I want to ride my bicycle; I want to ride it where I like. And therein lies the problem. My bicycle doesn’t go anywhere.
I grew up with a bike. I remember learning to ride, wobbly wheeled when my dad let go and I was on my own. But in no time I was riding my bike up and down our lane by myself. I rode for hours. I liked racing along the roadside. I loved the kiss of the wind in my face.
When I was 23, I was in a serious automobile wreck that shattered my knee. That was the end of my bike riding.
Three years ago I had knee replacement surgery. Physical therapy required that I ride a stationary bike. A friend loaned me his, lugged it down into my basement and set it up for me. He tried to talk me into putting it in the middle of my living room. I glared at him. He had no sense of aesthetics.
Every day I went faithfully to the basement for a ride. (Liar, Liar, pants on fire.) (Hush, I’m telling this story.) OK. A few times a week, for a few weeks. I was bored. I tried to listen to music. I tried to read a book. The walls closed in on me.
My stomach clenched at the thought of going downstairs and riding that contraption into the nothingness. In a short time my exercise bicycle became a prop, a base for the card table to lean against, a divider between two bags of puffy stuff I use in my business, a clothes tree and a dryer rack.
Ha! You know just what I mean, don’t you. Yes, you. You also have an idle exercise bike or treadmill or stair-stepper in your bedroom or living room or on the porch, don’t you? I knew it. I have ideas for this seemingly useful but actually useless equipment.
With a quick welding course, a few basic tools and your inherent ingenuity, you can transform your unused exercise equipment into an objet de arte. Set your giant mosquito or pre-historic beast, or an extraterrestrial monster in your front yard. Give it a name. Your creation will generate discussion and admiration throughout your neighborhood. Folks will drive by and take photos of it — might even make the front page of the Havre Daily News.
Or make it pay. Get off the grid. With belts and pulleys and a do-it-yourself book from the library, hook your unused stationary bike or treadmill up to a battery storage pack. Now that you’ve thumbed your nose at the power company, you will be motivated to spend a part of each day riding your bicycle, smugly assured that each calorie burned will generate electricity to run the refrigerator and turn on the light. This, unfortunately, does not remove said device from your living room since you will station it where you have the best view of the television. However, this solution has multiple benefits if you have children. Each child will take a turn, contributing to familial well-being. Need I say more.
If, in your initial enthusiasm for losing weight or building a buff body, you impetuously purchased free weights, these too can be converted to a useful purpose. If you choose to separate your home from the power lines, you probably will install a wood stove in the living room. Before bedtime on those cold winter nights, heat the weights in the coals, wrap them in heavy towels, and tuck them beneath the covers to warm your feet as you drift off into dreamland. They also make marvelous patio pavers.
Or, with a blowtorch, a saw and sledge hammer, you might decide to dismantle your exercise equipment and haul it to the landfill. Tear down is best done in the backyard rather than in the living room.
Now that spring is more than a vague promise on the calendar, go to your local bicycle shop and purchase a real bicycle that you can ride wherever your heart desires. You will also buy a helmet which will make you look like a hard-shelled beetle, a spandex body suit which will emphasize every tuck and roll, and a water bottle with a hose to your mouth. I recommend draining the water and filling the reservoir with a more palatable drink. All this will set you back a few thousand dollars. Your new purchases will not take up any more space in the living room than the old equipment did.
(Sondra Ashton graduated from Harlem High School in 1963 and left for good. She finds, upon her return, that things are a little different. Keep in touch with her at http://montanatumbleweed.blogspot.com.)