Columns 2003

An aging Easy Rider hag

Thanks to the unrelenting persistence of a good friend who thinks that exercise will help keep me alive, I am now the proud owner of a bright red recumbent tricycle with a basket on the back and a little bell on the handlebars covered in an American flag motif. As I go down the back roads of South Anchorage on this trike, I imagine I look like an aging Easy Rider hag reduced to pedaling a recumbent three-wheeler around to get my excitement quotient for the day.

My dog is conflicted about this whole trike idea. He can now do a little running and trotting as opposed to just pulling me along like he did when our only exercise was our daily walk.  Of course, that running only happens on the downhill portions of the ride. On the uphill portions, he has time to stop and smell the roses and everything else in a 30-foot radius of his leash while I try to move the trike two foot up the hill. But when we trike, he does have to trot by a lot of good sniffing and marking places that he would usually have time to thoroughly examine before moving on.

Big Jim, the friend who talked me into this, finally sold me on the idea of a recumbent trike when he took me out for a ride on his recumbent tandem two-wheeler with no handlebars.  You steer from two handles that are down on the side of the bike next to your hips. I was more than a little skeptical when we started out on that journey but it was a blast.  You could just pedal along and listen to the birds as the trees rolled effortlessly by.  Or you could when you had Big Jim in the front seat of the tandem doing most of the pedaling.

I quickly found out that when I was doing the pedaling all by myself, things were quite different.  It’s actually a little hard to hear the birds singing above the sound of my lungs gasping for air and my legs screaming “Are you crazy?” at me.  I don’t think I’ve have these kinds of spasms in my legs since that misbegotten attempt at climbing a thousand steps up to some Buddhist shrine in Nepal.

Because the trip out from my home on the trike is mostly downhill, I usually overestimate how far I should go. This is immediately brought up as a problem when I start to head home.  Since Mr. T is 13 years old and I don’t want to hurt him, I had a basket put on the back of the trike for the specific purpose of giving him a ride home when he got too tired. 

I initially thought he might be too proud to take me up on the offer. But no, he happily established himself on the blanket in the basket for the return trip.  He stuck his head out around my side to check for any critters he might have to warn me about like the white rabbit that jumped across the road in front of us.  Having done that duty, he settled back in the basket and let the breeze blow through his fur.  Ok, maybe I wasn’t going fast enough to work up a breeze to go through his fur but either way, he was content to be pedaled home.

I had to walk the trike up the last hill or my heart would have leapt out of my throat in protest.  Mr. T apparently felt no compunction about the weight he was adding to my burden and sat there like a little pasha waiting to be served. 

We’re home now and he is lying on his pillow in my office moaning slightly in his sleep.  Or maybe he’s not moaning as much as he is grumbling like a little old man at the sudden enthusiasm I’m showing for more strenuous exercise than a stroll around the neighborhood. I imagine he’s wondering where that enthusiasm was when he was young enough to appreciate it.

As for me, despite the pain, the cramps and the muscle spasms, I’m hooked.  I love that with a recumbent trike I have a comfortable seat, a back to lean against and a feeling that maybe, just maybe, Peter Fonda will pull up beside me and challenge me to a race on the open road. Hey, even old folks are allowed their fantasies.