My nephew giggled with delight as I tried to catch up with him in our bike race back toward the car. A fun, late-morning ride on a sunny, crisp fall day on Martin Luther King Drive that he may or may not remember very long is one I surely won’t soon forget.
It was probably the first time in his young life we’ve had a chance to go all out in a physical activity. I only discovered biking with the Pennsylvania Center for Adaptive Sports back in August. While he was a baby, it was easy enough to play with him and keep him somewhat amused. As a toddler, he was a little tougher to keep entertained as he began to run and want to rough house. A smart kid, he quickly learned the “gentle touch” of my cerebral palsy made it a little tough to fake wrestle, and it was more fun to run around the yard than it was to stay in my range when I’m playing with him on the ground. Soon enough, it was off to play T-ball or with his friends in the neighborhood.
Yesterday, though, it was fun to beat Uncle Rob at a race. I would love to put the word beat in quotes, suggesting a wink-wink, I let the kid win. But 20 years of fairly consistent use of a stationary bike hasn’t been much of a substitute for the real thing. He beat me, fair and square.
Of course, I can’t resist adding that I beat my brother in one of our races. To be fair, he was riding a hand-cycle for the first time in his life. And, no, it’s not really the point. Enjoying a physical activity on somewhat equal footing with my able-bodied brother for possibly the first time in my life was much more important. But when you grow up as one of four boys, “who won” is always part of the story (unless it wasn’t you).
As I continued to pedal around after my nephew and niece got bored, my mom joked that I didn’t want to give up the bike. She was right. It was only my third time on the foot-pedaled three-wheeler. Luckily, no one else was waiting – at least I hope not – and the volunteer who owns the bike didn’t seem to mind.
With one week left in the program until April, I was soaking up every minute. Since discovering the program, more Saturday mornings than not have been spent feeling the fresh air as I cycled around on Martin Luther King Drive. The little kid in me that never got to ride a bike is making up for just a bit of what he missed. The sports fan in me hears about the Paralympics attended by some of the rowers from the program, and can’t help a moment of wondering if there was a biking competition and what might have been if I was a bit younger. The adult in me wonders how difficult it will be to obtain an adaptive 3-wheel bike, complete with about a $4k price tag, so I can ride more than once a week from April through October.
But mostly I’m just happy to have found this volunteer-driven program that survives on donations and what funding it can find. I’m happy to ride around Martin Luther King Drive. I’m happy to soak in some fresh air while getting in a good workout on a bike that moves past trees, the river, and other people (or at least continues to move as other people are passing me!). I’m happy to start thinking about another Saturday of biking by Wednesday.
And, for a day, I enjoyed watching my nephew look back and smile as he beat me back to the car.