A Slightly Skewed Look At Life By And For Those Of Us On The North Side Of 50

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In preparation for my 50th birthday, and several days shy of my 49th birthday, I bought a bicycle—specifically, a “mountain” bike. Rumor has it that biking is great exercise, which is absolutely true if you’re in the group of people named Lance Armstrong.

(In truth, the closest I envision coming to any “mountain” biking will be if I drink a can of a certain Colorado Rockies-brewed beer while standing next to the bike.)

A half-dozen rides on level ground and years later, I’ve now committed to actually using the bike on a regular basis to check out this whole “exercise is healthy” thing. Of course, since we are currently up to our eyeballs in what has been a grand demonstration of just how much winter really sucks, my commitment is being postponed again. In my defense,  it’s a sincere and committed postponement.

All things considered, I’m in pretty good shape for a man my age who is not in good shape. Exercise aside, my understanding is that “mountain” biking will also be an enjoyable and healthy way to explore areas otherwise not accessible by car. But isn’t that the reason for the Travel Channel, TV remotes, and comfortable recliners?

I have a number of concerns, not the least of which is the incredibly steep hill I live on. (I actually live in a house on said hill, but you catch where I’m drifting, right?) It is the Mount Everest of suburban hilly roads. Enough said. On the other hand, its frightening degree of difficulty does have a certain cachet, lending credibility to my claim to be a “mountain” biker.

If you’ve ever been on any of the world’s great roller coasters—the rides with the 3,810-foot, 89.987 degree vertical drop; the ones that rip out entire sets of teeth as terrified, screaming passengers plummet back to earth at speeds approaching 417 miles per hour, leaving behind a tapestry of fillings, braces, and caps fluttering down into the surrounding trees—then you’ve ridden down my street.

The problem with biking on this road is two-fold. The first, of course, is that in order to travel beyond the relatively flat vistas of my driveway, I have to get down the “hill” safely. I can attest from personal experience that I look and sound ridiculous when I scream like a little girl. It’s sort of pathetic, what with neighbors camping out in their lawn chairs to videotape me … and all that pointing and snickering, besides.

This commitment to exercise means I can no longer rely on my SUV to transport the bike down the street and onto a level path (which must be previously certified as such by the senior shift supervisor at the local Ace Hardware tool department). This leads to the second problem: I also have to get back up Suburban Everest without the benefit of my SUV’s trail-climbing capabilities. That calls forth another worry: my hamstrings, and my groin muscles—all of them, especially the important ones.

Remember those old 1950s cartoons and Slinky Toys? I have this vision of all my various leg muscles springing out of my epidermis like some maniacal Slinkies run amuck, making cartoon-like “SPROING!!!” and “Zoink!!!” sounds as they randomly flee the confines of their traumatized ligaments, tendons, ice bags, and Ace bandages.

Trust me, that whole muscles-springing-out thing is not a pretty visual to consider. I have rather large calf muscles. Walk behind me when I’m wearing shorts. I guarantee that your first thought will be that I’m smuggling Volkswagens strapped behind my shinbones.

Bearing in mind that I am someone who barely knows which end of a screwdriver to hammer with, the bike manual posed yet another problem. As soon as the four volume set (complete with matching video training instructions; DVD extra) began an explanation of the more technical aspects of the bike (such as describing any part of it not called “the seat” or “the tires”), I became a twitching pool of goop. Not much has changed in the intervening years, although I can now secure a helmet on top of my own head in less than three minutes and fifteen seconds.

The bicycle has one handle bar, but four different gear shifters! If I do the math correctly, that means I have something like 128,456 gear combinations. At this rate, I’ll have ridden at least ten yards in each of the gears sometime around the year 4229. I’m still envisioning a frantic, never-ending frenzy of snapping fingers and thumbs as I’m pedaling, like a possessed flamenco dancer after ten cups of Sumo-wrestler size Dunkin’ Donuts Turbo coffee.

I’m sure I’ll find some time very soon to finally take the “mountain” bike for a test spin under the terms of my new commitment. I’ll consider it a success if I can safely avoid either corkscrewing myself straight into the ground, or launching into orbit. Otherwise, I’m moments away from becoming the Wile E. Coyote of “mountain” biking.

Any tips would be appreciated.


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A political thriller filled with unexpected plot twists and drawn from real world historical events, this eBook is now available for purchase.

TretiakAgendaEbookCoverFinal copy

You can find it here and here.

Excerpts are available at my website, at the link above.

            * LIFE WILL ANSWER

This eBook is scheduled for Publication on March 5, 2014

Excerpts are being posted posted as of January 15th.