Father’s Day, 2012. Cadillac said he wanted to go mountain biking. With me. We shopped around for a bike. We have been shopping for a long time. I bought bike shorts, those things with padding in the crotch that remind me of those huge pads they give you after you have a baby, about a year ago. But we never found a bike.
We saw a nice bike for not much on Craigslist. Called the guy up, met him and his buddy at 7-Eleven in Point Loma. We pulled up. The bike was gray. The bike in the pic was red. Also, this one was a cruiser, not a mountain bike. “Oh,” said the guy. “I have a few different ads. Yeah, I sold that one right away.” Yeah, ’cause we keep track of all your ads.
Anyway, after all this to-do, we ended up getting a dual-shock bike at Target. Dual-shocks, I have learned, are good. I have learned more about mountain bikes this weekend than I ever thought I needed to know. Honestly, I stopped listening after a while. It’s a man’s bike, but the crossbar is low and sloped. Cadillac says he might use it, too. His bike is one that a neighbor left behind when he moved out of state. Cadillac and his work friends go biking once a week, 16 mile trips where they go fast and up and down steep hills. I am not planning on going with them. Ever. Not even to watch, because I would probably be worried. Once, one of them ran over a snake. It might have been a rattle snake. I wonder if rattle snakes can hit you if you are going over them on a mountain bike? Or are they just crushed? The guy did not get bitten.
We went over to Mission Trails. There are some paths leading far out into the park that I’ve never been on. Cadillac wanted to start by the horse arena, but I said I wanted to start by the dam, so he said okay. We went toward dusk. There were fields of golden grass, amber waves of grain, I suppose, though it’s not edible, as far as I know. The mountains did look purple. Very pretty. I wished I’d brought my camera, though I probably would have dropped it.
Highway 52 cuts through the area, up on a high overpass, and the only sounds out there are the wind in the grass and the cars up high. I kept my eye out for mountain lions hiding in the yellow grass. There are warning signs, telling you to be alert. I hoped we both didn’t get eaten. I figured if a mountain lion is going to attack someone, it will be one of the solo joggers we pass. I wondered if jogging solo out there is safe. I guessed it might be okay to jog solo if you’re male. It’s unlikely someone would be waiting out there to rob a person. If you’re female, you would probably be attacked for reasons other than robbery, so it’s probably not so safe. They always tell women to go out with a buddy, because of Chelsea King and Chandra Levy and other solo female joggers who were attacked. I decided if I were jogging solo, I’d have to be packing heat. Not that I jog at all.
The first part of this trail has big rocks, perhaps placed on the trail for drainage. My bike tires slipped. I walked the bike over it. “This is why I wanted to go to the other part,” Cadillac said. “These rocks are no good.” A fact which of course he had kept to himself. I told him so. He said he thought I knew about the rocks. I said I didn’t remember the rocks. Now I will.
After the rocks, it was okay, mostly hardpacked earth. Sometimes up, sometimes down, usually mostly flat. I was scared, and I was thinking I was awfully glad we had health insurance, but I kept my balance. The bike was comfortable. I spent my time getting used to the shifters and being on a bike. I haven’t ridden since Kaiya was a baby. We used to have a bike trailer we took to Lake Murray. She hated riding in it. Wailed the whole time. So we didn’t use it much. Also, I have nerve problems in my hands. Sometimes they go numb if I grip things for a while. I figured they would either get worse, or better. I went to a neurologist before, about 7 years ago, and he found just a tiny tiny bit of compression. Maybe my hands just need to be stronger.
I took a break and let my hands recover. Cadillac had me wear his gloves, because we forgot to get any. I told him to ride ahead of me, so I could see his path through some of the rockier bits. I sprayed bug repellant on me, but a gnat still got in my eye. Flew right into it. Those gnats are unstoppable.
I did not go fast, and there were a few times I was sure the tire would slip. But you have to go fast, not slow, through the rockier parts, or you really will slip. I will not lie. I pretended my bike was my horse and my horse could do it, and all I had to do was balance and control it a bit.
On the way back, we had to go up a big hill. “Start pedaling and don’t stop,” Cadillac said as we approached, and he went up. I put the bike into the highest gear and pedaled like mad. Halfway up I thought I might have to stop and walk it up. “Fuck it,” I thought. “Why the hell do I go to the gym? My legs can do this.” So I did it. It was very Little Engine That Could.
Cadillac waited for me at the top and he had to scoot out of my way. We headed back to the car. I was proud of myself. Cadillac said he was proud of me, too. “I thought you were going to walk,” he said, “but I had to get out of your way. Good job.”
Then we got to the parking lot, and he lifted the bike over the gate. Not with me on it, by itself. Another mountain biker headed by and said, “Superman!” We thought that was funny. Then Cadillac lifted my bike over the gate and I climbed through, and we went back to the car.