Friday, May 22, 2009

"Contessa"

I have ALWAYS loved bike riding. I can still vividly remember learning how to ride my brother's two wheeler and then sitting in the back of our station wagon eating an orange as we drove to the Schwinn bike store to get my own hot pink bike with a basket. It was beautiful. I felt so proud of myself riding a "big" bike.

When Steve and I first got married, we borrowed my parents tandem bike and rode that for a while. It was fun, but not an easy ride. Soon we purchased our own bikes and rode as often as we could. I had a blue Trek. We rode any path we could find in Wichita, Kansas while enduring the heat and high winds. We took a few vacations to Colorado and the bikes joined us. When Alexander was born, one of our early purchases was a Burley bike trailer so he could enjoy biking with us. My Trek moved to Illinois with us and explored something new to us - forest preserves. Steve has made it a point since moving to Illinois to find new forest preserves to explore on our bikes.

When I ride, I feel connected to nature, to my family and to myself. So, last year, when I went off meds and my body threw its temper tantrum, I felt disconnected and lost. I was not able to ride. This was tough on me. It wasn't only that my knees were swollen and prevented me from moving enough to peddle, but I realized that I also needed strong wrists and shoulders to ride. My wrists were so weak and swollen that I could barely hold the bike up and each bump caused excruciating pain. I didn't want my days of biking to end.


Steve has been encouraging me to get a new bike or at least a shock on my bike for several years. Even though I wasn't doing much riding last summer, Steve still encouraged me to go look at bikes. We found a Contessa 40. I love it! Not only is she beautiful in her shades of light pink and gray, but she is also gentler on my body with the new shock and functional with the rack we bought for the back so we can take snacks on long rides or remove jackets as we warm up. Plus, I found a helmet that is also pink and gray. You can still look pretty while riding, right?

Truthfully, when we bought "Contessa" last summer, I felt really guilty. I felt like we were spending a lot of money on something that I didn't know that I was even going to be able to ride. However, something kept telling me to get "Contessa" - something besides my family. She was named Contessa 40 and I was 40 last summer. That was a good sign. Plus, I love pink and it reminded me of my first bike. But, more than that, I felt the bike was my prize for all my hard work that summer. My body took a huge hit when I went off all my medications. It had experienced days it hopes to never experience again. The bike was my prize and also my motivation to heal. I have been dreaming all fall and winter about getting on "Contessa" and just riding. I have visualized my knees moving with perfect ease as we ride up and down hills together as a family. So, when I write about biking, it is because I feel it is a huge accomplishment for me. It is something I no longer take for granted but something I feel is a privilege to be able to do.

This morning I woke up and decided to ride my bike to my hair appointment. It was downhill almost the entire way there which only meant one thing for the ride back - lots of work! As I sat down at my hair appointment without any makeup or even clean hair and probably a bit stinky from the ride, I looked over at this young gal next to me with her perfect makeup and beautiful new cut and thought, "Any other day I might feel frumpy compared to this beautiful young girl, but today I feel like a million bucks." I just smiled at myself in the mirror thinking how proud I felt with myself.

These gloves were a bit pricey too! I almost couldn't bring myself to buy them. But, the extra padding on my hands is priceless. Each time I put on my biking gear, it reminds me of where I was with my RA and how far I have come.