Sunday, August 5, 2012
Forced Lesson in Anatomy
This past week friends from the East Coast were in town and I spent the day with them in The City, otherwise known as San Francisco. Jane and Mark had decided that we would spend part of the day exploring the touristy things like the trolley and Lombard St. They also wanted to rent bikes and ride across the Golden Gate Bridge to Sausalito and then take the ferry back. For reasons I still haven’t quite figured out, I agreed and met them on Wednesday morning. We walked the mile or so from their hotel to the beginning of the trolley lines.
Since my weight loss, walking that far is not a big deal. It used to be a chore to walk anywhere. Forgetting something in my car once I was inside my loft at the height of my weight (422) and sickness (sarcoidosis) was cause for stress, anger, tears and then the realization that I could live without said item until the following day, unless it was food. Then I would send my trained parakeet, Excelsior, to fetch the foodstuffs. Full disclosure, it wasn’t a parakeet and his name was Christopher, my long-suffering best friend.
Now that I am down to 200 pounds and not afraid of a little exercise, I felt that I was fully capable of accepting whatever challenge lay before me. And all was good until we hit Mile 2 on the bikes. Ignoring the fact that everyone looks ridiculous in a bike helmet, I realized far too late to rectify the situation that the seat of my bike was made of, apparently, a new material that was an iron/cactus hybrid. My butt cheeks were in agony, y’all.
We have previously discussed my lack of hind quarters inherited from my Daddy and I can assure you that the sad remnants of my “butt that never was” were on fire. If my butt could talk, there would have been choice words, dear readers. Choice words indeed.
‘Quads’ is a word that reared its odd little head. According to Jane, George Dubya’s former physical therapist, I am bereft of developed quads. It seems that although outwardly I look like I am in reasonable shape, I am actually more akin to an 85 year-old asthmatic than, say, an Olympic runner or even Olympic spectator. Apparently there are different muscles that you use when peddling than you do when walking. Who knew? Apparently many people who didn’t major in a liberal art in college. All this time I thought a quad was that grassy section in the middle of college campuses in movies that need a central point so the completely implausible couple can “meet cute”. If that couple had gone to the college where I received my undergraduate degree (Mississippi University for Women, or the W), the meeting would have taken place in the cafeteria and the adorable words he/she would have attempted to utter would have been drowned out by the voices of 300 people, mostly women, singing. Yes, we sang at the W; a lot.
Now quad-less and suddenly fully aware, I wondered could people tell I had immature quads? Is it a bad thing? Do I want mature quads? I decided, yes, I did. Should I be ashamed that I don’t? Would my legs have hurt anyway? And what does it have to do with my butt hurting? Are your quads linked to your butt like that whole leg-bone-thigh-bone song? Can one acquire quads? According to Jane, yes you can, but it requires things like squats, lunges and mountain climbers and I remember all too well those hateful, horrible things from my kickboxing classes and I have sworn (literally) on more than one occasion that I shall never partake in any vile activity of the kind that would lead to a more attractive physique. I am practically unapproachable as it is, people, I don’t want to be so vulgar in my display of awesomeness, right? Now would be a good time to take a break, maybe have a drink, lest you post something rude about me on Facebook.
However, I am a trooper, as Jane continuously said, and I pressed onward and upward. Seriously upward, like scaling the side of a mountain. Have you seen the GGB? It’s tall, y’all, and I’m not talking like “water tower” tall; I’m talking like “state fair roller coaster” tall. Don’t judge me. Have you tried to ride a bike fabricated in some evil Eastern European factory to torment “capitalist pigs” in America to the top of a ferris wheel without a break for water or a panini? What? I was hungry from all the quad development.
Full disclosure: I pretty much walked a bike to the top of the hill to get on the bridge. I had tried everything to stay on the seat. I pedaled furiously then stood on the pedals and coasted. I even tried to ride sidesaddle. It was as successful as you would imagine. So, I created my own rhythm, if you will. I would bike until I could no longer take the pain, which was around 5 minutes and then I would leap/stumble from the bike and push it along. Now anyone else would have been irritated to stop and wait for me to catch up, but Jane and Mark are (1) very patient and (2) very much in love. If they weren’t so darned adorable it would be sickening.
