This is a guest post by Kim Johnson, our sister-in-law. At our invitation, she and her husband, John, Mimi’s brother, are sharing a “2 Roads Diverged” view of their recent trip:
I recently discovered that a nearby bike path leads to one of our favorite downtown restaurants. My husband, John, without batting an eye, replied yes when I asked if he’d be up for the ride. Despite that the route is 15 miles one-way, and given that John’s idea of exercise is smoking a cigar on a neighborhood stroll while walking our dog, Marley, I thought this either naive, or adventuresome … probably the latter as that’s just the kind of up-for-anything guy he is.
So, flash forward a week and we load up our bikes. We let the nav lead as we don’t know exactly where the trail starts. We are instructed to “turn right” and arrive at the parking lot of a plastic surgery center. I wonder if this is some kind of divine intervention and as we drive through the lot looking for a trailhead, I ponder all kinds of procedures I could have done. It’s Saturday, though, and they are closed, but still, a girl can dream.
After no luck finding the trail, I turn to my iPhone nav, which directs us down the road a ways telling us to again “turn right” — this time into the parking lot of a specialty grocery store. Thinking we will never find the bike route, I eye the sign for the day’s cookout – soft-shell crabs – and imagine John and me sitting at a sidewalk picnic table drinking crisp white wine and picking flecks of shell from our butter-soaked fingers. But, at the very moment my mouth starts to water we see a car with a bike rack in tow and follow it to the back of the shopping center. Lo and behold, there — next to the dumpster — is the unmarked trail.
Regardless of its meager beginning, it’s a beautiful bike path.
John is in front of me and has, attached to his helmet, a new mirror I bought for him. He is trying to see me in it but keeps turning his head, which turns the mirror, which causes him to lose balance, which wobbles his bike. So he turns all the way around to see me to tell me he can’t see me. I am close on his rear tire. Really close. There’s a term in biking — called drafting — where a lead biker allows the rear biker to ride close, essentially being dragged along a bit by the air flow. I figured John didn’t mind me being inches away from his rear tire as we’ve ridden this way before. But after a few minutes he (wobbling) turns and asks if I wouldn’t like to ride ahead.
“Sure!” I veer around John in a heartbeat … and that’s when the song starts:
Hey, I was just a skinny lad, never knew no good from bad
But I knew life before I left my nursery
Left alone with big fat fannys, she was such a naughty nanny
Heap big woman you made a bad boy out of me
I’m totally energized as Freddie Mercury’s “Fat Bottomed Girls” plays in my head and I’m picking up speed and loving the flickers of sunlight filtering through the trees that both line the path and create an overhead canopy on this hot day. There’s a light breeze and the river, to my right, comes into view in breaks and starts, dull and bright, dull and bright. My pedals are in sync with the beat …
Hey, hey Whoo
I am racing along the path, thinking back to years ago and an organized four-day ride I did with my friend Jennie along the Western edge of Michigan. I had bunjied a cassette player to my seat stem and we alternately blasted Shania Twain and Queen tapes through the shoreline towns every day for o_v_e_r __3_0_0__m_i_l_e_s. And, I’m especially grateful that today I do NOT have the lyrics “Im Gonna Getcha Real Good” clawing their way into my head. I remember Jen’s mass of soft, long, super-thick, blonde, curly/frizzy hair attracted a lot of attention. Total strangers approached her constantly during our ride, peppering her with questions about her adjective-laden locks: Did she perm? What nationality is she? Does her family have hair like this? It was so strikingly odd to me that on this day — some 12 years later — I’m even thinking of her hair!
I’ve been singing with my band, across the wire, across the land
I seen ev’ry blue eyed floozy on the way
But their beauty and their style went kind of smooth after a while
Take me to them dirty ladies every time…..
We have ridden about nine miles or so and John and I find our trail turns into side streets . We are in Clintonville, a small city on the outskirts of Columbus near Ohio State University. We ride through well-marked streets with lots of other bikers. The homes have a lot of character and charm, many with small steeply sloped front lawns retrofitted as flower gardens. I breeze through and imagine couples living here entertaining on backyard patios, drinking a local Columbus brew and talking curb-side recycling while munching on garden grown edamame. Young Moms holding babies chatting about their flower beds with interesting plants like butterflyweed and ageratum.
