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Low-flying on real wheels

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The Observer owns a bicycle now for the first time in 20 years or more, the first one since the mountain bikes of our troubled youth. We've been riding The Going Nowhere bike at the gym since August, and have been making noises about our desire for a Going Somewhere bike for months now. Probably just to call our bluff, Spouse bought us one for our X-mas present: a shiny black cruiser that looks like it's going a million miles an hour just sitting on the kickstand.

She's apparently had it hoarded up in her office for a good two weeks now, fending off the advances of 40-something children who wanted to take it for a spin down her hallway.

Sorry, dudes. It's ours now. And, as all bikers and fans of "Sons of Anarchy" know: You never sit on another man's bike.

Three days before Christmas, she sprung the gift on us by way of a photo on her phone. Her office is only six or seven blocks away from The Fortress of Employment, so last rainy Thursday, a bit giddy at the prospect of gliding along on two wheels again, we walked down to claim it.

She'd neglected to include a helmet with her gift, so the last thing she said to her One and Only as we wheeled the new machine away from her office was not to ride it without a helmet, and especially not in the rain, because a funeral might put a damper on end-of- year parties. We couldn't resist, though. Half a block from her office, we saddled up and just sat there awhile, waiting for the frame to snap in half under our weight. Then we put a foot on a pedal and kicked off.

After a wobbly start, one back hoof dangling in the air and searching for the other pedal, we found it. Suddenly, we were in the wind. It was a crawl, really, but to us it felt like flying: the wind in our face and the rain prickling on our skin.

We crossed streets, looking both ways for the 9 a.m. drunk who would appear and cut us down, buzzing along in the open stretches with the padded seat nestled comfortably into our padded posterior. It was, in a word, glorious.

There are certain things that — if the writer was a creator of fiction — nobody would buy if we made 'em up. Just as we pulled up in front of the Arkansas Times offices and coasted to a stop, we heard a rattle and a sickening crash. We turned, and saw a delivery truck standing in the middle of the Scott and Markham intersection. Nearby was a crunched motorcycle, the bike pilot still dazed on the ground.

Forgetting about shiny paint, we dropped our new bicycle on the sidewalk and rushed over to him as he picked himself up, pulled off his nicked helmet, and had some choice words for the driver. We helped the biker stand his machine up, then stood and looked at it, the bike's red plastic faring broken and forlorn, the seat spun six feet away in the rain. We couldn't help but imagine what kind of shape we would have been in had it been us who fell under the bumper of the behemoth.

Thankfully, the motorcyclist was OK. There's a lot of motorcycle accidents that don't end so well, we know. It sure enough gave this new/old bicyclist some pause.

Be careful out there, two-wheelers. Wear your helmet and keep the tread side down.

On second thought, maybe we'll confine our low-flying to the River Trail. There's no delivery trucks to round a corner and flatten us on the Big Dam Bridge, and besides: when the Universe sends you a message that clear, you damn sure better listen.

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