I frequently make a fool of myself for my kids. I sing in public, though I have the world’s worst singing voice (think Tiny Tim tip-toeing through the tulips and you’ve got a bead on my voice (though I think he kept in tune better than I do!)). I tell silly jokes. I make funny faces. I publish pictures of me looking ridiculous on this blog (see above). I just generally act the clown if it makes them happy.
Well, Saturday afternoon in Yangshuo I topped all my previous foolish escapades. I rode a bike!
I haven’t been on a bike in 30 years, not since I went down Beverly Hill on the way to Lisa Honey’s house and discovered I had no brakes. A concussion and the loss of a few yards of skin pretty much convinced me that biking wasn’t for me. And it’s not like I was all that good at it to begin with. I was 7 before I lost my training wheels and 10 before I could actually turn in a full circle (I had to get off and turn the bike around just to go back the way I came!).
So how in @#%$ did I end up on a bicycle built for two in Yangshuo, China?! And yes, I only drove the bicycle for two, not three. Tom, the dad of the other family in our group offered to take Maya so I didn’t have to handle her 30 pounds and my worries about crashing and burning with BOTH my kids on the bike. The picture above is posed just so we could have the whole family in the picture! But note, both my feet are OFF the ground -- I really am riding the bike!
I have to say it was the most terrifying experience I’ve had since we came to China. When I saw on the itinerary that we were to ride bikes in Yangshuo I envisioned sleepy country roads surrounded by karst mountains, lazy parks with wide swaths of concrete, sun-dappled glades and peaceful forest trails. . . .
Nope. We rented bicycles in the center of town – crowded with cars and trucks and buses and scooters and motorcycles and walkers and about a million other bicycles. After a few practice runs in the small parking lot of the bike rental place, we were off! Cristy set a brisk pace, and zipped us in and out of traffic and around a traffic circle, and all I could do was follow blindly. I certainly couldn’t look around me – the bike had a tendency to go wherever my eyes happened to look, so I could only focus on Cristy’s umbrella ahead of me.
Speaking of umbrellas, Zoe had hers up, shading herself from the sun, and of course it poked me in the back about a million times! I bought a hat for 5 yuan from a seller near the bike rental place, so I had shade. But that didn’t stop the sweating. It was hotter than hades, as humid as a swamp, and then throw in physical exertion and pure nerves and I was sweating like CRAZY! Sweat was dripping in my eyes, but I was too scared to let go of the handlebars to wipe it away! And every time I loosened by grip, my worst fears were confirmed and the bike wobbled like crazy.
We pedaled out from the center of town for about 30 minutes, going downhill most of the way. But all I could think was “what goes down must go up!” I was actually getting the point of feeling kind of comfortable on the bike, jauntily ringing my bell when I passed a walker or another bicycle, when it was time to turn around. It wasn’t long before we hit the uphill portion of the ride, and jauntiness and comfort deserted me! All I could do was huff and puff and exhort Zoe to PEDAL!
We finally made it back, and all in one piece. The girls LOVED it! Zoe only had one request – “next time, can we all three ride the same bike?” That was easy. “Sure,” I said. “The very next time I get on a bike (read “NEVER”!) it will be a bicycle built for three!”