Abruptly the landscape changes as we approach OSU’s campus. This part of the ride exposes us to cement sidewalks under a blaring sun. My bottled water is warm and I’m aching to arrive at our destination. Soon enough though we are downtown and come upon a replica of the Santa Maria docked on the Scioto River. We navigate a group of pirates taking prisoners and wenches cozying up to crowds assembled for the show, which includes firing a cannon. We pedal along the Scioto Mile — a beautiful area along the river lined with pergola-covered benches and fountains. We blur by and within a few minutes, park our bikes near the patio of Milestone 229 and walk up to the outdoor bar. I think of ordering a glass of wine, think better of it and get an iced tea. John orders a beer — Summer Teeth — a Columbus brew.
We drink and nibble our pretzel bites eying the adjacent area with several large fountains that hundreds of people are walking around in. There are women all shapes and sizes in bikinis, kids – from babes to teens – and everyone over the age of 19 seems to have at least one tattoo. We alternate questions that go something like: “What’s that guy’s stomach say?” and ponder whether or not you should be allowed to smoke in the fountains near kids. I turn and look around the bar and notice a large woman sitting at a nearby table top across from a man. She’s downing a cocktail and thankfully wears underwear because her skirt is short and her legs are open. To John’s right are two couples of men – one pair have deliciously decadent burgers that look amazing. Across from me is a very trim older man wearing an OSU polo. For some reason John thinks he looks like a basketball coach. Next to him sits a woman whose hair is so stiff it defies the wind. She’s flat-faced with dark red lipstick so perfect and bold I wonder if it’s tattooed. The bartenders – a young man and woman – nod to each other and duck below the counter in front of me throwing their heads back to down a shot. We drink a trough full of water on this 90-degree day and after a long while of relaxing we agree we are ready for our trek back.
Ah, you gonna take me home tonight
Ah, down beside that red firelight
Are you gonna let it all hang out
Fat bottomed girls, you make the rockin’ world go round
In reverse order we see all the same sights, except for one. We decide to stop at the Park of Roses to take a few pictures. I am sweaty, stinky and just plain gross in my biking shorts and tank top. We take our helmets off and lie our bikes on the ground near an outdoor wedding. We are maybe 30 feet away from the beautiful bride, her wedding party, and about 60 guests. They are reciting their vows in a clearing surrounded by rose bushes. It is such a weird juxtaposition for us to be so near them, but mainly all we can think about is how freaking hot all of them are. I know every single woman sitting there is feeling the drips of sweat sliding down the back of her dress, hoping it won’t be stained with perspiration for the reception.
I start photographing some roses and am enamored with one particular rose named “Heritage”, which for some reason sparks a conversation about death. Me: “Do you want to be cremated?” Him: “I don’t know, babe.” Me: “If I’m not cremated I want a spray of Heritage roses on my casket.” Him: (smiling) “OK, babe”. Me: “We really should decide someday……” Him: “I know, babe”.
Hey, listen here
Now your mortgages and homes, I got stiffness in the bones
Ain’t no beauty queens in this locality, I tell you
Oh, but I still get my pleasure still got my greatest treasure
Heap big woman, you gone made a big man of me, now get this….
On the way back to the car, John is spent. I forge on ahead but stop and wait for him when I get too far ahead. With stops our trip has taken about 6 hours start to finish.
Oh, you gonna take me home tonight
Oh, down beside that red firelight
Oh, you gonna let it all hang out
Fat bottomed girls you make the rockin’ world go round
Get on your bikes and ride
We arrive at our car and are loading our bikes next to a couple. The woman is stunning in a Brigette Nielson kind of 80‘s way. Plastic surgery center for sure, I think.
Fat bottomed girls you make the rockin’ world go round.
I wonder if Freddie Mercury ever rode a bike in his life …