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KAREN SCHWALLER

By Staff | Jul 11, 2014

I recently read a quote with great interest (and a chuckle that accidentally included a snort or two). The quote said, “Women who carry a few extra pounds tend to live longer than the men who mention them.”

I’m impressed by the philosophers of our time who come up with such amazing insights.

My husband said to me one day, “We should get our bikes out and start riding them.”

He was right, and I admired his subtlety in telling me what I already knew.

To say it had been awhile since I’d ridden my bike is like saying most kids get skinned knees from doing it.

I have my skinned-knee scar to show for my childhood biking experiences, and rode it all the time on gravel roads. When you live 10 miles from town, you blaze your own bike trails. But when I graduated from high school, I also graduated from riding my bike.

When our children were old enough for bikes and training wheels, I remember needing to get a bike so I wouldn’t have to run alongside them when we were out and about.

No one wanted to witness that.

I looked around at garage sales and came across one that looked a little like the one Miss Gulch rode on “The Wizard of Oz.” It was an older blue model with large tires and the fenders covering them – only it was all without the music, Toto, or flying monkeys.

As I was visiting with the owner, she said to me, “I think you’ll really like this one – it has a nice big seat.”

So the bike description did fit; the Wicked Witch of the West showed up after all.

Fast forward a few years and I’d purchased a brand new, red, 10-speed bike. It hung upside down from the ceiling in the garage for several years, feigning a bat’s existence, and made a lovely garage ornament.

If nothing else it gave visitors the illusion of physical fitness that – on the farm – usually comes from chasing after livestock, baling hay, climbing fences and carrying hay bales and feed pails across the yard.

When we went to fetch my bike, we saw that the front tire was slightly bent from hanging for so long.

I understood that – I have parts that are that way, too.

A few rounds with a pliers helped the bike tire out, so we packed up both of our pedal hogs and headed for the bike trail.

We weren’t brave enough to start out on gravel roads like farm kids do. Our mid-life knees could not match those of a young, determined farm kid.

That first trip, we encountered an ankle-biting dog that befriended my husband, causing him to have to balance his bike, keep peddling, kick the dog away, watch for traffic and be prepared if the dog somehow got in front of his bike tire.

Good thing today’s farmers are used to multi-tasking.

The second time we unwittingly decided to brave the part of the trail that has a Matterhorn-like summit on it. We gleefully descended the hill on our first pass and as we returned, gathered up all the momentum and courage we had and started back up.

Before long my heart was racing and my breathing matched that of a woman in the last stages of labor. (At least I didn’t come out of it with a new baby – after all, there was supposed to be less of me after this obnoxious test of wills, not more.)

I was sweating like nobody’s business, trying to look like a RAGBRAI regular who did this all the time to passing motorists, and silently pleading with every pedal stroke, “Mother. Of. God. Please deliver me from this evil hill.”

We reached the top, and later on, the trail head. We had conquered.

But then we had to dismount our bikes and stand up. Unknowing onlookers, I’m certain, suspected frequent mid-day vodka nipping.

I could have used the real thing after that. My husband was just glad he didn’t mention anything about extra poundage.

He was suffering enough.

Schwaller is a Farm News correspondent from Milford. Reach her by e-mail at kschwaller@evertek.net and at www.karenschwaller.com.

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