read and ride
You try the next word she said. It was something tricky like receive or deceive, you know the ones with the 'i' before the 'e' and all that jazz? But when I went to pronounce it I sounded like a rapper with a stutter - reh, reh, rehhhh, reh-seeeevveeeehhh? (or something like that). And then she turned and said - 'one of the greatest things you can learn in life, is to 'read and write' son. If you can read and write, you can go anywhere and do anything you want'. And as always, my mam was bang on the money.
The next thing my parents entrusted me with, was The Triangle. Cycle down to the triangle, around it and then back again, they'd say all the time.The 'Triangle' was exactly that - a triangular wedge of grass at the end of our block, with a birch tree planted in the middle of it and was approxiametly 100 metres away from my house. Out of the gates of our driveway, turn left and fast as I could go to get to the triangle, around it (I was an ambi-turner then so could only do left handed turns), grip the bmx handle bars tight and once more zip it back to the house. That was it. That was my first bike adventure as a big eared, cardigan and short-shorts, snotty nosed and dirty knee-ed spudmuncher kid. And it was brilliant. Day after day in those school summers, that seemed to be warm and sunny EVERY day, up to the triangle, around it quickly and back down to driveway. Awesome!
And then one day, I managed to make a magical connection with what my mam told me about reading and writing, and my bike. A street sign. A different street sign. A NEW street sign. Not the same as the one on our road, but a different sign I could see down another adjacent road - at the turning of the triangle. Neverland. Tir na n'Og. Not Kansas. In a new direction AWAY from the pre-agreed triangle-route? This reeked of mischief (another confusing word with an 'i' and an 'e' combination). And I was going to put into practice, exactly what my mam had always prompted me to do: practice my reading! So the time came - I was going to do it. I was going to jump the invisible barbed wire like Steve McQueen in The Great Escape, and make a dash for the new sign. I just had to see what was written on it. The day and time came, and mam was in the garden. I had done a couple of none-descript, no skidding, no pebble-wheelie runs, just to get to the decibel level where she could hear me only as white noise and then I'd make my break for it.
Since that day; Mijas, Spain (pronounced Mee-has). Les Gets, French Alps (pronounced like Leshay with a slight pause between the Le and the Shay). China Camp, California (still sounds funny no matter how you say it!). Lorcan Grove, Santry, Dublin, Ireland. Doesn't matter where, or when or what we've done. I've seen magical names on wonderful maps or used torn pages of books and magazines and just made that same magical turn at a non-descript triangle somewhere on the globe, and pedaled towards many dizzy-headed worlds of adventure. And my bike has and is my best friend and means of exploring. The friends and companions it's brought me along the way are cut from the same oily cloth, that all our paths have magically intertwined, and will ultimately head in the same direction. But the bike is always with me.
Doesn't matter if it's a mountain bike, road bike, bmx or a cow-chaser. None of that matters. It's the adventure that lures us both. Sometimes we both get sick on the journey. Other times we both roar our heads off laughing (well, in my head we do!). No matter where we go, when we go or how we go - it's always an adventure. There's a simbiotic connection. I want to go far and fast. I want to go far and slow. And my steed is always supporting me, carrying me. It doesn't ask for much. Never talks back (well, rarely). Won't bushwhack you when you're trying for the cute girl, at the end of the night. Won't leave only the crumbs and cereal dust in the Kelloggs Cornflakes box. Doesn't take the last of your toothpaste, beer and crisps. It's always there. And is always willing. And at times, I push the boundaries of our relationship, like a cheeky, drunken mongrel. I've cheated on my bike. Oh, yes. With other bikes. I've brought home other bikes, while my current bike is sitting at the end of my bed in my apartment. Shocking. And at the same time like a good english comedy, I've also incredibly and undecently locked my bike to my bedroom radiator and gone off for two weeks - with ANOTHER bike! Yet, still we're together. I've adopted other bikes and lost some too. I've even given some away. And yes, I've mourned stolen ones like a child dying. Terrible analogy I know, but that's what they mean to me. All of them. And they each brought and shared in many an adventure along the way.
I just finished a ride today, in a country and land foreign to me and it was over 30 degrees celcius all day. That's unreasonbly hot for a Paddy (overtly pasty white Irish person). I was trashed. I ran out of water. I flunked, and it was all my fault. My bike purposefully got me back, safe and sound - right to the front door - not a whisper of a smart comment in sight. I dismounted and pushed it inside and just looked at it. I suddenly think back to the 'triangle'. To my mam and dad and all the bikes they got me growing up, and all my bikes up until now and in between too. I think of all the past adventures, and all the ones to come and then I pull out a tatty road map of Europe, and start the 'reading practicing' again. My eyes flow over magical names and I guess at pronouncing them in my pigeon French, Italian and Spanish. My steed just sits there. Ready. Waiting.
So if you haven't done it in a while, go down and shake the dust off your bike. Doesn't matter how long it's been. Your bike won't judge you. Carefully talk to it, and re-ignite that once passionate flame. Seek your own triangle and a new little adventure. It doesn't have to be around the world, down a mountain or up a 21km alpine col. Start with the local shops, or even the park. You know you're always ready - deep down inside. And so is your bike...