I was coming home from writing class Sunday, enjoying one of the most beautiful days of Chicago's summer on my creaky and rusty but fun 1977 Schwinn Metro, when I experienced my first official Chicago bike wreck.
As my loyal readers know, I experienced an urban rite of passage a few weeks back when I had my beloved mountain bike stolen out the back door of my office...while I and three others sat very nearby.
True to form, my wonderful parents made the very touching gesture of completing a seven hour roundtrip from my hometown in Indiana a few days after my loss to bring me a $15 garage sale bike, which was initially supposed to serve as a temporary replacement until I found something more like my original bike. (As an attempt to quantify the power of their parental love, let's run the numbers: 7 hours in the car, and $65 in gas to bring me a $15 bike, and drive me to the bike store to buy a $40 lock. Priceless.)
As it happens, I'm also now the lucky owner of a brand-new mountain bike (tags still dangling from the handlebars) that my brother nabbed for a fraction of the retail price at a weekend market, and yet somehow I'm still riding my vintage granny bike, with its delightful foldout rear-mounted baskets and piddly three gears. I like it a lot, but I admit the brakes aren't the best. I have to literally stand on the pedals and put all of my weight and strength into coming to anything resembling a quick stop.
I was heading north on the lakeshore trail, approaching a congested area in a park, where tennis players and ball game attendees and dog-walking families cross the path going to and from their cars. I was going at a cautious slow pace, anticipating a right turn toward the tennis court area, where I was going to plop down on the grass to soak up some sun and catch up with some loved ones on my cell phone.
I was at what I thought was the far-right of the path, but unbeknownst to me, a speedy fellow on a racing bike was on my right shoulder. When two people with a chocolate lab made a move to step in front of me, I braked, and then Mr. Speedy made a noise of alarm. The people and dog stepped back, but I swerved, lost my balance, and went down on my right side. Mr. "Watch Out" glanced back and kept going. Nice, dude! I know it was my fault, but couldn't you stop just out of concern for a fellow human being? The dog couple helped me up and brushed me off. Thank god I didn't entangle anyone else in my wobble-and-plant.
My bike is fine, my leg is a little bruised, my right hand is slightly scraped and bruised and sore. I'm lucky I was going slowly. Landing on your hand that way is a great way to jam and shatter your wrist and incur nerve damage.
The really scary thing? The adrenaline rush was exciting. Enjoyable, even. Once my heart rate resumed its normal pace, I felt exhilarated. I felt like doing something daring.
I might be more of a risk-taker than I've realized.