Update: Pete says pedalling is two ll’s ~ grammarly says one! I’m going with Pete!
Photo by Cheryl Oreglia
Curb Your Enthusiasm
I’m sorry but I find impediments endlessly amusing. The virtue of patience is an ongoing battle for some people (we’ll not mention names), and I can’t stress this enough until it is mastered at an intermediate level, you will be at the mercy of the universe, and believe me when I say she has a wicked sense of humor and lots of time on her hands.
I’m still in bed, this has become my writing station of late, or I’m currently too impaired to do anything but languish on a soft mattress, feeble, inert.
And I take no responsibility for this predicament.
The muscles to the right and left of my generous butt cheeks are throbbing, most likely enflamed, not to mention my upper thighs which have the musculature of spaghetti, and on top of that, I’ve been fried like bacon but I’m no longer crispy. Try not to picture it.
I’m thinking back on the weekend, a birds-eye view if you will, seeing how each moment merges seamlessly with the next as if an intentional orchestration?
But it’s not, time just refuses to stop, so it might appear to be organized, but it is simply a jumble of events, strung together as if by a child unconcerned with the complimentary order of beads.
For your enjoyment (subjectively), I’ll describe each bead, in minute detail, one at a time. You might refill your coffee.
If a day were to age, I would say our adventure began at middle-age, just past the noon hour, before the sun has reached its zenith on a Thursday afternoon.
My husband’s first challenge is allowing me to drive so he can work, but the real dilemma is loading his parents into the truck while stashing all their gear in and around a monstrous tandem bike.
It’s fair to say they brought the entire refrigerator, literally, I’m talking an enormous cooler stuffed with pasta, sauce, bread, lunch meats, apples, vegetables, cheeses, crackers, condiments, and God knows what. The grumbling from my husband as he wedges the refrigerator between multiple suitcases, a cardboard box of “their” booze, cane, toiletry bags, computers, books, and our big framed bike is nothing less than impressive.
Big Trucks Win
All aboard, Cheryl is at the helm, just the way God likes it, Nana sitting shotgun, Nono, and Larry consigned to the back. I don’t know why but every time I read that I smile.
Nono keeps us entertained with stories of family lore but Larry has to make several conference calls, after slipping on his earpods, he says, “Dad, quiet, I’m on a call.”
Larry Sr. says, “Oh, sorry son, okay.
Ten minutes later Larry says, “Dad, I’m still on a call.”
Nana says, “Larry be quiet he’s on a call.”
Larry Sr. says, “Oh, yeah, sorry.”
Ten minutes later we cover the same ground as if Ground Hog Day.
It does help to pass the time.
The highlight of the drive has to be when Nana and I play cat and mouse with a mini coup right before we hit the grapevine. This obnoxious mini has been weaving in and out of traffic for miles, ruthlessly cutting people off, causing all sorts of angst. What the hell? This little rat as I’ve come to refer to it, shoots out of nowhere, coming up fast on my right, and she thinks I’m going to slow down and let her slide right in. Honey, we’ve been driving 4 hours, no stops, you’re messing with the wrong pussycat. I hug the bumper in front of me as if we’re married, the cars behind me follow suit, and that little mini gets stuck behind a big rig. Whoot Hoot. See yah!
I like big trucks and I’m not going to lie.
When the traffic is light I try to make up for lost time but nevertheless we land on Marta and Ken’s doorstep in the dark.
The unload is simply the reverse of the load, I decide to wait it out in the kitchen with a nice glass of wine, total win.
Dinner is fabulous, fresh pasta, homemade sauce (now I’m grateful for the refrigerator), along with sipping wine on the patio late into the evening, mild temperatures, not a bug in sight. No wonder this place is so popular.
After a nice hike in the morning, Larry and I load our suitcases back in the truck and head to Palm Springs for our first tandem event of the year.
The El Saguaro Hotel is an interesting destination (see how I worded that), extremely retro in design, colorful shall we say, slightly aged, and ever so crowded with wrinkle-free people sipping fruity drinks, wearing big hats, and skimpy bathing suits.
Larry says, “stay with the car, I’ll check-in, and then we’ll park by our room so we can bring the bike up.”
Five minutes later he runs out to the car, clearly distressed, his hair has sprung into action if you know what I mean, he says, “the line is a mile long, only one guy working the front desk, it’s a total disaster.”
“No problem, I’ll wait in the airconditioned lobby, you stay with the bike.”
He squints at me as if I’m talking a foreign language and sort of runs back to the lobby.
The sun is intense and after sitting in the car for a brief spell, I lock it up, and head inside where it’s not only cool but ever so colorful. He’s right. The line is long, not moving, everyone has a dog with them, and the solo guy at the counter is highly inefficient not to mention clearly agitated.
