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How I started to Bike

  Pre-trip Notes

 

The Bike Route

My Ride Journal

News! Story Release! 

 

How I Started to Ride a Bike

 

Chapter I

Chapter II

Chapter III

 

 

    It all began one day in the middle of May 1998 when I entered a local bike shop in Canton. When I was approached by the salesperson I told him I wanted to buy a bike, half jokingly I added, "...Because I want to bike across America!"

    I was fifty three years old and hadn't been on a bicycle since I was a teenager. I was looking for something new to do for exercise and thought I would like to ride bicycle.  I had always enjoyed it as a kid - riding my bike everywhere.  It was my mode of transportation all around my home town of Wahpeton and one mile away I could cross the state line and ride all around the town of Breckenridge.  But when I learned how to drive a car, I rode my bike less and less. 

    So here it was, many years later, standing in the local bike shop. The salesman rolled his eyes slightly when I made that remark about riding across America, but he began with his usual questions to determine which bike was the right one for me.  "What kind of riding do you want to do?"  "Where will you be riding most of the time?"  "Do you want to ride on the canal tow path?"  The tow path?  Where's that? I didn't even know what I wanted, I just wanted to ride. I had never ridden a bike with all those gears to shift, and putting on the brakes by squeezing levers with your hands. They looked intimidating next to the old fixed gear coaster brake bikes of my youth.  The only thing I told the salesman was I wasn't interested in one of those bikes that, "the handle bars swoop down and you ride all bent over looking like some sort of racer."  Soon  the salesman had narrowed it down to what he called a "comfort bike."  I came away with a Schwinn Sierra LE, a bike that had big knobby tires, a cushy saddle, straight-across handlebars with suspension stem and twenty-one speeds.  Spending  a little over $300 for a bike was more than I intended to - never dreamed I would lay out that much money for a BICYCLE!!  And I didn't get out of the store with out buying a helmet that the salesman said was an absolute must.  He told me some pretty gruesome stories about head injuries when people didn't ride with helmets and met with unfortunate accidents.  Another 30 bucks please. He showed me the padded gloves that made your hands comfortable over the long haul, and would keep the gravel out of the palms if  I did a slo-mo to the ground.  $Cha-ching$  Finally I got out of there and drove away after stuffing the new bike in the car trunk. I couldn't wait to get it home and try it out.

    With helmet on (it took me ten minutes to figure out which was the back and which was the front and to get the strap clasp together), shiny new red bike in the grip of my hands and feet firmly planted on the pedals, I headed out onto the country road we live on.  I fumbled around trying to figure out which gear I wanted to be in.  I had to rotate the ends of my handle bars to change the gears.  I had to remember the right hand controlled the back gears, the left hand the front. I couldn't get that to stick in my head.  With three gear rings on the front and set of seven gear rings on the back, I tried to find that magic combination that would make the pedals turn without too much effort.  All of a sudden the slightest incline on my street was to me a huge effort. BURN! BURN! in the legs. I thought my quads and calves were on fire.  I could not believe how hard it was to ride a bike!  I never even noticed before that my street had a very very slight upward climb. But on a bike, this sure was being felt in my out-of-condition legs.  Discouraged after a quarter of a mile, I returned the bike to the garage, and vowed to master this by going out every day until I was strong enough to enjoy myself on my bike.  I tried for several days.  But I just couldn't take the weak, shaky legs that burned as soon as I started up the first little tiny incline.  After a few days I parked the bike in the barn and there it sat from May, until later that year in the month of September when I would rediscover the bike.

    Several months before I purchased this bike and continuing for a couple of years after, I was dealing with challenging health issues. The 'adolescence of old age' hit me with vengeance. Menopause!  Some women don't even notice, for others it can cause all sorts of issues.  It sent me reeling with sleepless nights, stress, anxiety, clinical depression, zero Estrogen, and brain chemistry that was thrown completely out of balance.  I struggled constantly and was very ill.  Doctors and rounds of trying dozens of medicines didn't make me better. I was in and out of the hospital  numerous times over this period of two years. I had the wonderful loving support of friends, family, and angels who cared and prayed for me.  I know that alone is what brought me through my most difficult of times.  Several of the medicines I was prescribed caused me to gain over a short period of three months nearly  60 pounds.  That was very discouraging. Everything I tried to shed the weight didn't help.  During the summer of '98 my husband and I did a lot of walking for exercise.  We enjoyed finding new and different walking paths throughout the area.  Nearly every evening we would take a brisk walk.  It was refreshing, and I hoped it would burn a few of the added pounds off.  One day I was chatting with a sales clerk in a store and the subject of walking paths came up and she mentioned the nice tow path located in the Cuyahoga Valley National Recreation Area.  I went one morning to the Indian Mound trail-head where I could enter on to the tow path. I was going to check out this trail and then bring my husband there to walk with me - if it seemed like a fun and interesting place to take a walk.  It was a beautiful day in early September.  As I walked in the early morning, I walked along with several others who were also enjoying the beautiful fall day, and this wonderful trail that followed the old Erie Canal tow path and the Cuyahoga River. But there was something else I noticed - I saw people RIDING BICYCLES!  And, the terrain was FLAT!  There was a surge of excitement that ran through me just seeing those people riding bikes.  I thought, this is it! A place where I can ride that bike and I wouldn't have to go up any hills, no car traffic, and it would be in the beautiful scenic CVNRA. I told my husband about the place, said he would love to walk there. However, I told him I was going to bring out that bike I had purchased and ride it while he walked.  That first ride with my bike on the tow path was the beginning of a new and exciting sport and wonderful exercise. The first bike ride I rode one and three quarters  miles.  I could hardly believe it.  I thought that was a VERY long way to have ridden my bike! I returned day after day. I would load my bike in the trunk of the car and go to the trail to ride and ride.  I would see white-tailed deer nearly every day.  One day I counted a total of 42 deer on my ride.  I loved seeing the Great Blue Heron birds that would swoop down  and grab a fish from the river and fly away spreading their seven foot wing span to take them off to enjoy their meal.  So peaceful, so relaxing.  Bicycling was a good prescription medicine: "Take two wheels once a day".  I met others who would show up everyday.  We would smile and nod as we passed - everyone out to enjoy the well maintained path and take in a view of nature in the slow lane of life.  I was hooked!  I was addicted!  So much so, that after a month of riding I wanted my husband also to experience this fun on a bicycle.  He said no way was he going to spend that much money on a bike.  I just kept on asking him to go into the bike store just to look at the bikes.  I knew if I just got him in there, the salesman could do the final convincing.  One Saturday afternoon when we were out driving near the bike shop I pulled in, stopped and we went in.  After talking with the salesperson my husband said,  "Ok, ok, give me the cheapest bike you have, because I'm only going to ride it twice - only to please her!"  WOW! Hubby was going to buy a bicycle!  He bought an entry level Schwinn Frontier.  Similar to mine - but a few dollars less.  He too added the helmet and gloves.  He was a bit sick that he spent the money on what he thought a frivolous piece of steel that would surely end up sitting in the garage while the tires rotted.  Well glory be!  He too immediately loved the bicycling.  It was so fun to meet him after work and take a refreshing ride on the tow path, then afterwards share a picnic dinner that I would bring along.  The turning leaves that Fall provided a spectacular show of color along the tow path, and riding day after day experiencing that marvelous Fall was a real shared pleasure. Both of us were hooked on cycling.  By the middle of December we had to hang the bikes up and wait for winter to pass.   

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