Tour de Florida – Published in Flora Fiction Review Vol. 3: Courage – Fall 2022
I swung my leg over the bike’s horizontal crossbar with about the same level of confidence I had when mounting Pinto, for that unforgettable initiation to horseback riding. Suffice it to say, the horse and I were bouncing to opposing rhythms with a brutal meeting in the middle. But I was an avid bike rider in my youth and had the scars on my knees to prove it. They say you never forget, and I was willing to give it a whirl when the friend I was visiting invited me to join a few women on a six-mile journey around their Florida community.
The vintage bikes set in the front of the condo were spanking clean and shiny. The one I’d dubbed Bubblegum called out my name, but my friend Laura, the owner of both bikes, declared the pink one hers, leaving Spearmint, her husband’s bike, a little higher than comfortable, for me to ride.
Laura’s face pinched hearing the names I’d given her bikes, but I can’t help personifying things close to me—my car is George, my African violet I call Peri Winkle, and my sour dough starter is Breadley Cooper.
We peddled off, meeting up with the Laura’s friends on the palm tree lined trail, and in no time, I was left bringing up the rear. The terrain was flat, the trail smooth, but I’m a slow peddler. After the first mile, the humid air had energized the frizz in my hair, but did nothing to lubricate my weakening legs. By the end of the second mile, sweat trickled down my forehead, my parched tongue shriveled, and my knees felt like rubber. “You can do this,” I encouraged myself, pushing onward. And finally, rounding the third mile, I heard voices and captured a glimpse of Bubblegum settled on the unfinished pebble road leading to a construction site of Laura’s new home.
The women already settled on the manmade beach were sipping chardonnay by the time Spearmint and I arrived. I called out and waved, proud I could ride one-handed as I psyched myself for the dismount thinking nothing could be as bad, or painful, as the dismount from Pinto. But as I shifted all my weight to my right leg planning to swing my left over the crossbar with grace, the bike and I toppled onto the gravel, tearing my leggings, skinning my knees, and shaming my pride.
Laura came running, helping to disentangle me from Spearmint. “Oh no, are you all right,” she asked examining the bike.
“I’m fine,” I said, not sure who she was asking. I scraped off the tiny pebbles imbedded in my hands while apologizing for any damage to dear Spearmint, whose skin was evidently thicker than mine and fortunately came through unscathed.
With a false grin, I joined the giggling women entertained by the choreography of my less than graceful arrival. One handed me a consolation glass of wine, and as the conversation moved on, I pretended to follow, but my mind was focused on how to get Spearmint three miles back home. Just like with Pinto, this ride was to be a one-way journey. No more stirrups or pedals for me.
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