The burnished tan ten speed coasted with a tick tick tick tick tick tick tick down the double hill of country road near Nesbitt’s Pond, and almost directly across Pine Hill. I got to the road after a languid flat gray road leading to it, one which demanded a rest stop or die of dullness—so I stopped and stepped through the ticklish field grass and cornflower raggedy stalks, crickets and grasshopper leaping in arcs around me as I bent the grass with my bike.
I visited the old barn to see the hound dogs tied up inside (distinguish this from the new barn, where the farmer and the workers went multiple times a day because of the heifers inside). The hounds were sad and bayed roooo roooooo at company and snuffled at my knees as I walked up to their little pens and dirt circles. They pulled on their rope collars but they didn’t jump. Horseflies circled my head in loud droning nastiness-having woken up with a swollen eye a few times I knew they bit horribly and swatted at them (of course the trick was to cool off.. only when my head was sweltering hot did they hold onto a halo path and orbit so relentlessly. After petting the poor loud hounds one last time I stepped out of the soft dust-mote light of the barn back into the blind white sunlight.
Back to riding the ten speed and learning that to nudge the gear forward made the bike harder to pump but propelled it further along. I learned, too, how going uphill, it was better to shove the gear back, with less forward momentum, but with an easier time pumping the pedals in a lightweight loop.
Occasionally I’d hit the top of the hill where it crested and forget to switch gears, and my feet would not be able to keep up with the ease of turning the pedals coupled with the ease of pedaling downhill. You can coast in any gear.
Yet, soon enough some part of you will demand more speed on top of the speed the hill naturally hands you. Then, in the wrong gear, your feet can spin around and around at the lack of resistance and fall all over themselves. Such times, I ended up looking about as silly as a Tom and Jerry right before Jerry gets away: zoom-zoom-zoom-in-place.
The only worse luck than looking foolish was if I also managed in the same way to monkey with the chain and jammed the pedals altogether. Then I might also tumble and gravel-pock my kneecaps. A jam didn’t happen too much but when it did, chances were just about even I could maneuver the frozen bike over to the grass by the side of the road and fall on the springy grass. Usually even if it scared me full of adrenaline I’d rise quickly, and fix the chain, or if I couldn’t do that, walk it under the sun the whole way home. This isn’t about the cool indoors where I’d stand by the sink and dunk my head in the tap and sip, but that’s generally what would happen after that.