I hadn’t been on a bike in 20 years and was more than a little nervous about the prospect of spending 3 hours riding on mountain trails – however flat they were. The last time I was on a bike a motorist had literally run me off the road into a ditch, and, after limping my bike home, I stuck to walking. But this has been a summer of redemption for me, and it would continue to be from the first 10 minutes of our journey.
Fortunately, you really don’t forget how to ride a bike, and my summer fitness plan – intended to make sitting in a standard-size train seat more comfortable – paid off once again. The mechanics were in place, and we would be riding in a converted railroad bed, ensuring there would be no maniacal motorists. Faking the absence of fear was getting easier as we got closer to the starting gate, and then the trail guide began giving us the rundown of the road we were about to travel.
We were to start with a 1 1/2 mile ride through a tunnel with no light save for our headlights. There would be several tunnels throughout the ride, and several of them had trenches running alongside them. I listened and smiled, taking courage from the relaxed faces of my family, but my stomach was already beginning to churn.
The safety warnings noted, we mounted our bikes and headed for the first tunnel. Thirteen-year-old Jack and his eighteen-year-old cousin, already thick as thieves despite having only met a few days earlier, charged ahead. Fearless but not reckless, Jack sped towards the tunnel. I was still getting my bike lets and was happy to pedal more slowly. The Big Guy was trailing our youngest son, and went between us.
The darkness closed in around us quickly. Behind me I heard one of my nieces struggling with her own fears, and the mom in me slowed to try and comfort her. Her father, however, was just behind us and, falling back on his twenty years of military-instilled discipline, barked at her to get moving. It worked for both of us. I began peddling and calling back encouragement to my niece.
Jack and his cousin got to the end of the tunnel first and were waiting for the adults. One by one, we emerged, blinking at the summer sun. I was shaking a bit, but when I looked at my oldest son, there was only excitement and happiness with the day and the mountains around him. There was no fear, and I could see there hadn’t been any. Part of me pondered how he got so brave with a mother who constantly lets fear govern her life – and his sometimes. The other part of me was absorbing his excitement.
We snapped a few shots of cousins and then pedaled further. Every mile featured breathtaking views and, often, equally breathtaking drops that seemed incredibly close to the road. The further we traveled, however, the less I even felt the fears that would normally have me thinking about the size of the drops and what it would be like to fall from them.
The sun in the cloudless sky that framed the majestic peaks that surrounded us drenched the day’s palette in intense blues and greens. It also brought everything into sharp focus.
Jack and his cousin remained in the lead the rest of the ride. And, while he was busy growing the part of me that had absorbed his excitement and joy realized that I was busy being reborn.