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“Thank you for the thought, Dad, but a ten-speed is too big. I wanted a five-speed.”
He didn’t listen and instead left me with that monstrosity to do with it what I would. The bike was a pretty shade of light green with white handlebar tape and wide nubby tires like a beach cruiser. I think my dad got it for a good price because it was a boy’s bike in a girl’s color. It was strong and sturdy, imposing actually. How embarrassing to own a bike I couldn’t ride. I took it into the backyard where no one would see me try and maybe fail. With grass as my surface, I figured if I would ride it there, then I could manage the street. I managed to mount and ride it on the first try. After that I took it for a short spin street side. I figured out a way to get on and off. I’d pull up to a curb, tilt the bike a little, and stick my foot out so I wouldn’t topple over.
How I flew on that thing! Two revolutions and I’d be at the far end of Tobiasson Road. My dad waited at his workbench in readiness to make whatever alterations I wanted. I raced up and down the road, and then returned to the garage where he raised the seat a quarter inch or turned the handlebars just so.
That bike became an appendage of mine. If I didn’t take it for a high speed spin around town every day I felt out of sorts. I craved the adrenalin rush of my healthy addiction. I cleared out a parking spot in the back of the garage, half hidden behind all the junk, and parked my bike there after every ride like a horse returned to its stall. Family members and friends knew it was off limits. No one could touch it but me. Not once did my magical steed need air in the tires or maintenance of any kind. It was always there for me like a faithful dog anticipating its daily run.
I knew I excelled at that one thing, at least. When Cindy or a friend wanted to go riding, they came to me. It was fun to have occasional company. We’d pedal side by side and call out the gear we were shifting into. I indulged my companions and rode slower than usual. Afterward, I’d go back out on my own, full speed ahead.
Espola was an especially steep road, first gear all the way up. Each downward push of the pedals was like climbing a ladder with heavy weights on my ankles. To get off and walk was an admission of failure. I rarely did so except near the top where the road rose to its steepest level. Espola ran along the northeastern edge of town, with Poway High School at its peak. Once there, I’d turn around and enjoy a long coast down. With no cars in sight, I moved to the center of the two-lane road, sat up straight, and let go of the handlebars. I used my lateral thigh muscles to weave between the road’s broken white lines while zooming down the curvy mountain road. Helmets weren’t worn back then. I knew what I did was dangerous. I couldn’t see oncoming traffic so I kept the dare devil act to myself. Nobody could ride like I could.
When forty-five year old Jennifer’s business fails, she decides to leave Oklahoma in a cloud of red dust and return to her San Diego roots. The Troy comes along with a solution to her company’s woes. She falls for his velvety voice and appealing confidence. As their relationship deepens, she is called to the west coast on a family matter and decides to stay for the summer. She meets a new man and is drawn to his irresistible charm. Her newfound self-awareness mingles with salty ocean breezes and eucalyptus-scented air to place her in his arms. Their liaison is heartfelt but brief, mid-life’s last hurrah. Jennifer realizes her heart is back on the southern prairie, but she may be one adventure too late.
About the Author: Karen Ginther Graham is an Okie transplant from California. FINDING ROSE ROCKS is in part a tribute to her adopted state and in part a nod to the place from which she hails. Karen is married with one grown son, is a gym enthusiast, and an apartment manager, sometimes a smooth-operating job, often fraught with frustration. She loves the challenge.