My Grandma was the one who introduced me to the aphorisms that contain universal wisdoms: Make new friends but keep the old… put a penny in the old man’s hat… and if at first you don’t succeed. I thought about that ditty about trying again, after attempting to cross a Key Bridge on my bicycle a few days ago. On my US perimeter trip we rode the Keys. On page 156 of Allegiance to Winds and Waters I write about that experience:
Before we’d left Minneapolis, I read in Adventure Cyclist about a woman who toured the Keys. Etched in my mind was a picture of her looking fabulous, sipping some key lime elixir out of a coconut, sitting under a grass hut with the blue sea in the background. That was going to be me. I could feel the breeze, imagine the triumph. I’d buy a yellow sundress, lie on the sand, rejuvenate in all my splendor before the long trek across the southwest.
It seemed sensible to ride through the noonday sun. It was only eighty-six degrees. Even at this latitude, mid-November days were short. David noticed first. I swerved into traffic. He shouted for me to stop. I parked on the side of the road and collapsed onto the pavement. My head pounded and my eyelids burned. I threw up my breakfast.
We got the nearest room, paying for a beach we never saw. Instead of snorkeling with angelfish while his woman with the yellow sundress dug her toes in the sand, David laundered soiled bike clothes and made me sip water every ten minutes.
A few paragraphs on, I write about crossing Key bridges that have no bike lane:
By this time my fear of biking bridges was acute. I wasn’t afraid they would collapse like the I-35W Mississippi River Bridge in Minneapolis had in 2007. It was the no-way-out that got me. Eyes glued to my strip of concrete, I imagined a boat-hauling pickup losing control of its backside, catapulting me into the sea. Behind me, David practiced his colors: “turquoise water, white fishing boats, pink shrimp, green iguanas, brown pelicans.” I did my best to tune him out.
Arnold Schwarzenegger blew up the Seven Mile Bridge in the movie True Lies. Now I thought, the bridge is a lying truth. It violated my law of expectations. At the seventh mile we paused on land for a mere moment, before crossing water again.
Now, after publishing my book on the trip, I am connected to some amazing bicycle groups, including one in my age and gender cohort: Women 60+ Bicycle and Touring Group. Members of that group have reported on their fun times riding the Keys. They made those bridges with bike paths sound enticing.
We had a day with temperatures on the 70s and a light wind. We picked the two and ½ mile Dante B Fascell Bridge from Long Key to Conch Key where bicyclists had their own separate bridge, shared only with fishers and pelicans. As we approached the bridge my stomach felt a little queezy. A third of the way across I began to feel dizzy. My stomach churned. I needed a bathroom. I decided I needed to get across where there would be a facility on the other side.
Halfway across I fell off the bike – still not sure if I lost consciousness for a moment, scraping my knee and smashing two fingers. We walked slowly back to our car in Long Key State Park. A week later, I am still nursing my wounds.
David reminds me we did succeed to bicycle every mile of the Keys, from the ubiquitous Alabama Jacks to the Southern Most Point on Key West. But it was not fun. I don’t know why I think of it as a failure. I did it, but I failed to enjoy it or come out unscathed. Why did I try again? There was no world peace dividend, or even a Key lime pie waiting for me if I managed to ride and enjoy a Key bridge. It was just an immature desire to do what others can do and ignore my own body. At age 64 I ought to know better than to try to pretend my body is like someone else’s.
Anne: Bicycling on Key bridges, in full sun, is not for you. Do not try, again
If there is a moral here for anyone else, it is: DO YOU.