My husband drives up beside me as I pedal up the dirt road. "I thought I saw a cute girl biking, then I realized it was my wife!" he says. Ha. Ha. I shift to my lowest gear to pedal up the Hill of Many Stones. The road has recently been graded and the shifty rocks under my tires are only marginally better than what he calls "chatter bumps" but I think of as washboards. I hang on to my $150, shockless rental fleet bike with white knuckles on the long descent.
I'm not a mountain biker, only a person who rides a mountain bike. There is a huge difference, and I am closing the gap very slowly, in inches. I visit a mountain bike shop and slink away, intimidated. Groupo? Five inches of travel? It is a new language, though I see a mountain bike of my dreams and plan to return one day. I read my husband's Mountain Bike Action magazine, kind of a goofy title with everyone in the pictures standing up aggressively on their pedals.
When you try to learn something new as an adult, you bring all your years with you. All the times you tried something and it didn't work out. All the times people told you that things were impossible, too hard, why the hell do you want to do that because normal women don't? You may have figured out here that I am talking about more than mountain biking.
But let's stick to that for now. I turn around and head for home, past the Grange, the ancient truck dreaming in the weeds, down the long sweet hill where I practice standing up, even though my post-knee surgery leg still believes it does not have the strength to turn the pedals while doing so. I cruise to the place where I have to shift down, make the turn into the town that has turned, in some strange and amazing way, from the town that I am living in now to the town where I live and will probably always live.
It's like that sometimes. You change, imperceptibly, by inches. You get better at things. You learn to stand up on your pedals. You may have figured out that I am talking about more than mountain biking.
Now if someone can explain why four inches of travel is soooo much better than five, I'm all ears.