Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Biker Reunion, or, Lost in the Woods!!!

I was talking with my sister Alice last night and she reminded me of something that happened to her several years ago at Hummel Park in Omaha.

Alice is a big nature nut and former camp counselor and Park Ranger. She has always made a habit of taking her four kids hiking and camping.

One day, she took several kids, including her oldest son Ken and his friend Colin, who I think were about 12, on a hike through the woods in Hummel Park. Hummel Park is a large swath of 200 acres of forest land on the bluffs just west of the Missouri River. It's beautiful, but somewhat remote, has some sheer, eroded dirt cliffy places, and also has somewhat of an unsavory history after nightfall. Juvenile delinquents hanging around causing trouble, ghost stories, even a couple of murders.
As the group walked down the trail, Ken and his friend wanted to take an short, alternative roundabout path which they knew would intersect with the main path a little later on. Alice knew the trail well and said that was fine, and they would meet at the intersection up ahead. Arriving at that intersection, Alice and the others waited for the two boys to join them.
And waited.
And waited.
Alice started to worry, told the rest of the group to stay put and went back down the path to find them. She went all the way around - and they were nowhere to be found.
Anyone who is a parent will know this feeling - your heart stops - you start to freak out - you think, surely not - your heart starts beating again only way too fast - you're saying, No, No, No -adrenaline - panic - NOT GOOD.
The whole group searched for the boys for a long time, to no avail.
At this point, dusk is falling. You don't want your 12 year old boy lost in Hummel Park at night. AT ALL! So Alice, panicking now, rounds up the remaining kids and heads for civilization to call the police. She and the rest of the kids burst out of the woods into a clearing, near a narrow park road.
The clearing is filled with Harley Davidson types having a raucous party. There are lots of motorcycles and leather jackets and cigarettes and beer and loud rock music. This is not the type of party my sister Alice really gets into. She's more of the chamomile tea and Mozart type. Also, did I mention Alice is totally wee? She's about five feet tall.
But my dad didn't call her the Mighty Mite for nothing! She ran up to the bikers and let them know what had happened. Immediately, she told me, they leaped up and fanned out to search for the kids. Some of them jumped on their bikes or into their cars and others ran into the woods. One of them loaned Alice his cell phone (and this was way before those were ubiquitous) and she phoned the police.
While she was talking to the cops and telling them in no uncertain terms to get moving and bring their dogs with them (I can totally hear her, by the way), one of the biker ladies drove up in her station wagon, yelling out the window, "I've got 'em!"
Apparently the kids had overshot the path intersection and eventually realized they were lost. They kept going until they found a clearing with a small pavilion in it, near a road, and they wisely decided to sit at the pavilion and wait to be found rather than wander around in the forest.
Sigh! what a relief, and what a great story. It's even funnier if you know my sister. Also, FYI, Ken is now in college, so this story makes me feel extremely old. He is a super guy though. I'm so glad he wasn't lost!

Thank You Passing Pedestrian

A week or two ago, my beloved husband Fernando was riding his bike to work, as is his wont. He was booking along over the Queensboro bridge in rush hour traffic, banking hard left onto Second Avenue at high speed, a total badass on his track bike wearing his spandex bike shorts, helmet and goggles (...pause.... savoring image...sigh...). Whoo! OK! regrouping!
Actually, why don't I let him tell it. The subject line of the email he sent me that morning said... "Do you remember...."
"Wile E. Coyote? In many episodes there was the inevitable moment where he steps off a cliff followed by a split second of suspense before he falls. He doesn't fall until he looks down and realizes he's no longer standing on solid ground. But in that split second it becomes clear that no matter long it takes, he's gonna fall.

"Well, that's a little bit like the moment when one is speeding one's bicycle to round a corner and beat the light; and one feels the front tire slip because it's hit something, like a rock. There's a sickening feeling in one's stomach, that if translated would say, "Oh shit, I'm going down!!!" And a split second later body parts start hitting the pavement. Of course, when one is pulling this maneuver, it's best to do it in front of a but-load of commuters on their way to work; so that upon getting up, one is faced by many, many faces of concern.

"I wish I could have seen it (instead of experienced it). I went down so hard and so fast that it must have looked like I'd been shot."
I got the full skinny on what happened later. Apparently Fernando went rolling at high speed in one direction and his bike went in another, into one of the most entropic and screwed up intersections in Manhattan. He told me that as he went down, a passing suit on his cell phone was yelling "OH MY GOD! THIS GUY JUST TOTALLY WIPED OUT ON HIS BIKE! I GOTTA GO!" - and promptly rescued the bike from being smushed by traffic and made sure Fern was OK. Of course my dear, proud husband leaped back on his bike and rushed back into the fray, and is basically OK except for a very sore wrist which is still adorned with an Ace bandage.
It warmed my heart though, to think of this anonymous guy, on his way to work, dropping everything to help the love of my life and save his bike from being demolished. He had no idea how precious and beloved this man is to so many people. But he acted like he knew, which makes me want to hug him. Wouldn't it be great if we all assumed that about each other all the time?