Once we got over the middle of the GGB, I was assured, nay promised, that it was “all downhill” to Sausalito. LIES! Okay, there is some truth to the downhill-ness of the other side of the bridge but they didn’t mention the continual use of the brake due to the crazed pedestrians who were either high or stupid or both. Everyone seemed to have the reaction time of a pothead. For those not in the know, that means slow, like Aunt-Maudie-blowing-out-her-95th-birthday-candles slow, like waiting-for-Christmas-morning-when-you’re-8-years-old slow. And although medicinal marijuana is legal in CA, I find it hard to believe there has been an outbreak of glaucoma amongst the teens and 20-somethings that make up the English-speaking contingency of the Big-donkeys-who-walk-in-the-bike-lane club. Once we left the relative confines of the bridge, I was again assured of the downhill journey and the fun that was in store.
Again, LIES! Lies and vicious rumors! There was a slight downward change in grade but not enough to have recalculated the vectors or tensile strength or other random things I vaguely remember as a Journalism major taking Physics in college. Once I walked my bike through the remainder of the path before reaching the road into Sausalito, I realized that the bike path they encouraged us to take was not a path at all. It wasn’t even a narrow designated lane beside the road. There wasn’t even a shoulder for the road. We simply rode in the road as if we were in cars. As the people behind me came to realize, I am the vehicular equivalent of a ’77 Plymouth Volare with faulty brakes and a driver who learned to use a standard on the column a full 15 minutes before getting in front of them.
And suddenly there was a downhill. A frightfully steep downhill. And I’m not talking roller coaster steep, I’m talking steep like the mountain they race down at the end of that John Cusack “Better Off Dead” movie from the 80s. Using gravity for its purpose, I flew past both Jane and Mark, due to my lack of familiarity with proper braking techniques and my zeal to de-bike. I leapt from the velocipede and walked it reasonably quickly considering I had just escorted it 10 or so miles, through the quaint, overpriced town, my final destination; the reservation desk for the ferry to take me back to the mainland so I could release the beast to its owners and flee as quickly as one can having walked a bicycle 627 miles across the longest bridge in the known universe.
Having been rebuffed in my quest for something other than “first come, first served” seating, I left my bike on the rack, unlocked; hoping against hope that someone would steal it and I would be free, brothers and sisters! Free! The $100 deposit would have been worth it. I almost felt compelled to throw the bike in the water and feign ignorance of its whereabouts.
Truth be told, I hadn’t ridden on a bike since the age of around 11 and I remembered quite vividly the reasons and they were two-fold. Each fold representing a butt cheek. I have never felt pain like this, people. Like an angry nightclub bouncer had punched me in the butt crack, if you’ll allow a vulgar metaphor.
After some great Mexican food (guacamole can soothe even the most ravaged beasts) we walked those wretched bikes onto the ferry and once we landed back on the Pier, we carried them up a flight of stairs (no, I don’t know why either) and found ourselves at Pier 1, the actual pier, not the trendy home goods store. We were supposed to have arrived at Pier 41 as that is where we rented these torture devices. Here’s a tip for the people running Guantanamo Bay. Forget waterboarding; simply rent a bike and make the prisoners ride across the GGB. They’ll sing like canaries. Canaries that’ve been punched in the butt crack, if you’ll pardon a repeat of the afore-mentioned vulgar metaphor.
“It’s only a 7-minute ride to Pier 41”, chirped the thinking-she-was-being-helpful-but-realizing-it-wasn’t-true-when-she-saw-my-facial-expression young lady who greeted us at the information booth. Ever the trooper, thank you Jane, I attempted to “saddle up” and try once more. It was not to be. The buttocks made one last valiant effort to throw me from the bike and I was compelled to do what made the most sense to me; I hired a pedi-cab to pedal me, holding my bike, to the bike rental stand.
I was so tired and hurting that I begged off dinner and returned home where I made the mistake of telling my Daddy what had happened. As I write this, he is still laughing. And if my physical pain won’t get me a hastily organized prayer circle, my shame should at least get me onto the prayer list somewhere near Aunt Maudie. She's 95; it's an assumption.