The entire room cheers when a second clerk appears from the back room and eventually we score a key to our suite. We requested a ground floor room so we can store our bike in the room while we’re downtown. It’s sort of like having a dog but we don’t have to feed it.
Best laid plans.
Moving the car around back we unload everything, I have the suitcases, briefcases, and books. Larry has the big dog.
Room key doesn’t work.
With the patience of a two-year-old, Larry runs back to the front desk, I’m now in charge of the big dog, suitcases, books, and computers. He pushes his way to the front of the line (can you picture it) and demands they rekey his key immediately.
That poor desk clerk didn’t have a chance.
Larry returns, a little sweaty, but triumphant.
Sadly, the rekeyed key doesn’t work either.
Do you see where this is going?
Back he goes to the front desk less chirpy than the last time.
Back to the room.
Still doesn’t work.
Bahaha, now I have to tinkle because I’m giggling so much. Silently of course.
A janitor takes pity on me and lets me into the room. Larry arrives all flustered, says, “how the hell did you get in?”
“My key still doesn’t work, I’m not going to worry about it, let’s lock up and go down to the bar for a cold margarita, some chips, then we’ll drive into town and check-in to our event.” You have to agree, the man knows how to turn lemons into margaritas!
I drop everything, literally, right where I stand, and say, “I’m ready.”
Things are starting to look up.
The refreshments are refreshing as hell and with renewed spirits, we head into town to pick up our swag and enjoy a nice dinner. We might not ever be able to get back into our room, but that’s not the bead we’re dealing currently threading.
It never gets old, I’m talking about the universe and her demented sense of humor, she really is quite creative. The entire event is organized by last names and this year everyone’s name starts with either M, N, or O.
Form one line, please.
There are heaps of volunteers literally sitting at empty tables with no lines. I move to the end of the M, N, O’s and quietly watch my husband spring into action. This is what I love about Larry, he does not accept the reality of which he is confronted, he generates his own.
Larry approaches the first volunteer who is staring unblinkingly into the abyss, mildly unnerved by Larry’s unexpected presence, this dude must have been a first-class Scout.
Larry says, “can you help us out here mate, maybe borrow the M, N, O list for a second, and let us check-in?”
Boy Scout says, “Oh that’s not possible, we’re alphabetized (nothing like stating the obvious), and I’m only trained to do H, I, J, K.” Does it make you wonder what this person does for a living?
Larry smiles, it’s a tad stiff, and moves to the next bored volunteer, “can you help me out…”
If anything the universe is consistent.
Larry’s confidence is disconcerting, highly entertaining, but I have to say he has a confounding success rate. As he moves down the line, I slowly move up. When he arrives at table D, E, F it’s my turn at M, N, O, but Larry has found a malleable person and he waves me down.
What can you do? I abandon my place in line.
Okay, you’d think this would be a one-stop shop, but sadly they don’t distribute the jersey’s we ordered for the ride tomorrow at the check-in stations. The malleable person points to another long ass line up the street.
“That’s the shirt line,” she says.
Had we known we would have divided and conquered but I think it’s so much better the way it went down!
The street is completely blocked off to traffic, there are over 6,000 bikers signed up for this event, and they are all milling around a beer and wine garden set up by the event organizers. There are a plethora of restaurants ranging from Mexican to Korean, Italian to Japanese, American barbeque joints, deli’s, and high-end steakhouses. They are all full, adorned with throngs of beautiful young people wearing spandex pants, tight butts, and absolutely zero body fat. You’d think this was Hollywood?
Where are all the middle-aged, slightly softened, gently layered people?
We mosey up to an open bar, it’s outside under the stars, and order a glass of wine.
Dinner is nothing less than extraordinary. I have the ravioli with vodka sauce, and Larry orders a penne pasta with some sort of exotic meat and cheese sauce. The evening is delightful, the weather mild, and a sense of anticipation fills the air. We drive back to the hotel, which has sorted out the key issue, and we are granted lawful entry to our room.
She’s Not Pedalling
If you sign up for the fifty-mile ride you need to be downtown by 8:00 am sharp, queued up, and ready for action. We are surprised to see several tandem bikes in the mix, couples our age, who obviously went to bed at a decent hour last night and weren’t downtown partying it up with the millennials.
What a relief to know all those ambulances aren’t lined up for me.
There is this intentional buildup up of anticipation, excitement, and if I were honest, fear. The local high school band is belting out a rendition of Eye of the Tiger, people line the sidewalks with foldout chairs, waving flags, cheering us on. Between the announcements, cheerleaders, and police presence, the atmosphere is charged with feverish energy.
They let us go in packs of fifty, so we don’t end up in a tangled wad, and we move slowly up the street waiting to be released.
The gun fires and an explosion of riders roll out as if a carpet of bright colors.
