There are three nice things about my home town of Boise: #1) A beautiful river runs through it to the delight of fishermen in the spring, rafters in the summer, and gangsters needing to dump bodies in the dark of night. I’m kidding, of course, since the closest thing our town has to gangsters is my nine-year-old paperboy (If you’re reading this Leon, I’ll have your money on Tuesday. Please stop putting my Sunday edition on the roof.)
#2) A tree-lined greenbelt follows the river for miles and provides an ideal location for bicyclists to practice yelling “Left!” and for dogs to walk their humans in between poops.
#3) The local Chinese restaurant just expanded their delivery zone to include my neighborhood. This has nothing to do with the river, but I’m still giddy.
Recently, I found myself sitting in my hot car on the slow commute to work, gazing longingly at the bicyclists cruising gracefully beside the river and dodging piles of dog poop. As my air conditioner recycled the exhaust from the car in front of me, and as the sun tanned my left arm twelve shades darker than my right, I thought to myself, “How can I still be hot when I’m not wearing pants?!” By closing my eyes and listening carefully I could almost hear the river calling to me: “Come to me. Ride beside me. Put on pants.”
I recently had the opportunity to move into a home that is so close to the river I could hit it with a cat if I were in a cat-throwing mood (which is usually only always). As I unloaded the moving van, I fantasized about the summer afternoons that I would spend floating down the river in my inner tube, a cooler of iced beer drifting next to me. I rationalized that such laziness would be compensated by the aerobic workouts I would get riding my bike along the river to work every day, and by throwing cats.
On the first Saturday morning after moving in, I cleaned years of dust off my ancient Schwinn, inflated the tires, and set out on the greenbelt for a reunion with joys I had not known since my bike-riding youth. I immediately learned that two things had changed in the twenty years since I raced down country roads like a two-wheeled gazelle. #1) The bike seat had morphed from a supportive cushion into a prostate-piercing railroad spike. #2) The tiny bugs that used to drift with me on warm summer evenings had since evolved into tonsil-seeking kamikazes the size of barn owls. Although I knew the bugs were high in protein and low in fat, they tasted a little too West Nile-ish for me so I decided to vomit them back up immediately. My performance of this feat while flailing atop a moving bike is something that I doubt many Tour de France riders could match in distance or volume, and dozens of nearby pedestrians showed their admiration by frantically dialing 911 on their cell phones.
As I crossed over a bridge, a woman rode past with a baby strapped into her bike’s rear seat, the bridge’s wooden planks chattering him like a gallon of Tuscan Sunrise in a paint shaker. I hoped for the little guy’s sake that, like me, he too had lost all feeling in his body from the navel down.
The end finally came after I ran into a pile of droppings that had been left by either a Great Dane who had eaten a bag of cement, or by Jaba the Hutt. Either way I went over the handlebars at high speed, fortunate that a park bench was available to break my fall. Being a strong believer in omens –and in physics– I decided that it was time to move on to hobbies like painting, meditating, or any other endeavor that doesn’t require surgeons to remove a bike seat from my colon.
If anyone is interested in a slightly-used ten-speed, all I ask in return is a big ol’ inner tube and a cooler full of beer (and one aerodynamic cat).