It is a bright morning. The wind is blowing. I am pedaling my trike as fast as I can. My wife rides ahead of me. And I’m smiling.
I’ll pause for a moment. I don’t want to confuse anyone, so I’ll explain what a trike is for the newcomers.
Technically speaking, a trike is your basic tricycle. Though enthusiasts rarely call it a tricycle because this sounds dumb. So they call it a trike. Then the enthusiasts usually spit and talk about football, just so you don’t get the idea that these are kids’ tricycles. Which they are.
My wife convinced me to buy this contraption a few months ago. The reason was because I was depressed.
I don’t like to admit this, but I will. This pandemic has done a number on my brain. Being trapped at home is not for wimps. At one point I was rarely leaving my bedroom except to restock on Cheez-Its.
I once wore pajamas for almost 60 days. In the mornings, I would crawl from my covers, take a shower, fix my hair, brush my teeth, then put on my PJs and go back to bed.
So that’s why I’m riding this trike. Because I’m trying not to be blue. I don’t want to live in a perpetual mind-killing funk. I know that sounds a little melodramatic, but I’m being honest.
We are riding at about 13 miles per hour. I am sweating. There isn’t much traffic.
When the pandemic began my wife was always asking me to go bike riding with her, but I never would. You can call me nutty, but all bikes scare me. People die on bikes.
In 2015 there were 50,000 accidents related to bikes in the U.S. And last year the number of deaths on bicycles had tripled from the year before. These weren’t just little accidents, either. These were SUVs plowing into people.
Here in Florida we have more bicycle-related deaths than any other state. And in case you’re wondering, Florida is also in the top three states for automotive fatalities involving cell phones.
So I usually avoided bikes.
One of my friends finally convinced me to try out a trike because he claimed it was safer. The way he won me over was by telling me trikes were like big wheels.
Ah, yes. Big wheels. Remember those? For the uninitiated, big wheels were low-riding plastic tricycles we children would use to break our fibulas. The handlebars were high, like on Harley choppers. The wheels made rumbling sounds.
My big wheel was black, with imitation mother-of-pearl stickers and official NASCAR decal dashboard. And just to prove I was a tough customer, my handlebars had tassels.
We had a big hill by our house. If you rode down it you could achieve speeds upwards of 124 miles per hour. Your pedals would spin like blender blades and you would crash. Millions of kids died this way.
I once tried this stunt and wrecked horribly. When my father found me I was bleeding and my clothes were shredded. Whereupon my father did what any concerned parent would do: he got his camera.
Why is it when you look your worst, people always want to take your picture? It never fails. In my life, happiness comes and goes, but my worst moments live forever on Kodak.
My mother still has a coffee-table scrapbook containing photos of young me, shirtless, bleeding, and gashed. Mama always touches these pictures and says, “Aww… Remember this?”
Yes. I’m remembering it right now while cruising down a steep hill on my adult tricycle.
We ride past my two neighbors, Jean and Terry, who are out for a walk.
I wave. They wave.
Jean starts laughing at me. I can tell she thinks I look ridiculous. “Hey!” she shouts. “Nice bike!” Then she doubles over.
Terry, who is the George Burns of the team, says, “Where’d you get that thing? Toys R Us?!”
But I pay no attention to them. I’m pedalling too aggressively to care. Besides, Jean and Terry don’t know what I know, which is that my dog poops in their yard sometimes.
We coast by a few more neighbors. One neighbor just moved to our area. He works nights. He looks tired. We exchange waves.
Another neighbor is a young woman wearing a food service uniform. She is smoking a cigarette on her porch. No wave.
I pass another woman who is loading her car with cleaning supplies. Her kids are wearing masks, helping lug vacuums, mops, and buckets. On her bumper is an advertisement for a house-cleaning service in Spanish. I wave to her.
“Hola!” she says.
“HOLA!” shout her kids.
As it happens, I speak a little Spanish. So I pull out some streetsmart Español:
“Hi!” I say.
In a few moments two children are chasing my trike. They have become so genuinely excited they end up racing me on foot, laughing. Suddenly we are having a great time.
“Mira! Mira!” they are shouting. Which literally translates, “old guy wearing helmet.”
I win the race. I take a few victory laps. The kids seem downright giddy. They are half cheering me, clapping, and saying, “Que chido!”
I don’t know what this phrase means, but I’ve never heard anything more sincere than these happy voices. And it makes me feel much better than I did an hour ago.
When my wife and I finally finish our ride, she skids into our driveway and dismounts. She just looks at me and begins to cackle.
I tell her to go ahead and laugh. Sure, I know I look silly on this tricycle. But I’m glad I don’t look depressed.