The Bike

Ota was a person I met fairly early on in my time here.  One of the first and most important things I learned about Ota is that he loves biking.  I will forego trying to restate that in five different ways to emphasize just how important biking is to him.  Recently, I accepted Ota’s invitation to help with an English club that meets in the building connected to my dormitory.  The students were encouraged to ask me questions, and we also did some icebreaker activities.  Over the course of these minutes, my aspirations to be physically active were revealed.  (I do like being as active as possible, but sometimes someone needs to yank the book out of my hand, lace my running shoes for me and shove me out the door.)  So, Ota, being a cyclist and an obliging person, offered me an extra bike that had been lying around.  Encountering him three days later, he renewed his offer and took the initiative of helping arrange a time for me to pick the said bike up.

So, Wednesday of spring holiday, I took a tram twenty minutes across town, mentally preparing myself to bike back.  On the route, I put down my book and scoped out the area for bike-friendly paths.  After dismounting the tram, I met a person who had the key to where the bike was stashed.  After a jammed gate and a low tire, I was ready to throw in the towel and quit before I started.  Yet, the resourcefulness and generosity of my companion were not to be underestimated.  So, before I could falter, I was waiting in the cold with the bike while he fetched a pump and pumped up the tire for me.  He even lent me a pair of gloves due to temperatures being in the forties, and the sky’s promise of rain.

With helmet in place (ride safe, everyone), I mounted the bike and made my way to the road that accompanies the tram—the most direct route back to my side of town.  Soon, my lungs stretched wider to accommodate more oxygen as I biked feverishly to minimize interaction with cars and buses.  When a car splashed mud into my glasses, I started to feel pretty hardcore.  I detoured to a train station to take care of an errand, and was able to take a bike path home.  I then carried the bike through the atrium, the 100-meter corridor (the tires were muddy and you don’t want to mess with Czech cleaning ladies), and up to my room.

I’d made it, and I was ready for more.  I was so convinced that I bought a bike bell.  During my ride home Wednesday, I’d realized that I had no idea how to communicate that I was passing to a pedestrian.  I didn’t know if I could just translate “on the right.”  So, a bell it was.  It’s a bit more polite than striking fear into the eyes of Czechs (though it is nice to see them a bit more animated than usual). 

Ready to test my bell and the bike in fairer weather, I set out again Friday.  Brighter skies and higher temperatures greeted me, and I happily stretched out my ride from the 30 minutes on Wednesday to 50.  I felt so empowered that when I saw a sign declaring that Český Těšín (a town I want to visit) was only 11 km away, I was tempted to go.  My sweat and lunch plans detained me, however.  Until next time, Český Těšín.


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