Larry starts us off at a mild pace, many of the bikers pass us up, but we’re not in a hurry and I believe Larry is trying to ease my anxiety.
Let me get this out of the way right now. I’m already tired, we haven’t even gone a mile, and I’m having entire conversations with myself.
I’m still not convinced I can do this, it feels as if we’re riding at high altitude and I can’t get enough air.
Every twentieth biker feels the need to say, “she’s not pedalling,” as they pass us by. They think this is hysterical and you can hear them giggling from a block away. I’m not kidding. If it’s not about my pedaling (by the way the pedals are connected, I really don’t have the option not to pedal) it’s “she’s reading a book, she’s filing her nails, she’s sleeping.”
The first ten times it was cute. Now it’s annoying and I’m searching for snarky comebacks but there are none. It’s as if a tandem bike comes with the added bonus of nonstop commentators who feel empowered to engage with us.
Does Larry look like the friendly type?
The first fifteen miles of the tour are all uphill. I’ve sweated half my body weight, and just like life, when I get overwhelmed, I break it into small pieces. I’ve taken to staring at the ground where our momentum is most visible, deep breaths, and this seems to calm me. If I look ahead at the crest of the hill in the distance I panic. It feels as if we’re not moving at all.
Larry senses my discomfort and says, “don’t pedal so hard, pace yourself.”
“I’m okay, I just have to stay focused.”
“We have a long way to go, I’m doing good, I can carry us.”
The thing is life is a tandem event if you think about it. My efforts are intimately connected to not only his ability to keep going but our momentum in general. We’re all interdependent, sometimes I carry my weight, other times he carries the both of us. Today is one of those days.
We’re out of water by mile twenty and there are no water stations in sight. The temperature is unusually hot for this time of year, it’s in the ’80s, and everyone is looking for water. Larry stops at a mobile repair van parked on the side of the road and asks for water. The generous guy digs into the back of his truck, finds a half-empty gallon of water, and hands it to us. We fill our bottles, thank him and continue on our way.
I’ll admit on the first sharp turn I almost take us out. My natural instinct is to lean in the opposite direction, in my defense it does feel as if we’re falling. I thought I was saving the day as I lean away with all my girth. Larry desperately fights the forces of gravity, we miss the curb my centimeters, and I receive a curt lecture on the mechanics of motion.
“You have to lean into the turn or we’re going to tank it.”
“I can try?”
“You can try?”
“What do I get?”
I get the look, backward, but still effective.
Some stranger says, “she’s not pedaling.”
Me, “good one, never heard that before.”
By the grace of God, we make it to the first rest stop at mile twenty-five. If you’ve ever ridden a horse then you’ll know what I mean when I say it feels as if I’ve been in the saddle all day. I’m pretty sure I’ll be walking funny for the rest of my natural life.
I just want some shade but we’re in the middle of the desert in a parking lot. The heat is radiating off the pavement as if we’re standing on a barbeque. A large human-size grill and I’m already fully baked if you know what I mean.
There are tables set up with water, Gatorade, sliced oranges, bananas, apples. Little cups of pretzels with peanut butter, nuts, and such.
Of course, there’s one long-ass line and Larry docilely moves to the end as if he’s been tortured by the Gestapo.
I sit with the fire ants on the curb protecting the precious bike. When Larry gets to the front of the line he waves me over and we fill up on water and snacks for the better part of five minutes, and then he’s hankering to go. You know what I’m ready for?
Let me just say getting back on the bike is heroic. Epic. Phenomenal.
In my humble opinion.
As we exit the human barbeque we realize we are on the top of the world, as if Rocky hitting that top step at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, it’s downhill for the next ten miles, and guess who is passing everyone up? The bike that weighs the most. Yeah, baby.
We cover more miles in mere minutes than you can possibly imagine. I’m leaning into turns like nobody’s business, gliding, pedaling, soaring across the landscape with the best of them.
“She’s not pedalling.”
“Because we know how to glide!”
Well, I’m sorry to say the euphoria is short-lived, and just when I think I’m Kate Courtney. There are more hills to conquer, it’s eighty-eight degrees outside, I’ve consumed at least six bottles of water and still don’t have to pee. Should I be worried?
The surrounding mountains are striking, everywhere you look you are confronted by majestic peaks that jet up from the ground leaving you with the distinct feeling that something extraordinary was involved in their creation.
Around mile forty, just when I’m about to throw in the towel, scream “uncle” and capitulate to my warring body, we find an oasis. The second and final rest stop comes into view. There are tables and tables stacked with heaping bowls of pasta, meatloaf, mashed potatoes, tamales, fruit, liquids, nuts, pretzels, cases of water, and fresh salads. People are milling about everywhere, rows of bike racks line the dirt field, volunteers stand ready to guard the bikes while we eat.
Larry and I gorge on delicious tidbits for at least ten minutes before Larry wants to hit the road. I’m not sure I’m capable of riding another mile?
