September 18, 2002

miles to go: 656.59

The little green sports car has been dogging me for a couple of blocks now.

I can see it out of the corner of my eye, trailing along behind me like a bad reputation. I'll bet that if I kicked out of my toe clips, I could reach over and nudge the car's front bumper with my foot: that's how closely it's following. Mildly irked -- this is the abandoned Alameda Navy Base, after all: it's not like there's any shortage of road space around here -- I turn to give this tailgating moron my very best withering glare.

Why don't you just go around me, Dimwit?

The driver, a young man dressed in work-out clothes, leans across the front seat of his car and rolls down the passenger side window to speak to me. 

"Excuse me, Ma'am," he says, very politely. "Do you happen to know where the basketball courts are?"

Well ... OK. So he's not a tailgater. Or a stalker. Or an AT&T Broadband Internet salesman. I still am not inclined to talk to strangers -- particularly strangers of the young buff male persuasion -- out here in The Middle of Nowhere. 

"You should probably ask my husband," I tell him, gesturing vaguely ahead of me, up the road. Asking *me* for directions is sort of like asking Anna Nicole Smith for help with your Calculus homework. Plus I want to make it very clear that I'm not out here riding alone: I have a husband in the vicinity. A very tall, very muscular, very protective husband. Sure, he may be riding a bazillion miles ahead of me at the moment -- ever since he got the new cleated pedals and the groovy new bike shoes last month, he's become a regular Lance Armstrong on the trail -- but technically we are riding together.

"Thanks," says the young man, rolling up his window. I watch as he slowly rolls his fancy-pants sports car forward, a couple of blocks, until he's driving directly parallel with David. By the time I catch up with the two of them, the driver has rolled down his window, once again, and is asking David for help finding the basketball court.

But David can't hear him.

"I'm sorry," David says, shaking his head. He has slowed his bike down to a near standstill, balancing it in one spot like a unicycle, and now he is leaning towards the open car window, straining to hear the driver's question over the sound of the engine. "You're looking for what?"

I'm just about to explain to David that the guy is looking for the basketball court -- not that I've ever actually seen a basketball court around here, that I can recall -- when all of a sudden the unthinkable happens:

David begins to lose his balance.

His bike suddenly begins to wobble out from under him, just a little bit at first, but then with alarming *tipsiness.* I can see him fighting to unclip his shoes from the bike pedals, so he can plant a foot on the ground and brace himself, but the stiff new cleats are stuck and he is unable to yank himself free in time.

The next thing I know, he is tipping over to one side ... heading straight for the pavement below.

We're still six-hundred-plus miles short of our 2,002 in 2002 -- not enough to lose heart, yet, but not exactly enough to begin planning the victory celebration, either -- and David is already talking about next year's riding goals.

"No mileage goals," I tell him flatly. 

After we reach 2,002, I'm all done with odometers and calculators and mileage charts posted on the refrigerator and in the bathroom and over the bed, thankyouverymuch.

That's fine, he says. He's thinking more in terms of *fun* next year, anyway. Adventure. Exploration. Personal growth. Photo opps. For one thing, he says, I should probably think about moving up to cleated pedals soon. I nod: I've been thinking about that myself. Now that I've gotten the hang of the toeclips, I'm interested in that next level of power. I'm looking at pedals that are cleated on one side and "regular" (non-cleated) on the other side as an option. 

For another thing, he adds, we should probably try to get me on a road bike by next spring. Something with more oomph than what I'm riding now.

"You'll need it when we're climbing hills next year," he says.

I don't know about that. I've grown very fond of The Butt-D-Luxe (or, as I've come to think of it, "The Little Bike That *FootNotes* Bought") these past few months. It's my very favorite bike of all time: even more than the ugly purple Stingray or the uglier orange 10-speed. I'm not sure I'm interested in swapping it out, quite so soon. There are still a couple of higher-end gears I haven't experimented with yet. I've got the seat broken in exactly the way I like it. I'm adding a second water-bottle cage this weekend. Why would I want to change things around again?

Plus who the heck said anything about doing HILLS next year, anyway??

He smiles serenely as he's flipping through the latest Performance Bicycle catalog. "It's just something you might want to think about," he says.

Yeah. OK. I'll 'think about it.' I'll think about it the same way I think about ALL of his suggestions ... especially the suggestions that seem especially scary or harebrained or undoable, the first time he suggests them.

Let's buy you a bike, Honey! I know you haven't ridden since the Nixon Administration, but it'll be fun!

Let's sweat off all your makeup, flatten your hair, squeeze you into an incredibly unflattering pair of black Spandex shorts ... and then go have LUNCH with my PARENTS!

Let's go for a quick twenty/thirty/forty/fifty-miler before breakfast!

Let's put some clothes on and go rent a tandem! It's our HONEYMOON, after all!

Let's sign up for The Mt. Diablo *Suicide-or-Emergency-Room (Whichever Comes First)* Double-Century Ride!

Let's ride two thousand miles this year! And then let's tell everybody on the planet that we're doing it, so we feel all kinds of weird embarrassing pressure to succeed!

(Oh wait: that last one was *my* idea.)

Like all of David's 'ideas,' I'll think about the idea of a road bike. I'll gnaw off a couple of my best fingernails, stewing over it. I'll give him 43,897,621 reasons why it can't be done/why we can't afford it/why I'm not ready yet/why we should just keep things the way they are.

And then I'll probably break down and agree to it.

The driver of the sports car and I watch in horror as David topples over, in slow motion, like a mighty redwood felled by earthquake. He hits the pavement with a solid thunk, his Cannondale landing on top of him. For a moment or two he just lays there on the ground ... not moving, not saying a word, not even breathing, as far as I can detect.

Like a shot I'm out of the toeclips and off The Butt-D-Luxe, rushing to his side.

"Are you OK?" I shout, heart in mouth. This is such a shocking reversal of roles: usually it's me on the ground, with my bike laying on top of me, and him doing the rushing-and-rescuing. To my relief, though, he seems to be OK. A little banged-up, maybe -- he's got gravel in his hair and on his chin, and one of his knees is skinned and bloody -- but otherwise he's fine. Gingerly, he disentangles from the cleated pedals and rights himself and his bike.

The driver of the sports car seems genuinely embarrassed. "Sorry, man," he says, leaning out the car window to see if David is all right. "My fault."

David brushes the dirt off the seat of his bike shorts. "Don't worry about it," he says cheerfully. "I'm just trying to get used to the new cleats." And he gives the young driver a good-natured, just-between-us-athletes shrug. You know how it is.

A moment later the little green sports car zooms off down the road, still in search of the elusive basketball court.

As we're riding side-by-side down the abandoned main drag of the Navy Base, headed for home, I worriedly ask him again if he's OK. No sprains? No contusions? No broken bones? Nothing I need to kiss or immobilize or douse with iodine and scrub with a good stiff Brillo pad? 

He patiently reassures me that he's fine. "It's good for you to see me fall down once in a while," he says matter-of-factly. He explains that it's important for me to see that every cyclist has trouble getting used to unfamiliar new equipment -- like cleated pedals -- and that even the most seasoned cyclist experiences the occasional *Tipsy Moment.*

"Plus," he adds, with a sly grin. "Did you notice how fast you got out of those toeclips?"

He's got a point there. Six months ago, we both would have been picking gravel out of our teeth, right about now.

Maybe I'll be ready for that road bike next spring, after all.

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"ma'am." there's that MA'AM stuff again.