me – but it took an invitation from “Hannan”, the Volunteer a few towns over, to force me to dust off the bike and take her out for a spin.

It’s uphill most of the way to the lake, but not steep. It’s uphill enough to be a serious workout, but not enough to make me get off and walk my bike. OK, there was one bit where I was tempted to, but then I saw a bunch of little boys walking *their* bikes, and my inner competitor pushed me to zip past them. Also, because the path goes over rolling hills, there are a few small downhills and level places where you can catch a breather and coast for a few seconds.

I discovered that you really *don’t* forget how to ride a bike, just like the expression says. I also remembered that I never really figured out the fine art of shifting gears. On this snazzy Peace Corps-supplied mountain bike, the gears are a lot more straightforward than on my old tenspeed, but it’s still not entirely intuitive. On my old tenspeed, I pretty much let the “big gear” rust into the up position, meaning that I was always in gears 6 – 10 (I think).

This one has a left “big gear” with a 1, 2, and 3, and the right “little gear” has 1-7. I assumed that this meant it had 21 possible combinations, from 1-1 (the least friction, for climbing monster hills), up to 3-7 (for coasting down mountains). But 3-1 feels easier than 2-7…or is that just because to get there, I shift up from 2-7 to 3-7 and then march the right gears down, so by the time I’m down at 3-1, it just *feels* easy? I don’t know. Maybe there’s a “biking for dummies” on wikipedia.

Anyway, after about 20 minutes of serious riding (as opposed to an hour of steady walking), I crested a hill and saw my beautiful lake. A black butterfly was lifting off some flowers in front of me; the shrubs have turned yellow (although I don’t know if this means midsummer or autumn…winter is coming, but I don’t know how soon); the lake was Caribbean-blue in the midday sun; the mountains were their usual overturned, arcuate, pink-brown-and-gold resplendent selves.

I was tired and winded enough to be delighted to get off my bike at the lake, but not enough to regret doing it. In fact, I’m looking forward to doing it again. Maybe tomorrow. :)

After wading through the crisp water for half an hour or so, we climbed back onto our bikes and headed down to town. *That* was *awesome*.

Biking downhill is like flying. (In all the ways that airplane rides really aren’t.)

The hills were steep enough that I barely needed to pedal on the return trip, but not so steep that I ever needed to use my breaks (except when we had to maneuver around some donkeys, and then for the hard left – on loose dirt – half a block from my apartment). So I just cruised down the hills, feeling like a bird on a thermal. The wind was rushing past my face, whistling in my ears, making tears stream from my eyes…and all with virtually no effort from me.

Biking uphill is one of the most straightforward examples of “work hard and enjoy the benefits” that I can think of. Climb, climb, climb, climb, and wheeeee!!!! :D

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