Granny Gets Moving is a story contributed by Linda Jenkins, Freelance Writer, from Snohomish County. This was first published in Vibrant Senior Options Resource Guide, Fall 2019
As a grandma in my 60s, I like sedentary activities, such as playing the piano and writing letters. However, I found myself realizing I needed more exercise. Climbing the stairs made me out of breath. Walking distances hurt my feet. What to do? I was not about to embarrass myself by wearing an oversized swim suit in a pool.
One day my husband pulled an old bike out of the garage. It was a single-speed man’s bike. “Here,” he said, “let’s go to the Centennial Trail and get moving!”
“Honey,” I protested, “I haven’t been on a bike since I was 10 years old!”
“No one forgets how to ride a bike,” he said firmly. And so off we drove to the trail. My husband had a nicer bike for himself, as he used to ride a lot in his youthful days.
“I Can’t…No Way!”
Once parked in the lot he put one foot on his bike pedal and then threw his other leg expertly over the frame. He looked at me expectantly.
I said, “Honey, I can’t throw my leg over this man’s bike! I will break my hip! Do you want me to break my hip right here in the parking lot?”
“You won’t break your hip,” he said. “Try it.”
“I can’t!” I protested loudly. “No way!” Finally, after looking around to see if anyone was watching, I laid my bike down on the ground and cautiously stretched one leg over a tire. Then I pulled up the bike under me. A truly nerdy thing to do, but necessary.
My husband smiled. “OK, we’re off,” he said.
He was right. I hadn’t forgotten how to ride a bike. But I was horrified to see I could only ride one mile! “OK, dear,” I said, huffing and puffing up a tiny hill, “I’m going to have to stop. Time to go home. Thanks for the wonderful bike ride.”
“Now?” he said. “We were just getting started!” But we packed up and went home.
After a few times, I rode the trail by myself. “I can do this!” I thought. “It’s not fun, but I can do this!” Resigned, I hung in there three times a week. Gradually, I lengthened my rides to six miles.
I Don’t Do Gears!
One day, my husband took me to a bike shop. I felt intimidated by the lean young cyclists in the store, but I left with a nice new jacket, helmet, and bike gloves.
But that wasn’t all. My husband had ordered a nine-speed custom-built bike with the gears on one handle. “I don’t do gears!” My voice had a tone of panic. “I can’t figure out gears! This is too difficult!”
“You can figure out gears,” he said reassuringly. Worried, I listened carefully to his instructions: how to climb a hill and how to stop. Could I remember?
As it turned out, the gears were wonderful. I slowly extended my riding to eight miles—and then to 14. I began to love the fresh air and the challenges of the trail. Other cyclists were starting to nod their heads at me, almost as if I were a real cyclist!
Two Years Later
Two years later, a surprising thought entered my mind. A small town lay on the trail, but it was 26 miles away–52 miles total. It seemed impossible, like riding to the moon! Could I do it?
I decided to attempt it one day while my husband was gone. First of all, I carried water. Also, I put healthy snacks and my phone into a lightweight backpack. I was off!
My enthusiasm carried me the 26 miles in three hours to the small town. I had stopped along the way to rest a few times and admire the scenery. Dropping onto grass, I tiredly munched lunch.
Then suddenly it hit me—I had to go back! I was not done! My car was far away!
“Are you OK, ma’am?”
After ten more miles on the return trip, I was dead, all energy vaporized. I threw my bike down and collapsed on a bench. Others whizzed by. “Are you OK, ma’am?” a young cyclist yelled.
“Sure,” I croaked, feeling my age big time. “Just resting!” Minutes later, I dragged myself back onto my bike, knowing I had to finish or wait for hours to be rescued. I was dazed the rest of the way. Some of it was downhill; I coasted all I could. I knew if I got off, I would not get back on. My neck and shoulders were killing me. I realized I had a lot to learn about cycling.
Where Have You Been?
Hours later, I joyfully spotted my car! Loading my bike in slow motion, I drove home amazed at myself. I had actually done it! Gone to the moon and back!
My husband was home. “Where have you been?” he said.
“Oh, did 52 miles, dear,” I replied nonchalant.
Linda Jinkens is a freelance writer who enjoys bicycling, baking, and her five grandchildren.