I’m still processing my trip to Vancouver with The Boy, and by processing, I think I mean “recovering.” Along with my skin tone, The Boy has also inherited my considerable gift of the gab. In educational-lingo, he’s a “verbal processor,” in the extreme. To know something, he must first express it, no matter what it is. It’s almost impossible for him to think without speaking. I’m much the same way, though time has taught me some control of this tendency. Still, I recently had this conversation with a student:
“Ms. M, I saw you this morning on the way to school. You were having a conversation with someone on your phone headset or something. You were so animated. Who were you talking to?”
“I wasn’t talking on my phone. I was talking to myself.”
So I do understand the problem here.
If there’s one thing I’ve learned in the many years of education-related rounds of personality testing: extroverted folks aren’t good listeners, and introverted folks are easily overwhelmed by the task of keeping up with extroverts. I’m an introverted extrovert (yes, such a thing is possible). I like to talk, but I also like to listen, and I need lots of silent time each day to unwind. Put me in a room with a child who talks non-stop for 72 hours straight, and though I love that child with my whole heart, I will eventually collapse with the effort of both listening, and getting a word in myself. Right now, I’m collapsed. I think the only reason I survived at all was that The Boy has discovered the “Owls of Ga-Hoole” series and read for nearly two hours each day, thus giving his exhausted mama time to tune him out.
Must. Nurture. This. Reading. Thing.
Anyway, I’d like to get to my Vancouver experiences while they are still relatively fresh, but I have a couple rides to enter first. Do I have to enter every ride I do? Well, no. But I kinda want to, you know? Writing allows me to… uh… well, process them. The entire reason I started this blog, after all, was to tell the stories of my rides to someone who wasn’t already sick of hearing about bikes (hint: family). Thus, this short (but entirely meaningful) entry from a week ago.
First off, this ride involves a bike we haven’t seen around here much lately: The Viva Kilo.
I really don’t want to spend an entire rideblog comparing this bike to The Raleigh. After all, they are not supposed to be the same. The problem is that right now, I’m deeply in love with one of my bikes. I’m head-over-heals for my Raleigh Sports, despite having owned it for two years. And now that the honeymoon is over with The Viva, so to speak, I feel like I’m focused a great deal on its relative “faults.” To be fair, most of these are actually in the nature of the bike, and I knew its nature when I bought it. This is sort of like my ex-husband, though that’s an entirely different blog…
Anyway, back to love: can one love two bikes at the same time? Well, of course. I’ve been around the block a time or two (metaphorically and literally), and I’m old enough to know that love is complicated. As simple as romance novels portray our loves to be, life simply doesn’t deliver our emotions in the happily-ever-after mode. I am an English teacher, after all. While I love Pride and Prejudice and Jane Eyre, I know that both Mr. Darcy and Mr. Rochester (okay, especially Mr. Rochester) would be utter pains in the rear end to live with. Come on, brooding and moody is interesting in a sexy boyfriend, but long-term? Stable and kind wins the race every time. The problem for all of us is that our minds live in all time frames at once: past, present and future. Short-term, and long. My students and I recently hauled ourselves through William Thackeray’s Vanity Fair, which is a novel where happily-ever-after comes… and then goes… and then is left far behind, until life — messy, complex and ultimately somewhat unsatisfyingly beautiful — triumphs over the fairy tale.
Needless to say, they mostly hated it. Only at the very end did it start to make sense to them. It’s hard, when you’re young, to understand the idea that even when you think things are “perfect,” life keeps going anyway. But I’m no spring chicken: I know that eventually The Raleigh leaving its dirty socks on the floor will stop being adorable and will just feel like another chore. At that moment, The Viva will step up and I’ll fall in love with it all over again, as folks do. Love wanes and waxes, like the moon.
The Viva is a heavy bike, slow and cumbersome. A few weeks ago, when its front brake cable shifted and the brake lever become “soft,” I couldn’t be bothered to fix it right away. The Raleigh is comfortable and easy to ride. I was bombing up and down hills, sort of. I was riding like a kid again, and having a great time doing it. The idea of sitting up like I was at a state dinner just didn’t appeal.
Then one day, pulling The Raleigh from its spot in the garage once again, I found myself itching to ride my other bike. Variety is the spice of life, right? I picked a nice flat trail, where a “soft” drum brake wouldn’t matter much, and I hauled The Viva out to the car and hoisted it up onto the rack. Holy Mother of Mud, is that bike heavy!
Instead of feeling like Superwoman as I lifted the bike, I was just annoyed. Does no one else ever take these things anywhere? Who are these Danish people, with their vikings and their massive biceps? Do they all look like this guy?
According to Wikipedia, that font of all trivia, “Denmark has frequently ranked as the happiest and least corrupt country in the world.” Oh, okay, fine. Whatever. But have they ever tried to pick up their own bikes? I don’t think so.
Ah, but love is supposed to be hard work, right? Sometimes you have to make an effort to figure out what it is exactly that attracted you to someone in the first place. I find, though, that a good foundation makes it easier to return to the place where love was as intense and as real as the ground itself. The Viva did its sneaky best to charm me again. First, it’s a very photogenic bicycle. Posing with Mount Rainier or a train… it’s all the same. Pretty!
And looks, as we know, do count for something. When all else fails, attraction is at the heart of many a rekindling of love. Even The Boy, whom I love without fail or conditions, gets by on his cuteness sometimes (like 11pm when I’m trying to sleep in the same bed with him and he suddenly says: “Mama, what will we do if I don’t wake up in time to go to the bathroom?”).
The Viva is pretty much game for anything, as long as I try to accomplish it slowly (rather like attempting anything with a child, actually). Going over incredibly bumpy railroad crossings? The sort that take out roadies doing 30 on their 23mm tires in the rain? No problem on a pair of Fat Franks:
Those tires would roll smoothly over the flames of hell, as long as I could keep steering. The Viva’s heft makes it an ideal subject for a certain kind of riding. If things are relatively flat, and no one is in a hurry, it pushes ahead over almost any surface with the same steady plodding, oblivious to road changes.
Mountains standing around looking threatening? The Viva laughs at Mountains! Who’s up for a game of H-O-R-S-E?
Throw down, Mountain. Throw down! Who’s the big white thing now? Huh? Oh yeah? Your momma was a single speed!
The Viva, filled with Mountain-defeating bravado, tried to sweet talk me into a go at the local skate park, but even those considerable Danish abs couldn’t convince me that it was up to this:
Though I’ll admit that it would almost have been worth seeing the looks on those teenage punks’ faces to have given it a go. Almost. I mean, there’s love, and then there’s just stupidity.
In the end, I wasn’t completely seduced by The Viva, which remains a bike for when I feel most like taking things slowly and enjoying the ride. Clearly, this is not my present mood. I did enjoy it enough, however, to haul it all the way down to Ballard the next day to get the brake cable adjusted. More on that, of course, in the next rideblog.
And Vancouver. When I recover.
For final words on love, I leave you with this, from the ridiculously popular English folk band, Mumford and Sons, who are the writers of a genre lovingly referred to as “Banjo Anthems,” which must be a good thing, right? The song is called “After the Storm,” and it’s actually banjo-free, which may comfort some of you.
There will come a time, you’ll see, with no more tears/And love will not break your heart, but dismiss your fears/Get over your hill and see what you find there/With grace in your heart and flowers in your hair.
Amen, Banjo-lovin’ English brothers. Amen.