Yesterday we rode one last time to the Village Baker (a Spring Lake/Grand Haven local legend famous for its unimpeachable pretzel bread and incomparable chocolate milk fresh from a nearby dairy). For the past few years we’ve made the annual summer trip to Michigan, we’ve discovered places that have become our particular haunts, and this bakery has become one of them. We rode a total of about 24 miles to Bakery and back from our campsite at Hoffmaster State Park. We suffered a few setbacks including a flat tire, a light drizzle flamboyantly defying the all knowing iPhone’s prediction of 0% chance rainfall, and a disturbing lack of pretzel bread at the Bakery.
However, we were still having a good time until we found ourselves stuck when Dad and Zoe had gotten ahead on their tandem at an intersection and Mom, Charissa, and I were stuck behind an elderly couple cruising along slowly in the most difficult maneuvering spot on the route. The man was riding a trike, and effectively blocking traffic. I decided it would be best to just coast along behind because forcing all three of our bicycles past them on this narrow path directly adjacent to a busy highway would be rude and dangerous. From this position, I looked at the trike and saw a positively medieval pair of leg braces stuffed into the back basket. I wondered how a man in need of such intimidating hardware would be able to pedal a bicycle, and decided it must be a motorized trike. They pulled over and let us pass, and we continued on until my back tire (as always) flatted and our entire entourage stopped. Eventually the couple reached us and stopped to ask if they could help. Because I had been behind him, I’d never actually seen the old man’s face. He just looked happy, happy to be on his bicycle (tricycle). They talked to us for a few minutes, commenting on the rebellious weather. It wasn’t really the conversation that struck me, but the way that man was so happy to be able to ride a bike, even though I doubt he could walk – at least not without constricting leg braces.
I’m lucky, I have a condition that can be controlled through the use of anti-inflammatory medication. I get to ride my bike, without a motor and without anyone’s help, and that’s a gift. I think of biking as 'improved running'—you get to go faster, and you get to spread out your energies over a greater distance. I may not be able to run because of arthritis, but I sure can ride my bike. And even if something were to happen to prevent me from completing my epic ride, I’d still have that gift, that I get to “run” and I get to enjoy the same type of happiness that man found in his trike. And that’s a blessing.