When’s the last time you acted like a kid? I don’t mean allowing a spurt of immaturity get the best of you or clumsily knocking over a cup chocolate milk. Dig a little deeper. When did you last go back in time and try to do something you did frequently in your earlier years? I’m talking rounding up every single blanket in the house and spending an afternoon propping them on the dining room chairs to create a fort in the living room. The ultimate fort – one where the height of the roof is equally important as the secret passwords to enter into Never-Never-Land and gain access to the stash of fruit snacks. I’m talking spending an entire winter morning building the largest snowman you were capable of building, and then crying when it melted that afternoon. I’m talking about believing in Santa, imaginary friends, afternoon naps, and pinkie swearing. Being a kid once again.
I recently got together with my younger brother. Since he moved out of the basement of my home just three months ago, we’ve seen much less of each other. We both agree its better this way. Truth be told, I miss him a little. Some days. Not every day. And to clarify, I miss him, not living with him.
Anyway, I went over to his home with hopes of creating another one of our famous adventures. I imagined taking our road bikes out for a spin – perhaps swinging by the humane society to check out a St. Bernard that had stolen my heart. We might stop somewhere and have a beer, or purchase a croquet set at a garage sale. You know – a mid-twenties adventure.
Instead, Tom proposed we cruise around some nearby trails on his mountain bikes.
Mountain bikes? Mountain bikes are for off-roading. Hence the “mountain bike” title. AKA: Not my road bike, not my style. However, like any other situation in our lives, his excitement trumped my distaste for an activity, and before I knew it, we were taking off to trail ride.
It was like rewinding 15 years to our childhood when we’d take our “Huffy” and “Murray” bikes to the local parks and cause ruckus. Generally racing the family dog, we’d bike as fast as possible until reaching our destination – even though we had already been there four times that day.
Telling of the fun we were about to have, he led us to a park with narrow pathways, hills and a forest full of other thrilling things like poison ivy and sudden drop offs into the Red. Pavement, concrete, road signs – non existent.
“You can go whatever direction you want,” he yelled back at me as I desperately tried to keep up. I was in an unfamiliar forest in a part of town I had never been. If I lost him, I’m not sure how we’d reconnect – a small detail he never has seemed to care about. Eventually the hick version of Tony Hawk let me lead
“Watch out for the more narrow paths – there’s probably poison ivy in here,” he warned.
Imagining how productive the following week of work would be if I were to contract an itchy rash, I realized there was no way to avoid the leaves that surrounded the tight paths.
What the heck. I didn’t take time to perform a risk assessment when I was young. Why was I so concerned now? Maybe taking a day off to itch my legs and scratch my tail feathers would be good for me. Caught in my daydream, I quickly came up on two trees – ironically located about a handlebars’ distance apart. Slamming on my brakes, it became clear that I was a little late on the draw. Letting go of the handlebars, I desperately reached for the trees, as an alternative way of stopping. Unfortunately, this meant my hands came off the brakes, and I nearly dislocated my shoulders. I hung at the top of a hill for a few moments and somehow managed to stay on my bike – which, need I remind you, I didn’t want to ride in the first place. Suddenly a soft bush of poison ivy seemed like a good way to opt out of this regrettable ride.
My brother just chuckled as he watched me struggle, then warned that a steep hill was approaching. His only cautioning word was “faster!”
So I sped up, hit loose dirt, and completely biffed it. Laying on the ground spitting out dirt, I confirmed that this was not my ideal way of spending time on a Saturday – or any other day for that matter. Not only was I somewhat embarrassed, but I was also frustrated that he expected me continue. My fun factor was not overly heightened, but I pressed on.
Finally, he promised one more “highlight” of the trip and we’d be done.
My hopes were not high was we approached “the best part.”
“Ready?” He said. “Let’s go!” He gracefully glided across a foot-wide suspended plank that straddled a 6-foot deep gorge. I gracefully slammed on my breaks and came to a stop inches short of it.
“Come on,” he said, looking back.
Yeah. I’m going to trust the kid who has fallen 12 feet out of a tree, nearly sawed his hand off, face planted while doing a BMX bike stunt leading to a bloody face and a bad concussion, and nearly drowned in a pool when he was 2-years-old and still managed to survive.
I don’t have that kind of luck.
Evaluating the dangers, I stared at the plank. I could definitely sprain an ankle or break a leg if I didn’t make it all the way across. However, the likelihood of dying was low. It could potentially hurt my reproductive organs if I landed really hard on top of my bike, or become paralyzed if I landed on my head. Taking a different route would just be easier, especially considering nine times out of 10, I would start across, panic and fail. Still, I had an overwhelming urge to prove myself wrong.
Tom began offering to help me across. Ignoring him, I stood in front of the board and contemplated. I try to do one thing every day that scares me, and with daily routines, it isn’t everyday you get that chance.
I began backing up, coaching myself – just don’t panic half way across. I ultimately decided that if I can bike a white line flawlessly for miles on my road bike, I could handle a foot-wide, 8-foot span of danger.
He watched as I passed over the board. I think I shocked myself by making it across. I must admit, it felt pretty good… kinda like being a kid again.
Shootin’ the Wit is a sporadic blog about everyday life that should never, ever be taken too seriously.