---- — My husband said to me today, “I guess you are not as spry as you used to be.” Nothing makes me feel old as when a loved one uses the word “spry” about me. Limber, perhaps?
His pithy assessment came after we stopped at a second-hand shop with a row of bicycles in front.
Lately, I’ve longed for a bicycle, like the blue one I rode in college.
In my mind I’m whizzing on the sublime river trail in our town, pedaling along easily and watching the barges flow past on the Ohio.
In my deep fantasies, I’m Minnie Driver in “Return to Me,” riding in Rome around flower peddlers, nuns and Italian scooters.
Without a car for the first three years at Ball State University, if I wanted to go anywhere I had three choices: walk, ride my bike or grovel enough until someone with a car took me along.
During the week, I rode my bike to class. I lived on the east end of campus and most of my classes were on the far west end. If I close my eyes and concentrate hard, I can get on my virtual blue bicycle and ride in my memories from the dorm to the journalism building. The ride only exists in my memory as the campus looks very different now. Ball State shifted the center of campus north a few years ago and continues the expansion and growth of a fine university.
Outside of Hurlbut Hall, I unlock my bike, one nice enough to ride but not nice enough to be stolen. I buzz the parking lots of Studebaker East and past the parking garage and up a slight hill past Bracken Library and University Hall. On the sidewalk to the Scramble Light and across to the old part of campus where I purposely take the long way around the drive rather than cutting past Cooper Life Science and the old gym.
The long way is worth it, any time of year. But, the best time of year to ride a bike on campus is the autumn. Past the old library and the East Quad building, past the Ad Building, past Benny and Lucina Hall, and down a small hill to the West Quad. That 10-minute ride is forever etched in my mind, like a tiny jewel I can pick up again and feel the smooth edges.
I’m longing to recreate those feelings in the present. Walking bores me and I have a bad knee, so it can always hurt. Riding a bicycle at my level, in theory, should not mess up my knee more.
We went to the second-hand shop, because I thought buying a bike on the cheap was smart before I spend the big bucks on a fat-tired cruiser with senior citizen seat and handlebars.
The first bike was blue, just like my college one. It had fat tires and 26-inch wheels.
Something really strange happened to the bar on the bike since the 1970s. It seems to be a lot higher. The mount was challenging. My husband suggested I try to approach the bike from the back. Not a good idea. And it looked pretty ridiculous.
Somehow I got on, but my feet didn’t touch the ground. So, I’m also getting shorter. Seriously, I’m about half an inch shorter than I was in college. Scary. The second bike, which was a used Schwinn for $30, was so lightweight that I didn’t bother to get on, or try to get on. The tires were thin and I was afraid the earth would open up and swallow the bike and me, if I got on.
Lesson learned: I will be getting a new bike. I found a website, Fat Broads on a Bike, that offered tips for larger women who want to ride.
I’m going to keep looking. With my helmet on, I’ll be the cutest chick on the river trail sometime soon.
Amy McVay Abbott is a freelance journalist and author of “The Luxury of Daydreams.” She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.