Her lungs creak like an old rocking chair, in, out, in, out. She promised me she’d do more interval training and work on leg strength between now and the last time we’d met, but I’m getting a little suspicious she did not do so. I’m not going to ask, though, because I don’t want to sour her mood.
A few weeks ago, Andrew’s sister Sarah came to the shed and pulled Tang and I out. I didn’t think someone was stealing me like last year. This time, I figured they were back for a visit. Sarah takes me out to Tooele. Sitting on her bike rack, I can hear Sarah and Leslie’s mom talking. They click the lever and release me from my post. They roll me to the back of Leslie’s mom’s van and I’m lifted into the air. They tip me on my side and slide me in. My front tire hits the back of the seats, my back tire is still lopping out the back. They shuffle and slide me kitty corner until I just fit. Soon, I see Tang coming my way. I duck just in time to avoid a broken nose. SHOVE! CLANG! SCRATCH! ITCH!
“I don’t think they are going to fit,” I hear Sarah say. “We should take off the front wheel.”
“No they are fine…”
“Here, just a little to the right.”
“Up, like that…”
“OWWWWWuuuuch!" Tang and I shuffle against each other, sideways in the van. “Are you people serious right now? Uhg.”
SLAM. They close the door on us, I can hear them dusting their palms together three times with that “job well done” motion.
“Tang, can you…” I start to say, shuffling my back wheel a little to the left. His disk break is digging into my frame. Tang shuffles left while I shuffle right, he slides away from me, but now his handlebars are poking me in the face. We settle in, submitting ourselves to the inevitable conclusion that we have to stay like this until we get to wherever we are going.
Hey! Where are we going? Maybe we are going to Las Vegas. That would make sense, since that is where we used to live. To take my mind off of my discomfort, I imagine all the places we might go - places with pine trees and aspens, wild flowers, maybe red slick rock and cactus. I hope we go somewhere with slick rock.
After what felt like six years in my cramped living accommodations, Leslie’s Dad opens the back hatch and reverses the whole process: PULL! SCREETCH! TUG! “No, Tang you are caught on my…” SCRATCH!… and we are free again. They prop us against the garage wall at our old house. OH BOY OH BOY OH BOY! Won’t be long now, Andrew and Leslie must be on their way. And they were. Soon, we were riding on all their favorite Vegas trails with Osmond the Comfort Owl and a new friend, Tasman the Kiwi on her first road trip through the U.S.
After Osmond, Tasman, Teng and I tried to make ourselves inconspicuous through the yardsale and packing phase, we all hit the road leaving Las Vegas in our dust. We headed to one of my old favorite stomping grounds, Moab, Utah to enjoy a few rides on my beloved slick rock and play with the baby niece. She is very cute. Tang even took her on a joy-ride in her baby-bike-buggy.
Then we met Leslie’s Middle-Little Sister in Fruita, Colorado. We’ve never been to Fruita! NEW TRAILS!
After Fruita we return to the Tooele/Salt Lake area and meet Andrew’s old boss for a ride in Park City. Leslie snuffles her nose and sighs. “Doesn’t that smell good, Calamity Jane?” Snow capped mountains peek up above the still bare oak trees. Fall leaves, left to molder beneath months of snow and ice, now warm in the spring sun. Blades of grass exhaust their springtime breath, and a mat of tiny flowers line the trail. Thousands of buds combine in aggregate to create an electric green mist atop bare white aspen poles, their leaves haven’t unfurled quite yet. It’s a beautiful trail. We “chase” Andrew and his former fearless leader up the trail at a snail’s pace.
“It’s beautiful, but can we go faster?” I ask.
“Mmmmm, sure, when we get to the downhill part!” Leslie responds.
“No, no. I want to go faster, now! We are falling behind.”
“That’s okay, this is as fast as I can go.” Leslie tells me, and I narrow my eyes into slits. She definitely has not been interval training. No way. Every now and then, her grip loosens on my handlebars as if she’s going to tip off backwards.
“Are you okay? Is the altitude bothering you?” I ask.
“Oh, yes, I’m practicing my Indonesian Attitude.” Leslie responds.
“I’m lucky that my lungs are on fire and my heart might explode. It’s so hard to get your cardio up at sea level, some people never feel what it feels like to stretch your lungs like this.” She says this with an irritating voice of self-satisfaction.
I knew it. I just knew it! She has not done a single day of interval training since she left me last time. I’m going to add this to my list entitled “THINGS TO BE IRRITATED AND BITTER ABOUT” right under Item #1: “Leslie went to New Zealand without me” and Item #2: “Leslie rode another bike named Jack while in New Zealand without me.” I miss 2012; those were good old days. From his place in Leslie’s backpack, Osmond looks at me with soothing sleepy owl eye. “There, there, Calamity Jane. I know it’s hard being the one waiting behind. Tasman is a great Focus Kiwi, let’s talk to her and maybe she can get Leslie back on track for our next visit home.”
I think this is the end of the road for me this trip, until I wake up one morning to the sound of Andrew drilling and hammering. “Teng! What’s going on?” Teng is facing the back windows of Andrew’s Mom’s Van: Minnie Myrtle Merrill and I’m hoping he can see. Soon, Andrew opens the doors and hoists us onto our old bike rack. We’re going with them to Washington!
Leslie’s Littlest-Little Sister is graduating from Gonzaga University, so we are going to Spokane to celebrate. We wait in the van all through graduation ceremonies, then we wait in the van while they ditch us for a road trip with Leslie’s family through wine country, Seattle (with that disgusting gum wall), and to a Mariner's game. Leslie’s fitness is not going to improve after this!
When Leslie’s Mom and Dad say goodbye, we are free for a week. We ride Spokane trails during the day, while Andrew, Leslie and the Littlest Little Sister cavort in various Spokane eateries in the evening. Andrew and Leslie help pack up the college house and move The Littlest Little Sister to a different house, and the three of them take a trip to Cour d'Alene lake to eat grilled cheese sandwiches and take a hike. With all this waiting around, this is an exercise in being grateful for what I get, but the new Spokane trails make up for it. Waterfalls, tall cedar forests, warm pine needles in the sun, and wide open meadows with wild irises blooming in the grass. One day, we even get to ride with a good old friend from Leslie’s Law School Days.
We end the trip at a VRBO near Seattle situated on our own personal island in the middle of a lake. Andrew’s Sister’s family, Andrew’s mom, and Andrew’s college buddy’s family all meet us for a long weekend. I take one look at the “ferry” we have to cross to get onto the island and decide Teng and I will wait on shore. The little island is too small for us to go far and Andrew and Leslie are too busy cooking S’mores around a camp fire and playing with the Baby Niece anyway.
At the end, we wave goodbye to Andrew and Leslie, Osmond, and Tasman as they depart the Red Roof Inn next door to the Sea Tac airport, then we follow Andrew’s mom home again on the back of Minnie. I miss my friend Leslie. It’s nice to see her again for this brief time, but she isn’t the same as she used to be. She’s the same, but she isn’t the same. I can’t put my finger on what it is - other than the wheezing of course. She didn’t used to wheeze at high altitude.