Bike, I Bow to You

January 17, 2024
Bike outside

And I say:
I promise, I swear to freakin’ God, I vow to take the best care I can of this housing.

This temple you have lent me for the short time I am here.
Move in such a way that my skin, belly, muscles, tendons, ligaments, heart and soul thank you and thank you and thank you and thank you for honoring them.
The body is so so grateful for the attention, time and money, I bow down to the higher Gods of nature daily.  

I finally wake up to what this skin and bones, multi-organ house is really for.
Remember how when I was a kid?

Bike, I Bow to You

I mean look at that picture!
I couldn’t have been two and I’m standing by a tricycle for God sake‘s.
Before you know it, I’m on a two wheeler with training wheels, one up, then both up, and finally free to roam the streets.
Imagine what that must’ve been like for my Dad?
Knowing my Mom never rode a bike until well into adulthood. 

I can’t imagine what my life would’ve been like without my trusty steed.
Riding around Sleepy Hollow neighborhood.
Taking off into the woods across the pond to smoke (yuck!) cigarettes with my childhood pal, Mar, in sixth grade.

Chasing after Jimmy Benton, the bad boy crush, oh, what a crush, watching him play Little League.
Then, college riding to class, at one point with the new puppy in my basket for God sake‘s.
Toodling around with toddler Matt on the bike seat, little Bell Shell helmet, bumping up against my back as he fell, sound asleep to the rhythm of the movement.
And at some juncture, riding mountain bikes, with the Fun Addicts singles group.

Bike, I Bow to You

Imagine what that must’ve been like for my Dad?

Big Bear Mountain, truly reminiscing, visceral memory in my bones of what it felt like in fifth grade as we rode down Snow Summit in the summertime.
Freedom, such unabashed joy and liberation – even emancipation.

Because, on my bike, I am present, paying close attention to the terrain, my feet, the air, the wind in my face, who is ahead of me, who I left in the dust.
Somewhere along the line, I decided (50 years old!) to get a new bike for the road and sign up for an AARP triathlon.

My God, my God. I had no idea what that one decision would do.
How it would transform and introduce an open wide, so incredibly expansive world, my joy meter bursting.
Many races and even got to meet Bruce (soon to be) Caitlyn Jenner, Olympic athlete.
Ian, my coach who loved all over me and saw that part, who was (and is) an athlete.
How I identified with my chosen sport, knowing I’d never ever be the best, and I just didn’t care.
That wasn’t the point – almost at the start. 

At some juncture – when I stopped binging (you’ve got to run so you don’t get fat) it became exhilaration, elation, such delight and satisfaction that I mapped out 25 years worth of marathons. 

How lucky am I?

25 signed up races in various locations including European destinations.
I know I’m diverging from the bike story but oh my goodness.
Even Oh My God.
I had now entered into a realm beyond my dreams.
I actually can call it my miracles.
If I were in A Course of Miracles webinar right now, I’d say Yep, my body is a miracle.
How far it has taken me, how far it has come.
From that 16-year-old alone in boarding school, scared, and so far away from the baby sister, my closest family member.
Reaching instead for the box of Double Bubble gum in my desk drawer.
As long as I have that to chew away my fears, angst, low self-esteem, then hey, I’d be OK.  I wouldn’t get fat.

(God knows there were enough of us on who-knows-what-diet in those years and I could reach for a piece, chew and stuff all the emotions I couldn’t put words to).

Bike with baby.

So my goodness, not sure how that veered away from my bike.
Now in 2024, I am turning 73 years old.
I still ride my bike with such unabashed exuberance, sometimes I could just pinch myself.
How lucky am I?
To have a capability and desire to balance on two wheels, and wing my way by the ocean of my dreams, to have a friend or two to meet at Jack in the Box and off we go. To share our week, our upsets, our concerns, and our hilarious shenanigans. 

Now in 2024, I am turning 73 years old.

All as the dolphins are certainly frolicking out of sight (though sometimes they do peek out!)

Surfers experiencing that cold snap of a wave, all of us somehow touching the negative ionization that lifts our spirits.

Getting a whiff of the sea breeze is even enough.
Watching the dogs frolic in pure unabashed joy and freedom.
The pier.
The amphitheater soon to be filled with 160 ukulele players or 50 drummers, drumming, their hearts out.
Strollers, rollerbladers, walkers (Oh hi Steve! Oh, there’s Jeff and “the situation“ Tori) bike riders, surfers with their boards strapped to their bikes, Ricky Racers, and three wheeled elderly, E-bikes and skateboarders.
Bike path sanctuary.
Bagels and more chatter.
Our secret bathroom,
July 4 parades.
Paintball and surf contests and airshows.
Volleyball, sandcastles, and bonfires.
Old Joe on his walker (Did you know I’m 101?)
The years with my running girls meeting three times a week minimum.
People running, running, running.
Races and Sea Legs. Beatles wanna-be band.
Dips in the ocean even.
The one day I decided hey, I think I’ll ride from Seal Beach. 

Bike adult

Pushing the boundaries a bit with a jaunt to the wooden bridge.
Newport Pier and remembering our one-way runs.
And even during Covid I found a way. 

And even during Covid I found a way. 

Rode that old-boyfriend bike on its stationary platform.
Watched Reverend Michael preach on my iPad.
Listened to music.
Imagined a time when Bolsa Chica State Beach wasn’t caution-taped, and I could once again meet my bike peeps (6 feet apart, masked, but hey – we made it happen!)
My bike kept me sane during those 18 months, during the deepest part of lockdown.
Then one day, the newest member of the tribe/stable of bikes, joined us, her being Ida.
I began to ride to Long Beach Belmont Pool, and combine those rides with that swim.
And more magic was created.
Pinky, the beach cruiser from my client, the road bike, now Ida. 

Our multi-bike rack from Amazon to accommodate nurse Jeff’s bike too.
A compressor that I am still resistant to learn.

A manual pump that manages just OK.

The Main Street Cycle guys who are kind enough to fill my tires and take good care of my tune-ups.

Watching the palm tree sway in the gale force winds. I am reminded of the times we got caught in the rain and would harbor ourselves in the bathroom shelter.
OOOH and AHHH at the snow on the not-that-distant mountains.

Ride only because we get to have bagels.

Head winds, tail winds. 

New sites (Hermosa! Venice! Coronado!)

Grace and ease and pure delight.
And to think it all started with that 12-year-old who asked,

For my birthday this year I’d really like a bike with gears and hand brakes.”
That to me was a grown-up bike.
And though my birthday surprise ended up with both hand and foot breaks, I stood tall and proud in my wool coat with the velvet collar.
And smiled for the not-very-common-then camera. 

Standing proud by my two wheeler.
Having absolutely no idea, no possible way could I have dreamed of where that would take me.
So thank you Daddy.
Thank you for teaching me how to ride a bike. 

A journey with no end in sight.


Photo credits: Keren Embree and Unsplash.

About Karen Embree

Karen has been writing in a journal since her baby sister was born (who is now 60!). She thanks her Mom for the gift of a red Daily Reminder to start that commitment to words and emotions.
A professional organizer by trade, she is also in a cover band called No Regrets, has done 25 marathons, several sprint triathlons and is a first time Grandma. She has written many a story about James Taylor (her very favorite performer) as well as anecdotes about marathon running and her musical path. Her Labrador retriever, Hudson is her biggest fan. He’ll listen to any story as long as a dog treat is the end result.

One thought on “Bike, I Bow to You

  1. February 6, 2024

    What a lovely ode to a bike ! I love my bike too 🙂

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