I’m shoving tamales in my mouth as fast as I can, fiercely shaking my head, more frantic shoving. Yes, it’s a stalling tactic, but I’m desperate.
When we return begrudgingly to the bike there’s a group of guys looking at our rig, they are admiring the massive frame, this particular model is no longer in production. Of course, someone says, “your nails sure look nice, you’ve been back there filing Jenny.” (my seat is embroidered with the name of the previous owner)
“Oh that is soooo funny, and you got the name wrong too.”
Male laughter but they’re actually confused.
If they only knew what I was thinking.
Back on the bike, I have to say the last 10 miles is absolute torture. My butt is so sore I have to stand up on the pedals every few blocks to get any relief, my feet ache even though I continually adjust their placement on the pedals, the tension in my back is excruciating, and my hands hurt from leaning on the handlebars for five hours.
I consider calling for an extra-large Uber but the reception is bad.
Larry’s like “you’ve got this babe, we’re almost there, three more miles.”
Me, “I don’t want it, at my age I have nothing to prove, mile forty-seven is a win for me.”
Larry, “Wait until they hand you that medal, with an ice-cold beer, and you’ll have something worthy to write about.”
Me, “I have plenty to write about and I don’t need a participation award.”
Some idiot passes us by, “she’s not pedaling.”
Me, “I know who you are, I’ll find you, and you’ll regret the day you were born.”
Larry, “We might need to upgrade you to a martini?”
I can hear the band playing from a mile away. I’ve resorted to self-talk but now I’m doing it out loud. Every force in the universe is consorting against me and I’m so done.
I want shade and maybe a gallon of ice water.
After gliding into the crowd of euphoric riders, a volunteer hands us our medals, and she says, “congratulations.” I’m aghast.
This has to be a presidential accomplishment. Where’s Joe and Kamala?
Larry walks our bike over to a tree and rests it there. I find the nearest curb in the shade, after grabbing two bottles of water, I flop down on the hard surface and drink as if I’ve been lost in the desert.
Wait, I have been lost in the desert.
Larry recovers quickly, he wants to take pictures, then we should go to the beer garden with two thousand other bikers, half of whom accused me of not pedaling.
I’m unable to move. I drink both bottles, still thirsty, beer sounds awful! Yeah, that’s a first.
So, of course, we end up at the beer garden, it’s packed, nowhere to sit, Larry grabs some chairs out of a random truck and sets them in the shade. I might sleep here tonight.
Sipping beer, watching the bikers file in, smiling, high on endorphins. I watch thousands of sweaty people, laughing, relaxing, enjoying the body’s opiate receptors which somehow missed me?
It’ll wear off. It’s just a matter of time.
Back at the hotel, I slip out of my soaked bike pants, into dry pajama bottoms, I’m too tired to change my sweaty shirt, so I crawl into bed just as I am.
AARP On The Move
Larry wakes me up hours later. I can’t remember who, what, or where I am? It’s dusk.
Larry says, “get in the shower, we have reservations at the steak house tonight, and it’s almost time to go.”
“Who are you?”
“I’m the one who pedaled.”
“Oh honey, don’t go there.”
Downtown is hopping with all those happy endorphin-laden people, most of whom stayed in their biking gear, and obviously never left the beer garden.
We’re slightly early so we enjoy a cool glass of wine at a swanky Italian bar along the strip, we order juicy melon, with prosciutto, Burrata cheese, and crostini. I’m no longer in need of a Priest for last rites but I’m definitely in heaven. I think those endorphins finally kicked in or the wine, maybe both.
The Final Bead
The next morning I feel as if someone beat me with a bat but I soldier on, we pack our bags, load the car, and head to Sherman’s for breakfast. I have my priorities.
Sherman’s is a famous bakery and deli, the food is outstanding and it felt good to linger over endless cups of coffee and succulent eggs benedict.
We arrive at Marta and Ken’s in time to watch the Superbowl, munch on chicken wings, barbequed hamburgers, and cheer on our favorite teams. I have no preference.
I’m just glad to be alive.
I glance over at Larry, the guy with whom I’m doing this life in tandem, and I’m grateful to have such a capable man on my team. The mystery of life isn’t about coordinating the pedalling, it’s finding someone worth pedalling for, and one who is willing to carry the entire load when needed. That’s the final bead.
Oh, and I wore my medal all night!
I’m Living in the Gap, not pedaling, gliding along. Join me in the comments.
“I am convinced that the jealous, the angry, the bitter and the egotistical are the first to race to the top of mountains. A confident person enjoys the journey, the people they meet along the way and sees life not as a competition. They reach the summit last because they know God isn’t at the top waiting for them. He is down below helping his followers to understand that the view is glorious where ever you stand.” Shannon Alder